Wednesday 7 December 2016

7 highlights from Irish-American comedian Stephen Colbert's 'Late Show' debut

Published 09/09/2015 | 07:59

One of the year's most anticipated TV events took place last night as Stephen Colbert presented his first Late Show.

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It was a big step-up for the Irish-American comedian (51), who had previously hosted satirical news half hour The Colbert Report.

But critics were unanimously approving of Colbert's debut in the chair previously occupied by David Letterman. Here are seven takeaways from the broadcast.

1. He's A Dogged Interviewer

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: TV personality Stephen Colbert arrives at the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: TV personality Stephen Colbert arrives at the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Among American chat-show hosts, guest interviews often feel like a necessary chore. Quizzing Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush Colbert, however, was surprisingly dogged. "Why do you want to be be President?" he asked George W's younger sibling – a simple question Jeb struggled to straightforwardly answer.

2. He Can Exist Outside His Comedy Central Character

On the Colbert Report, the comedian played a slapstick right-wing parody of blow-hards such as Fox News's Bill O'Reilly (the smirking lunatic you might stumble upon while aimlessly drifting between channels at 1am). With the Late Show he left the Colbert "character" behind and got on absolutely fine. But he retained his signature Colbert Report greetings of "hello nation".

3. He Isn't Obsessed With Viral Video

Honorees Colin Davidson, Carrie Fisher and Stephen Colbert attend the US-Ireland Aliiance's Oscar Wilde Awards event at J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot on February 19, 2015 in Santa Monica, California. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Honorees Colin Davidson, Carrie Fisher and Stephen Colbert attend the US-Ireland Aliiance's Oscar Wilde Awards event at J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot on February 19, 2015 in Santa Monica, California. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Colbert's late night rivals often seem more interested in birthing viral video  than television that is interesting in the moment. Consider James Corden's tiresome sketches with Tom Hanks and Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jimmy Fallon's not-funny-at-all musical impersonations. There was SOME slapstick on the new Tonight Show – but not enough to make you want to fling your phone at the TV.

4. He Isn't As Good An Improviser As He Probably Thinks

The solitary flub in the opening episode was a meandering discussion with George Clooney, the joke being that the actor had nothing at all to plug. Well, yes, hah hah. Still the segment should have ended as soon as the gag was spent – i.e. after approximately 30 seconds.

5. His Music Bookings Are Going To Be Interesting

Comedian Stephen Colbert
Comedian Stephen Colbert

Colbert closed the show by singing along to a performance of Everyday People by Mavis Staples, with guests Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and piano-man Ben Folds. It was an outside the box pick that augers well.

6. He Remains Politically Engaged

Colbert humour-bombed Donald Trump – predictable but also evidence that he is likely to be more politically engaged than his late night competitors.

7. Product placement on American TV is Getting Weird

Twelve minutes in, Colbert was prominently munching on a popular brand of hummus. He later devoured an entire packet of a biscuits. It seems at least one of these was a paid endorsement (perhaps both). The drive to be "sponsor friendly" is taking American television to some strange places.

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