The Late Night Rundown – Stephen Colbert

Back in the 70′s, there was only Johnny Carson.  But since the retirement of the undisputed King of Late Night in 1992, there has been a plethora of new shows pop up, each with the same basic formula, but unique in their own way. After reading Bill Carter’s The War For Late Night, I have become addicted to late-night television all over again.  So I am starting a new series of posts dedicated to the many hosts out there currently making us laugh after prime time, analyzing one at a time.

After Strangers With Candy and a long, successful stint on the Daily Show, Stephen Colbert had a pretty genius epiphany.  With the aide of Jon Stewart, he launched the Colbert Report, modeled after the insanity of conservative television pundits on Fox News, blindly partisan and patriotic, ignoring facts over feeling.  The prime mocking/homage target was “Papa Bear” Bill O’Reilly, who, unlike his Faux News peers, has taken the jabs in good spirit and half-flattery.

While it was common knowledge Colbert would be playing a character every night, an irrational, interrupting, bombastic, overly patriotic, conservative blowhard, no one would have imagined the following he would capture, the media attention he would get, and the long-lasting spectacle that the character would become.  From delivering his press correspondent’s speech in character to visiting the troops in Iraq, to, most recently, lambasting the new de-regulation on election campaign finance by starting his own Super PAC, Colbert has lassoed in a slew of diehard followers, affectionately known as the Colbert Nation, who will follow him and Stewart, Glenn Beck-style, to the National Mall donning costumes and humorous signs.

And while Colbert usually gets lumped as Robin to Stewart’s Batman, the show and demeanor are anything but alike.  While the Daily Show attacks the issues of the day with a straight-forward, mocking, sometimes too-preachy-for-some tone, the Colbert Report is the lighthearted alternative, focusing on the absurd and more visual gags.  He tackles the issues in a different light, mocking, yes, but as an individual pretending to defend idiocy and hypocrisy.  And if you’re not in on the joke, you just might be fooled.  It’s that level of creativity that makes Colbert sometimes even sharper than his “opening act.”

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