Stephen Colbert hopes for just one thing before his debut as the new host of CBS' "Late Show": that Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is still in the running.
"I want to do a joke on Donald Trump so badly, and I have no venue," Colbert told reporters Monday in Beverly Hills. "Right now I'm just dry-Trumping."
He later added: "Every night before I go to bed, I light a candle and pray that he stays in the race. And I also pray that nobody puts that candle anywhere near his hair."
Colbert took the stage at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in the ramp up to his inaugural episode on Sept. 8, which will feature George Clooney and Kendrick Lamar as guests.
The funnyman, who amassed a legion of followers with his portrayal as the brash rightwing pundit on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," said the countdown to his bow as himself has him excited — particularly because the persona was getting in the way near the end.
"My favorite thing on the show became doing the interviews," he said. "I had done everything I could with him other than have honest interest in my guests. Now I feel more freed up. That was the most energetic part of the show for me, and now I can just talk.
"I don't think anybody would have watched that old show if they didn't know who I was," Colbert continued, "because that guy was a tool."
Full coverage: Television Crtitics Association press tour 2015
If his half-hour on stage was any indication, he is ready to be back in front of an audience. The 51-year-old introduced himself at the start of the session — as if an announcer at a boxing match. And he found ways to get zings and quips into just about every response.
And he insists CBS brass are not putting any restrictions on him.
"CBS has asked nothing of me other than I fill an hour," he said. "They liked the show I used to do and asked, 'Would you mind adding another 120 hours a year?'"
As far as guests are concerned, Colbert said those that make their rounds on the show don't have to just be of the celebrity ilk — saying he'd like to welcome politicians, writers and the like.
"All I really want from a guest is somebody who has something to say, so I can play with them," he said.
Colbert joins the fold at CBS as the next generation of late-night hosts settles in. Jimmy Fallon has made his mark on NBC's "Tonight Show," serving as a lead-in to Seth Meyers on "Late Night." Jimmy Kimmel anchors ABC's waters. And James Corden recenly took over "The Late Late Show." Asked whether the new era of late night will generate the type of rivalries seen in the past, Colbert seemed uninterested by the idea.
"Maybe I missed the competitive gene," he said. "The idea of war between hosts makes no sense to me. Fighting amongst each other doesn't sound funny, so I'm not interested."
With less than a month until he faces an audience as "Late Show" host, things are steadily moving along. Colbert said he moved into his new offices last week atop New York's Ed Sullivan Theatre as construction on the set pushes along. And there will be tweaks to the setup, including moving the desk to the other side of where it's long been settled.
Colbert also told reporters that 10 days before his predecessor, David Letterman, signed off, he asked to meet with him. Over bottled water, they talked.
"I had a chance to tell him how grateful I was for his example and for all the comedy, for what he did for comedians of my generation, no matter what they were going to do, because I never thought I would be given the opportunity — the honor — to take over the show that he created," Colbert said.
Now, it's just a waiting game to the big launch.
"I'm anxious to get on the air," he said. "I don't like comedy in theory — that's just theology. I want to get to the religion."
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