Stephen Colbert has officially and fearlessly taken the reigns from longtime “Late Show” host, David Letterman. Colbert’s charisma and confident improvisational skills have carried over flawlessly from Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” which aired its final episode (of nearly 1,500) on Dec. 18. I was lucky enough to attend the taping of “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” this Jan. 27th, an experience that solidified both my love for Stephen Colbert and the legitimacy of the immediate success of the show.
I have previously indulged in live entertainment, but experiencing the taping of a late show transcended normal precedents. Participating in a television series that attracts four million viewers per night only amplified the excitement. The show began with stand-up comedian Paul Mercurio at 5 p.m., who used his 20 minute time-slot to warm up the studio audience. After some hilarious crowd work, Mercurio encouraged the audience to laugh and cheer with gusto during the taping, since our recorded voices were broadcast when the show aired at 11:35 p.m. The use of a warm-up comic, common for shows with live studio audiences, was extremely effective.
Jon Batiste and the house of New Orleans band Stay Human’s entrance followed Mercurio’s exit. They proceeded to bless the audience with an incredible, solo-laden private concert before Colbert’s appearance. Shortly afterwards, Stephen ran out to greet his 80th live studio audience as CBS’s franchise late night host. His enthusiasm while taking audience members’ questions displayed his clear love for his profession. One man seated to my left asked how Stephen knew his wife was “the one,” which prompted Colbert to share an incredibly detailed, personal and entertaining account of how he met, then subsequently fell in love with his wife, Evelyn McGee-Colbert.
The actual show, which featured interviews with actor Chris Pine and “Orange is the New Black” actress Danielle Brooks, began at about 5:30 p.m. With the exception of one or two minor misinterpretations of the teleprompter, Colbert gracefully and hilariously dashed through the show with ease. His banter with guests kept audience members (and later, viewers) interested and enthused, and his impressively delivered monologues presented headlines intelligently and satirically. There truly was not a dull moment during my two-hour stay in the Ed Sullivan theater. Colbert kept the audience involved and happy, all while engaging in informative and engrossing interviews with his guests.
During commercial breaks, Colbert routinely returned to his story about falling for his current wife, adding auxiliary details before the camera started rolling once again. His acknowledgement of and respect for the audience exemplified Colbert’s comfort with this new role. He knows that we love him, so he treats us like acquaintances. Obviously, the opportunity to attend a taping of “The Late Show” is not available to all, but I would strongly recommend tuning into the show every weekday on CBS at 11:35 p.m. You will not be disappointed with what the warmly intelligent Stephen Colbert has to say.