And so it came to pass that
It seems in every way a sensible move. Colbert, who has been performing monologues and conducting interviews on
But he has been on the cover of Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Wired, Outside, Sports Illustrated and the Dartmouth alumni magazine. He has had an ice cream flavor named for him, a species of spider, and a piece of exercise equipment on the International Space Station (the "Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill," or COLBERT) named for him.
He is already "the Emmy-winning Stephen Colbert." In which respect, one should also note that his writers will surely be making the move with him.
Indeed, though we've seen him mostly in character until now — a character, the living embodiment of the ironic voice, that he has already declared to be leaving behind — he is very much like the man he'll replace: intellectual, serious, quick-witted (possibly the quickest wit in the wasteland), honest about himself within limits, skeptical about show business and other sorts of officialdom but respectful of accomplishment. One wonders how he'll handle a steady stream of actors and actresses, juveniles and ingenues appearing to hawk their often insubstantial wares (as one hopes that a Colbert "Late Show" will bring with it the "Report" rotation of writers, politicians, activists), but one remembers that he is at heart a humanist — a Christian humanist — and supposes that he will treat them kindly.
Apart from the perks of visibility and access and, of course, income, it will surely come as some kind of relief to Colbert not to have carry that single character, the self-admiring conservative pundit, all the way to the grave. (Though there's nothing to say he couldn't be revived, with a simple swap of spectacles.) It is impossible, in an exciting way, to know where he'll go with this. Colbert has been out there virtually alone on his stage, without sidekicks or a crew of regulars. (He began, of course, as one of
The announcement also raises the not-insignificant question of what happens to the space where "The Colbert Report" now sits. For one thing, and not the least thing, it keeps the "who besides a white male" question in play. And though television remains on the whole inordinately interested in playing to young white men, there have been hopeful advances at Comedy Central, now the home of "Broad City," "Inside Amy Schumer," and "Key & Peele." Chelsea Handler, parting ways with E! and already a seasoned talk show host, is a free agent. As was the case with Colbert, change starts at the edge and works its way in.