from the stephen-colbert-stephen-colbert-stephen-colbert dept
If you're not at all familiar with Colbert, this will take some unpacking. For many years, Colbert hosted a TV show on Comedy Central (owned by Viacom) called The Colbert Report, in which he played a pompous/clueless TV news blowhard... also named Stephen Colbert. A big part of the conceit was that this was a character, quite different than the actual Stephen Colbert in real life. More recently, Colbert ended that show, to move to network TV to take over David Letterman's old slot, where it's now the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Importantly, on the Late Show, Colbert insisted that he was leaving "the character" of Stephen Colbert behind and would actually be himself, Stephen Colbert. Got that?
In the last few months, however, there have been some concerns that this new network non-character Colbert wasn't performing well in the ratings -- and part of the blame placed on that was the fact that he was no longer using the character of Stephen Colbert from the Colbert Report.
“Late Show” has had trouble finding the funny. That’s not surprising, given how reliant his Comedy Central show was on the character he played: a smug, self-absorbed conservative talk host. That character is gone now, and now the hunt is on for what works with the “real Stephen.” Some of the standing bits toss off some good one-liners, including a fake confessional booth where Colbert admits to nonsensical sins. But too many set-ups fall flat. The “cold open” at the start of the show could develop into a keeper but at the moment it feels forced and ends abruptly, rather than naturally flowing into the title sequence.Perhaps because of this, and as an attempt to boost ratings, last week at the Republican Convention, Colbert did two things -- he brought Jon Stewart on to return to the main desk to do a story on Donald Trump... and he brought back the Stephen Colbert character:
Of course, with Colbert, it's never entirely clear how much of what he says is serious or not, so it's possible that this is all a ploy to boost the ratings. However, usually when he does these things, they're at least based on a kernel of truth. And, if that's the case, it'll be interesting to see if the Viacom/Comedy Central lawyers take exception to this workaround. It would certainly be a fun lawsuit to see them arguing over which forms of Stephen Colbert Stephen Colbert can use...