Is it just me or is there one huge elephant in the Stephen Colbert soon-to-be inhabited Late Show living room?
It's as if the elephant is hanging out in the corner of the room hoping to not be noticed, to not be found out.
The elephant is this: Can the real Stephen Colbert host a show? Is he even funny or likeable or???
Before you go want to smack me upside the head, just hear me out.
There is nobody on this planet, CBS, Colbert or even Jon Stewart who can tell you definitively that Colbert is good enough to host CBS' Late Show when David Letterman leaves.
Because nobody has seen Stephen Colbert host a late-night talk show....as the real Stephen Colbert. Colbert became popular playing a character who is a late-night talk show host on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. A character. A very funny and entertaining character, I might add, but a character nonetheless.
The analytical part of me goes, "So, CBS is hiring a guy popular for playing a character who is a talk show host to now be a real talk show host although they have no idea if anyone will like the real guy as opposed to his popular character."
If you think about this move, to Colbert, The Colbert Report Colbert, it makes perfect nonsensical sense. Why wouldn't a guy who has never been a talk show host as himself be given the keys to an iconic late night talk show even though his entire success and popularity is based on playing a character who is a talk show host?? Oh and by-the-way, he's not going to do thing that made him so popular and his show a success. Brilliant!
What next, President Obama announces that Deputy White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri is stepping down and that he is naming Rob Lowe as her replacement? Sam Seaborn lives!
To be honest, I made that unfair comparison because I wanted to get a Sam Seaborn reference into this conversation.
But back to Colbert taking over for Letterman. Despite the obvious elephant in the room, I believe Colbert has a decent chance at success. It really depends on two things: Will the audience which loved him as his Comedy Central character follow him to CBS? And if they do, will they love him as this new guy, the real Stephen Colbert?
Secondly, CBS's late night audience skews the oldest of any late night show, the opposite of Colbert's audience. Will the real Colbert appeal to those Letterman lovers enough for them to stick around?
This is important because Colbert needs both to succeed. His following at Comedy Central is not big enough to support a network show. So, Colbert needs a combo-deal -- his Comedy Central fans combined with a decent number of Dave's audience.
As I wrote in an earlier post about Jimmy Fallon's debut as host of The Tonight Show, Fallon had all the stars aligned, including his talent.
Colbert doesn't have that luxury.
You see, Fallon was already familiar to the NBC audience by virtue of his 12:30am time slot on the network and his years of work on Saturday Night Live. Plus, when Fallon moved to 11:35pm, we all knew what we were getting; the things which made Fallon successful at 12:30am. With Colbert, he will no longer do the things that made him successful. He will no longer be in character, which is really what made the show what it is.
Here's hoping the real Colbert is someone we will like equally, if not more, than his talk show character. If not, there's a great guy at 12:30am, who, like Fallon had at NBC, is pretty familiar to the CBS audience. His name is Craig Ferguson. He doesn't play a talk show host. He is one and he's damn good.
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