Stephen Colbert satirical as ever in “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Ryan Matera, Contributing writer

Late night television has lost its familiarity and been reduced to tweeted monologues and Youtube-able moments. The retirement of David Letterman has left us stranded with hosts who seem determined to exclude viewers from the joke to build the pedestal of the celebrity. We look to Seth Meyers for political insight yet find dry monologues. We look to Jimmy Fallon for familiarity and are met with cheapness and triviality. The pressure to create a show of quality, insight and humor has fallen entirely on Stephen Colbert’s shoulders; however, this burden is surely in good hands.

Colbert danced into the newly furnished Ed Sullivan Theater, complete with a stained glass rendition of his face, a Captain America shield, a cursed amulet and his mother’s 1963 civil rights pennant. The host of The Late Show looked nervous, excited and happy. Yes, a smile was covering the face of the man once so marked with a scowl that we would often forget he was joking. Perhaps Colbert’s biggest challenge is to approach this show no longer as a character but as a human, and to shed his previous facade so we may see him as a late night host with a minor in politics. In his own words, “I used to be a narcissistic Republican pundit. Now I’m just a narcissist.”

In Colbert’s tribute to Letterman he recognized the legend’s influence and regarded him as a figure to which he should strive to be like. It may be premature to say, but Colbert’s dynamic has the potential to surpass Letterman’s abilities. With the new show we may still hear our daily recaps and see our celebrities, but we also get a deeper taste of the current political landscape. Hosts have always disputed claims that viewers should receive their news from their satirical shows, but they nevertheless have truly changed the way young people consume news. Simply put, it is characteristic of our generation to take a comedian as our main political source, and the seriousness of this is recognized by Colbert.

The decision to choose a Republican candidate as the show’s first guest was not bold, it was symbolic. He showed interest and restraint with Jeb Bush and allowed him to speak without a predetermined discord. Jeb sounded like a candidate should: intellectual, prepared and witty.

His interview with actor George Clooney was necessary to the tried and true structure of late night television. However, in the coming week, viewers can look forward to discussions with major intellectual figures such as Elon Musk, Vice President Joe Biden and Stephen King.

Colbert may not have been perfectly engaging for an entire hour — evil amulet jokes can only go so far — but for a first show twice the length of his old one and with the pressure of a premiere, he and his team of politically comedic writers certainly lived up to the familiar chants of “Stephen, Stephen, Stephen!” Seeing the graphics over Colbert’s right shoulder and hearing him call us “folks” certainly made for a nostalgic viewing. Though it has plenty of hype to live up to, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” is in the right place to curb the state of political comedy and create entertainment that not only leaves the viewer satisfied, but also keeps the scholar interested.

Email Ryan Matera at [email protected].