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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Blandification of Stephen Colbert

I'm a big fan of Stephen Colbert--an extraordinary smart and talented comedian--especially in his days as a correspondent on The Daily Show. I liked The Colbert Report, too, but his character's personality could sometimes be a little much (and did we really have to wait each night for his audience's clapping to quiet down?). So I was excited to learn that he'd be playing his naturally charming self on his late night talk show. 

It's probably too soon to predict how his show will fare. This article suggests that his political views may be alienating a good chunk of his potential audience. My own concern with the show is two-fold: First, he's got more time to fill. Material that's hysterical for about 20 minutes is a bit less hysterical spread out over a much longer time period. Just as I think scholarship should roughly be a function of interesting ideas per unit time spent reading it, comedy is roughly a function of humor value per unit time spent consuming it. Second, The Colbert Report was much more subversive than his current show. I was surprised how much his late night show sticks to a relatively common formula. I get that he used to have a half-hour show on Comedy Central and now has a longer show on a major broadcast network. Still, one can regret the possibility that Colbert has been forced to tame his comedic sensibilities. 

Posted by Adam Kolber on November 24, 2015 at 05:42 PM | Permalink


I wasn't aware that others had said the same thing, Blowspon, but given the millions of watchers, that makes sense. If you have any pertinent links that you'd like to share in the comments, they will be most welcome. Happy T-day!

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Nov 26, 2015 11:57:36 AM

Weak sauce, Adam. Weak. Do you often recycle observations others made months and months ago?

Posted by: Blowspon | Nov 25, 2015 10:36:12 PM

When I spoke of taming his comedic sensibilities, I wasn't focused on that particular aspect of it. You may be right, though, that if he were more liberated, the show would seem more politically polarized. But even with respect to non-partisan material, the show (to the extent that I've watched it) still feels bottled up relative to The Colbert Report and the kinds of things he's done on social media.

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Nov 25, 2015 9:21:52 AM

If Colbert had not been forced to "tame his comedic sensibilities," and had been permitted to take unhindered shots at conservatives, his ratings would probably be even lower than the third place in which he is currently mired.

Posted by: Douglas Levene | Nov 25, 2015 7:37:59 AM

I just kinda miss Jay Leno.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Nov 25, 2015 4:42:03 AM

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