The Royal Court of Late Night (and The Changing of Its Jester)
Late Night TV is no new thing. Even before my time, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were considered living legends. Just like television programming as a whole has evolved in an extremely accelerated rate, so too has the Late Night formula been completely recreated. During my youth and up until the last decade or so, the most recognized household names were Jay Leno and David Letterman. That was it. They were the late night cash cows for NBC and CBS respectively. They would talk about the news of the day or week and make fun of it. Then they would usually be visited by celebrities who were there to talk about their latest movie or project.
I later learned that the whole reason for this was for entirely professional and business reasons and not social at all. It was on the docket of all these celebrities’ promotional tours to build exposure and awareness of their newest work. This was all, of course, before social media had reached its current relevance.
Then September 11th happened…
In terms of Late Night TV, September 11th brought about a cultural reinterpretation for the time slot. Leno and Letterman were having more and more politicians and government officials as guests to help further explain (or confuse) its audience with the relevant national and international news. Former presidents, presidential candidates, and even current acting presidents were appearing on the show for a multitude of reasons.
Fast forward to 2005 and there’s this guy on Comedy Central named Stephen Colbert. Colbert was a comedic understudy of Steve Carell and a disciple of political satirist Jon Stewart. Colbert piloted the helm of his extremely popular show “The Colbert Report” that followed Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” For nine years, Colbert (along with Stewart’s 14-year run,) brought about a pop-culture following and relevance to the headlines that no one could have anticipated. What’s even more surprising is that towards the final years of their broadcasts, they were rated “Most Trustworthy” of all the news sources. I’m not talking satirical news, I’m talking NEWS. More trustworthy than CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS; all of them.
Winner of 9 Prime Time Emmy Awards, “The Colbert Report” truly carved itself into a niche of its own. The character that Colbert created for himself along with the shows political satire and dismissal of the formula of network news coverage coupled with its genius writing and social commentary made it one of the highest-rated Prime Time shows during its reign. Alas, all great things must come to an end as “The Colbert Report” officially signed off from Comedy Central in December 2014. But Colbert wasn’t gone long…
On September 8, 2015, Stephen Colbert returned to television. This time with CBS. “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” proudly holds up the ever-burning torch left by David Letterman. Colbert with great pride and honor, continues to breathe life into the Ed Sullivan theater in NYC along with his spectacular band John Batiste and Stay Human. In true Colbert fashion and bravado, he is already turning the genre of Late Night TV on its head yet again. Though he does follow the Late Night formula of a monologue followed by two guest slots and a musical act, he tweaks it with not having so many celebrities as he has fascinatingly creative people to the billionaire scale. These people include Nick Woodman (inventor of GoPro) and Travis Kalanick (co-founder of Über) to name a few.
Even in its brief six-week existence, I can already see signs of Colbert once again educating and informing us in a way we will never see coming. His musical, dramatic, and theater training is an extension of himself that seems so natural, it’s almost like a metaphysical limb that he’s able to stretch out through the screen and give to you. “The Late Show with David Letterman” was on the air for 22 years. I hope that “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” will continue to entertain and inspire new generations of informed citizens.
This post was brought to you by Miami native, and constantly being confused for Armenian since moving to Los Angeles, myself.