Why I, a Millennial, Stopped Watching “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
No it’s not because I didn’t have cable. I mean I don’t but if my parents aren’t going to use their login credentials for CBS I suppose someone should.
Satire. Quick wittiness. Elegance. Comedic timing. These are all things Colbert excelled at on “The Colbert Report”. These traits are still in his possession except now its being played to low brow humor. This could be due to network notes, doing a show twice as long or maybe I’m jaded from doing stand-up comedy for almost 2 years. I don’t know for sure but the humor is undoubtably different.
Now I LOVE Stephen Colbert. I grew up with Stephen. He is one of my favorite comics and I would always pick his show over Stewart’s if I only had time to watch one of the two. His congressional dinner was legendary and showed that his dedication to comedy had no limits. I wanted to know more about the man behind the mask of the man mask he was wearing but other then a talk with Eric Schmidt at Google, a few podcast episodes and a few clips elsewhere there aren’t many places that he is ever serious for the most part. And I believe he wanted to do that with “The Late Show” and in the Biden episode, very early on, showed he was willing to get deep. In the Bill Maher episode he showed he was willing to argue with logic and stick up for his beliefs without coming across like an angry fool (OH Maher you so CRA-ZY). For the most part it’s just another run of the mill “Late Show” with throw away jokes that don’t seem to challenge the system in any major way unlike his hilarious spearheading of Super-Pacs which raised an immense amount of awareness. It also doesn’t help that the demographic he’s targeting is an older one compared to his last show.
The Report was just SO good. The biggest difference of the show transition was of course that Colbert played a character on his last show and in the short lived “Late Show” podcast he addressed his concerns of the changes he’d be facing. I mean he was tired of playing the character so it’s always good to walk away before it effects the quality of the show. I’ve watched his new show since its conception and wanted to see how his writing team would address the new changes in having to write for a person they’ve never truly written for.
From the start of the show I hoped he would go with a more Graham Norton style for interviews where its more of a circle and conversation then this old one-on-one style of the guest looking like they’re applying for a job. I mean really, is it a job interview? Would having a glass of wine with a guest really be that frowned upon?
The band leader, Jon Batiste, is undoubtably musically gifted. No question but boy is he hard to play off of. Colbert’s energy seems to clash with Jon’s almost uncomfortably relaxed demeanor in a strange way. Half the time he laughs at Colbert’s jokes I’m unsure he even gets them or his laughter doesn’t match the response the joke should receive. Something’s off.
“The Late Late Show with James Corden” on the other hand…HOLY WOW that guy. He did EVERYTHING I wish Colbert would of done. The Norton style interviews, more intimate audience setting and Reggie WATTS as your bandleader!? Could anyone have possibly been a better choice? (Probably not but I’d love to see Bo Burnham take his spot for a day) A great comic who can also band lead would of course be ideal. Corden and Watts are absolutely great together and I got that from watching only one episode. I knew nothing about Corden and was mostly unfamiliar with Reggie until watching a few of his clips to instantly know he’s a different voice in comedy. What point that voice is trying to make I have NO idea but its hypnotizing to watch.
Six months I gave Colbert’s late show to find it’s voice and I still don’t like what I’m hearing comparatively to what else is available. I mean it’s not a bad show its just average. It has its good bits with the giant furry hat, hungry for power games, confessional and fight nights and I’ll watch those as clips online. Again I grew up with Colbert but with Corden, who I was completely unfamiliar with, I already had an affinity towards his style of show and will be switching to his.
I’m still unsure of what Colbert’s ultimate intentions are from doing a late show. I know its not fame. I wish it to be legacy. However, legacy is tracked until the day you die so if he continues with this mediocre show it will tarnish day by day unless this is a play at something bigger. If it’s a long con to build credibility and connections in the industry to gain an even louder voice to later do the show however he wants or something completely different…fantastic! All in all I just hope he is doing what he truly wants and if that makes him happy and he has no regrets, that’s wonderful.
Some of the jokes though…I mean part of improv IS selling the bit because if you don’t believe it how will the audience? “The Late Show” however isn’t all improv and a lot of these jokes are prewritten material and some of them are cringe worthy. Jokes that you probably feel guilty about when they end up airing or a bit that feels like a bad “SNL” sketch (or as I call it an “SNL” sketch). Colbert does have to do a 44 minute show every night but only a quarter of that is monologue/topic in the beginning so make that baby shine. Or make joke #1000 about how small Trumps hands are, whatever. You have an infinite number of resources to create comedy and an entire writing team so if your a flagship comedy show, prove it. I’m not saying it should be easy because it should be hard every day. Rotate writers out if you think it’ll improve the show. Actually follow and cover an important issue like you did Super-PAC’s and maybe even replace the bandleader with someone who actually understands comedy but above all else make the content of the show a priority.
I saw Colbert in the Google interview talking about his favorite play “A Man of All Seasons” which tells the story of Sir Thomas More. A story which explores being able to swim against the tide and stick to your own morals, your beliefs because it’s easy to just agree with everyone and get swept up in the sea of wrong. That you can love the king AND disagree with him and thats how I feel about Colbert’s late show. A lot of people love Colbert and see the show through rose-colored glasses but that person won’t be me.
For now I’ll stick to watching occasional episodes of James Corden. I gave Colbert’s show a shot, I really did. I just can’t watch subpar content compared to the high quality I was getting before. I love the Colbert I knew before and am happy there will be a group of people that will love the Colbert now and if and when the next Colbert emerges I’ll be waiting.