Late Show Nation

Willa Paskin is optimistic about Letterman’s replacement:

This has been a tumultuous time for late night: Leno just left to be replaced by Jimmy Fallon who was in turn replaced by Seth Meyers. ABC got serious about Jimmy Kimmel, and bumped him up a time slot. And not that long ago, Conan O’Brien moved to a whole new network. And yet through all this change, late-night network TV has remained remarkably static. None of the white men with their names in the title have seriously altered the monologue-desk-interview format. …

But Colbert is in a unique position to do something about all this sameness. He, unlike almost all the aforementioned gentleman, is starting in one essential way from scratch: Audiences don’t exactly know him. Stephen Colbert, the man, has had a long career doing things other than playing Stephen Colbert, the blowhard— you can see clips of him out of character here—but America is not particularly familiar with that first guy.

Emily Bazelon will miss duking it out with “Stephen Colbert”:

I’m excited for Colbert to remake network late night. But I’m also mourning, for a moment, the passing of his character. It was such a distinct performance, a lark that also took all of us, as viewers, on a deep dive into American politics. I never worry when people tell me their main sources of news are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report because we learn a ton while we laugh. And in fact, Colbert’s greatest skill is that he asks great questions. That part he’ll take with him.

I feel exactly the same way – and not just because I will miss my epic struggle with Neil DeGrasse Tyson to be the most booked guest ever on the show. I truly think “Stephen Colbert” is the best piece of political performance art since the Palin candidacy. To lose that mask will be a loss for all of us. Allahpundit expects Colbert’s parodic style to carry over into his new gig:

I don’t think he’s comfortable playing comedy any other way; I’d be surprised if his CBS show is any different. Instead of playing the faux-conservative, which works during Comedy Central’s 11 p.m. hour of right-bashing power for a millennial audience but might not work for an older, more diverse crowd on CBS, he’ll probably play the faux-late-night-host, mocking the conventions of the format. Which wouldn’t be terrible: After 50 years of the same crap, right down to the demographics of the various personalities, anything different at that hour is good.

James Poniewozik certainly hopes so:

What Colbert has done with The Colbert Report is, arguably, the greatest innovation in late night since Letterman launched NBC’s Late Night in 1982. The Report was a talk show, it was a satire, it was a real-time improv performance in character, week in and week out. But more than that, it was a creative work that didn’t end when the credits rolled; it was bigger than its time slot, bigger even than TV. He extended his parody to runs for office, to the White House Correspondents Dinner, to the American campaign finance system. He created a participatory performance, enlisting his Colbert Nation to vote in polls and to back charitable initiatives. …

Just please God, don’t let that thing be a middle-of-the-road, Hollywood-centric, let’s-roll-a-clip, something-for-everyone 11:35 p.m. talk show. Colbert is smart, quick, personable and likeable, but that likeability comes from—weird as this is to say about someone who’s hosted a show in character for nine years—authenticity. Colbert is specifically not for everyone; he’s geekily intelligent, blisteringly funny and has a distinct, often political, point of view. Take that away and you take away everything.

Alyssa agrees that Colbert’s politics are an essential part of his act:

One of the biggest fears about Colbert’s move to CBS seems to be a sense that he will have to drop the political angle of his show in order to appeal to a mass audience. But while Letterman’s overall audience is larger than the one Colbert draws on Comedy Central, the men draw roughly similar numbers of viewers in the coveted 18-49 demographic. If the rest of the show is going to move away from the crazed act that Colbert has sustained since 2005, why not let the politics stay? The portion of the show dedicated to politics overall and cable news in particular will probably have to shrink on CBS, where Colbert will be making a general-interest show rather than a very particularized critique. But the perspective can still be his, even if it’s expressed differently. And Colbert’s liberalism seems like a reasonably durable draw. CBS should have the guts to let him keep it.

But as Cillizza points out, we don’t know for sure what his real opinions are:

The assumption — among Democrats and most Republicans — is that the real Colbert is a Democrat, a perception largely due to his viciously biting satire of conservatism as “Stephen Colbert”.

But, Colbert himself is far more fuzzy about his own politics. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2009, Colbert was asked about a  study out of Ohio State University that showed most conservatives believed he was one of them. “I’m thrilled by it!” he said. “From the very beginning, I wanted to jump back and forth over the line of meaning what I say, and the truth of the matter is I’m not on anyone’s side, I’m on my side.” In October 2012, he told “Meet the Press” host David Gregory: ”I’m interested in the news, so people often think that I’m an ideologue or that I have a political intent … But I comment on things that are in the news.” And, he told Foxnews.com in the fall of 2013: “I’m not trying to make a point; I’m trying to make a joke. Sometimes my personal views are what I am saying, but it is important to me that you never know when that is.”

Josh Dickey asks who will take Colbert’s slot on Comedy Central:

Current Daily Show correspondents Aasif Mandvi and Samantha Bee are established enough for a step up, and would be hailed among the diversity-first crowd, as would alum Wyatt Cenac, who built a following but left the show in late 2012. Larry Wilmore’s devastatingly droll schtick seems too narrow for a full broadcast, while Jessica Williams and Al Madrigal are still too green to be considered contenders. The network loves Amy Schumer, but her show is just getting off the ground; and with an opportunity to truly innovate, it’s unlikely that Comedy Central would just shuffle an existing show into Stewart’s lead-out.

From outside the Comedy Central bubble, Aisha Tyler and Aziz Ansari’s names have come up, while Chelsea Handler, once rumored for a CBS slot, seems an odd fit for the network’s stable — as well as the newsy formula that’s worked so well in that slot.

Samantha!