Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

December 9, 2023

Colbert's potential politicization of Late Night

Late night television has been traditionally been dominated by the variety show format where guests engage in light banter with the host, promote their own personal endeavors, and occasionally play goofy mini-games. However, Stephen Colbert’s inaugural week as the host of The Late Show showed glimpses a new slant on late night programming.
Say what you will, but for the last decade of Colbert’s career his name has carried a substantial degree of political weight, especially for a supposed comedian. Despite the nature of the show it is possible that late night programming it is probable that Colbert’s new time slot will be slightly morphed by his clout in the political arena.
The guest list thus far has seemed to be of similar substance to shows past with appearances from assorted actors and comedians, but Colbert has also already hosted current Vice President Joe Biden and presidential candidate Jeb Bush as well.
It is normal for political figures to appear on late night television, however, at certain times during the interview Biden and Bush both attempted to get exceedingly serious with Colbert.
It is obvious to see that Colbert has made concerted efforts to keep conversation light and substance low. But, it is hard to redefine past-relationships with industry friends, and even harder to erase a personal brand, fictional or otherwise, that has endured a decade plus.
Serious responses to Colbert’s presence is probably going to happen again. A discussion between Biden and him carries much more significance than if competing hosts like Jimmy Kimmel or Seth Myers conducted the interview. It offers incentive for the guests to inconspicuously inject a political plug to a whole new audience.
People talk politics with Colbert, that is what he is known for, and he will not be able to easily avoid it.
David Letterman hosted The Late Show for 33 years and amassed a large, loyal fan base. But, than fan base grew with him, leading to an increasingly aged viewership for the show. Colbert is sure to bring a much younger fan base with him.
According to Nielson Media Research ratings Colbert’s debut garnered 6.6 million viewers, doubling the average viewership during Letterman’s last year. Viewership tapered off throughout the following week, but still remained above the previous year’s average.
When future guests like Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Michelle Obama make their scheduled appearances, Colbert junkies will expect the old caricature. Whether or not the beloved persona is delivered remains to be seen, but nevertheless expect them to be listening.
In time it will be apparent whether Colbert decides to use his newfound platform for entertainment or influence, but for now everyone should just settle in and watch the rise.

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Colbert's potential politicization of Late Night