Though it should come as no surprise that American late-night TV viewers began switching over to Stephen Colbert’s more politically-minded Late Show after his competitor Jimmy Fallon playfully mussed then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hair on Late Night, it wasn’t until reading this report in Vulture than I realized just how strong Colbert’s lead has gotten over the past year.
The former Comedy Central star now averages around 4 million viewers a night—over 1.2 million viewers ahead of Fallon and, Vulture writes, “a massive 20 percent leap compared to the same time frame in 2017.”
When Obama was in office—remember that?—Fallon and his brand of toothless interviews and childish games was an arbiter of celebrity coverage, showing media outlets that silliness—not substance—was the key to nabbing A-listers for their content. But then came 2016. And, oh god, 2017 after that. Dodging political questions and dressing up like a tween girl and saying, “Ew!!!” for a laugh suddenly felt if not fully unconscionable, than at the very least unnecessary. Colbert’s show still has plenty of synergistic fluff, don’t get me wrong (his most recent Getty photos are with Cookie Monster for Christ’s sake) but these days everyone’s more compelling than Fallon, a man who couldn’t recognize gold when it was sitting two feet away from him.
So viewers have begun migrating to the other rich, straight, white guys on their televisions after 11 p.m.: Colbert (who once hosted a spin-off of The Daily Show), Kimmel (who has gone on several viral rants about our broken healthcare system), and their lesser-watched but even more politically minded brother, Seth Meyers, whose commentary after major news events is more thoughtful and essential than our own President’s.
Someone get Betty Thomas on the horn. This new late night landscape calls for another prosthetic-filled HBO movie.