“You are all witnessing television history,” Stephen Colbert said as he opened the Late Show. The long-hyped television event was a bit underwhelming, but perhaps that was inevitable because expectations were so high. Yet Colbert was charming and, admittedly, it’s a near-seismic shift from the familiar “Stephen Colbert,” the obtuse conservative pundit, to Stephen Colbert the late-night host. Though shades of “Colbert” the character were still present in the real Colbert.
Colbert opened the show with some standard late-night jokes about his nine months off, Ashley Madison and the CBS television lineup—particularly the ridiculous show The Mentalist. He paid a brief tribute to Dave Letterman: “I’m not replacing David Letterman,” he reassured viewers as he cut to a clip of The Mentalist, a recurring gag throughout the show. Jon Stewart made a cameo, as did Jimmy Fallon, bringing the circle of late-night dudes with notable hair to a completion. There was a weird bit about Sabra hummus that seems to have been product placement.
Colbert was at his best—or at least his most familiar—when he riffed on Donald Trump and binged on Oreo cookies. The joke, besides Trump, was a nice play on the media’s addiction to the candidate’s outrageousness: “Someone on television should have a modicum of dignity, and it should be me,” he joked and he continued to scarf down cookies.
George Clooney was the first guest. The first sentence Clooney uttered was “I was reading Nick Kristof articles in the New York Times,” which is how everyone’s best stories start.
Clooney was followed by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bush’s first lines were almost as exciting as Clooney’s, taxes and government dysfunction, coupled with Bush’s delivery, made for a rocky start. It didn’t get much better. Colbert asked Bush about his signature exclamation point. Jeb! said that it “connoted excitement.” The exclamation point was/is possibly the most exciting thing about Bush. The best exchange between the two was when Bush touted his record as Governor:
“They call me Veto Corleone,” Bush bragged. “Really? You know he was an anti-hero in the movie,” Colbert responded.
The show ended with a performance of “Everyday People” lead by the Late Show’s bandleader Jon Baptiste and featuring the wonderful Mavis Staples.
Image via AP.