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Brighton, England

Stephen Colbert’s Late Show

Stephen Colbert interviewing George Clooney.
Stephen Colbert interviewing George Clooney on his first night as host of the new Late Show. Photograph: CBS

A huge fan of The Colbert Report, although living in the UK meant I was unable to watch full episodes, I could often be found howling with laughter as I gorged on the available clips on YouTube. Yet watching video shorts released prior to Colbert’s debut as new host of The Late Show, I sensed a change in comedic direction, and wondered whether the transition to a more mainstream slot would be a painful, and ultimately unsuccessful endeavour.

Now, having watched clips from his first week sat behind the desk inside a renovated Ed Sullivan Theater, I’m left wondering why I had any doubts. While the new show sticks to the traditional American late-night format, enough elements of his previous show remain, and the humour remains familiar. Writing about the first show, Megan Garber noticed another important similarity:

[The Colbert Report] was notable not just for its satire, but for its intellectualism: It introduced its audience to authors and thinkers who might not get an airing on typical late-night, or for that matter typical news, shows. The Late Show’s debut suggested that Colbert might carry on that tradition, expanding it to a wider audience. It suggested a proposition that, until last night, seemed as absurd as it is simple: that late-night comedy, aired on a large network, can be funny and smart at the same time.

On any other show, an interview with Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick would have been fawning and over congratulatory, but Colbert’s questions didn’t avoid the controversies surrounding this company. It also revealed Kalanick’s rather hollow and evasive personality:

Travis Kalanick Interview

With Colbert no longer playing the character of a “well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot”, and with the exaggerated conceit of political punditry stripped away, it appears we may still get the same satire and humour, but with a more open, honest and warmer host. I think it works.

Which begs the question: when can we expect episodes to be broadcast in the UK?