Similarly, I’ve enjoyed most of Stephen Colbert’s work, but I gave up watching his “Late Show” sometime last year because I was suffering from an overdose of Nightly Monologues Entirely About Donald Trump. I did start watching again at the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown to see how Colbert handled it, and was surprised to see him struggling so much without a studio audience (the lack of over-the-top laughs threw off his timing). Even since he’s moved out of his house and back into the studio — where, like everyone else on TV, he conducts interviews via Zoom — the show just isn’t the same.
It also drives me crazy when Colbert does his show live (like after the presidential debates), and feels he has to constantly make a big deal about the fact that it wasn’t recorded hours earlier. There’s nothing unique about doing a live broadcast. I did it for 40 years on the radio. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth do it every week on “Sunday Night Football.” “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning” are live, too, as is the entire day on CNN and MSNBC. Hell, even Kelly Ripa does it. But Colbert always seems over-caffeinated when he’s live, and can never seem to manage the clock, to the point where he often has to cut off a guest to go to a commercial break he didn’t know was coming. He won’t have that problem on Election Night, when he’ll do a special show on CBS’ sister network, Showtime, while the mother network stays with its all-night coverage. But I bet he still keeps reminding viewers it is live.
For those reasons, instead of recording Colbert every night, I have merely checked YouTube most weekdays to see if he (and Jimmy Kimmel) had any guests I cared about. When I did so this weekend, I noticed that Colbert had Jon Stewart on his Friday night show, ostensibly to mark the 10th anniversary of their “Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear” on the Mall in DC. But, as you’ll see in the clip I’ve embedded above, they both overacted horribly while pretending Stewart was doing a surprise drop-in via Zoom, when we all know it was planned in advance. On top of that, the both yelled their lines for no reason. To make matters worse, Stewart was doing his end from his attic, with lighting so lousy the video looked fuzzy. And for a guy who spent a couple of decades looking straight into a camera, he seems to have forgotten how to make eye contact by looking at his laptop lens.
During the conversation, Colbert mentioned that Stewart recently signed a deal with Apple TV+ to begin producing and hosting some kind of new show next year. That means that, presuming Biden wins, Stewart will have missed the entire Trump presidency, which would probably have burned him out even more than when he left “The Daily Show” in 2015.
The guest after Stewart on Colbert’s show Friday night was Neil deGrasse Tyson, who proved yet again why he is always money-in-the-bank. Colbert had a very different tone — and the interplay was much better — with the astrophysicist than it had been with his longtime Comedy Central colleague. See for yourself.
I look forward to seeing what Stewart’s new streaming video show will look like, and I know he doesn’t need my advice, but my first suggestion would be to knock off the phoniness and just be the talented writer, satirist, and interviewer we know he can be.