Filed Under Late Night
The question of what Stephen Colbert is without the pundit character of "Stephen Colbert" was asked a lot in the run up to the new Late Show. One essential element of The Colbert Report was play. Viewers were invited to play along, to "Yes And" the character of "Stephen Colbert." Become one of the "heroes", to join the Colbert Nation and celebrate Truthiness. To watch the show was to play a character too. The Colbert Report audience was a part of the character.
The audience for Late Show will be different. The Colbert Nation throws open its doors to a broader group of entertainment-seeking immigrants. The invitation to play with Stephen is extended to more folks. Folks who might be very different from those who played with "Stephen Colbert."
There was no clear thesis statement like "Truthiness" in the first episode of this new show to unite the new audience. But there was lot of individual elements that I felt added up to more than themselves to reflect a new viewpoint that celebrates differences.
The show was book ended by two songs. The first being pure patriotism - Colbert singing the Star Spangled location with other Americans in locations across the country. The second, "Everyday People" with a variety of musicians, underlining the lyrics of "different Strokes for different folks" and "we've got to live together." Beyond these two songs however, are Jon Batiste and Stay Human as the house band. The group regularly created what they called "Love Riots" - spontaneous musical parties on street corners and other unlikely locations. Musically the thesis is clear. A Late Show should bring people together.
Loving one another despite out differences is something that came through in one key moment last night. During Colbert's interview with Republican candidate for President Jeb Bush. Colbert refererences his own brother Jay, who was attending in the audience. Colbert mentions he and Jay do not see eye-to-eye politically. Jay shakes his head in agreement. Colbert follows that with "But we love each other", causing Jay reach out his arms in expression of that love.
Lest anyone thinks this neuters Colbert, the host used this moment to ask Bush to detail how he different from his own brother George politically. It's probably the critical question that Jeb needs to answer to reach that moderate middle of the country that isn't reflexively one party or another. It was a brilliant bit of verbal judo.
Even with his competition, Colbert's Late Show is going to be about love. While checking out the new TVs on set, Colbert set his own DVR to record Jimmy Fallon's show for the night. In a short coda for the first episode, Colbert and Fallon get dressed post show in the same locker room. Just two guys who happen to work the same shift.