Stephen Colbert has always been one of my favorite late night hosts. The Colbert Report has been a nightly staple for me since I was in college. News broke today that Stephen Colbert will be entering the “big league” broadcast pool by taking over for David Letterman at The Late Show next year. I should be happy that one of my favorite comedians is getting a promotion. I should be thrilled that I’ll get more time with him every week. But I’m not. You know why? Because it looks like my favorite TV personality is going to die.
People use the word “TV Personality” to mean “TV host”, but these two terms aren’t exactly interchangeable. When you say “TV Personality Conan O’Brien”, you mean the man. Sure, his TV persona is probably a little different than the man he is in real life (he doesn’t get mad or frustrated on TV, like I’m sure he does at home), but by and large, people who watch Conan expect that who he is on the show is some reflection of his real self. That’s not the case with Stephen Colbert.
When you watch The Colbert Report, you are getting “Stephen Colbert”, someone who doesn’t believe a word of what he says and is a caricature of a certain kind of political pundit. “Stephen Colbert” provided a different type of program, one that made cable audiences think critically and seriously about political issues that are probably too divisive for a broadcast audience. “Stephen Colbert” could have a Super PAC, run for president of the United States in a South Carolina primary and take on politicians from both sides of the aisle. Who knows if Stephen Colbert could be as bold as his fictional counterpart.
From what I’ve seen of Stephen Colbert’s real persona (revealed through only a few select interviews over the years), he seems like he’d be a great fit for The Late Show, and I am excited for him personally. It must be extremely gratifying to move up to CBS. However, I can’t say that the next eight months of The Colbert Report won’t be bittersweet for me. Bidding farewell to “Stephen Colbert” will be hard. As a character I’ve spent a decade getting to know, I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. But I’ve got eight months to prepare. For now, I’ll savor the time I have left with “Stephen Colbert”, and try to get used to the idea of getting to know the man behind the character in 2015.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons