Wednesday, September 09, 2015
So I’ll share my thoughts with curiosity as to whether they’re shared or singular. Please weigh in and since politics may rear its ugly head, don’t attack each other.
Ready? Here we go.
Oh wait. Not yet. First a disclaimer:
I love Stephen Colbert. I’m a huge fan. I applauded when I learned he got this gig. He’s enormously talented, is an amazing interviewer (no one has a quicker or funnier mind), and he can even sing and dance.
Now I’ll begin.
No, no. One more thing. Sorry.
He was under enormous pressure last night. The expectations were unrealistically high. There was the whole summer build-up, a big audience, and a culture that makes its mind up in 140 seconds and characters or less. Good luck feeling comfortable under those conditions. And the key to success in one of those late night shows is putting the viewers at ease. It’s hard to do that when you have enough adrenaline coursing through your veins to lift a Buick.
Now to the review.
I thought last night’s show was the first waffle you make Sunday morning and throw away. I have high hopes for the Colbert show, but it’s going to take some time and adjustments.
Understandably, he was trying way too hard. Again, the expectations. The local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles had a countdown in the bottom corner of the screen during its 11:00 news. “Once we get through this gang war shooting we got COMEDY coming up in only 9 minutes! Now 8 minutes!”
But my big problem was he didn’t know who he wanted to be. And that’s what he’ll have to settle on and grow into. Was he the goofy guy dancing around at the beginning? A zany irreverent host with pre-taped bits? A character similar to the one he played on COMEDY CENTRAL? A political pundit? Will he be sincere or a put on? At times he was all of these. Pick one (my vote is the political pundit).
One thing about Letterman, from the day he first stepped out onto the stage for his NBC morning show he had his persona down. I’m certain Stephen will find his. But sooner rather than later.
I worry that doing a mainstream latenight talk show he’ll be saddled with too many Sofia Vergaras. That’s like asking Peter Serkin to play “Chopsticks.”
I liked the hummus commercial and some of the Donald Trump jokes, but Trump is such an easy target. Was he really worth devoting five minutes? I was hoping for something with a little more bite. Have we forgotten Mike Huckabee already?
The few major newspaper reviews I read loved the show (and maybe you did too -- I want to know). But as I was watching I tried to imagine people who were not intimately familiar with Stephen Colbert. He may be an icon to us cool kids, but I bet there are way more people than you think who really don’t know him. Or never got that he was playing a satiric character on THE COLBERT REPORT. Based on last night, I’m not sure they were knocked out. And winning them over is more important than winning me over.
But to those new to the dance, I ask you not to judge based on one show (unless you loved it). Give him a chance. This show is on five nights a week every week. It's a work-in-progress. Stephen Colbert is smart, incredibly funny, and he’ll figure it out. When he does he could have the best latenight show of the bunch. Of course, by then the New York Times will hate him.
Oh shit. There goes my paper on the garage again.
So what did you think?
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM