‘Late Show’ Host Stephen Colbert Says He’s Finally Found His Post-‘Report’ Voice ~ FreshAir

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For Stephen Colbert, taking over as host of The Late Show was not a hard decision. “I love a live audience,” he says. “I love the grind of every day and I love the people I work with.”
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

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It has been more than a year since Stephen Colbert took over as host of CBS’ The Late Show, and he’s finally feeling comfortable being himself and not a character.

Before The Late Show, Colbert spent nine years playing the role of a self-important blowhard on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. He tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that he initially shied away from discussing politics or current events on The Late Show in an effort to differentiate himself from his Colbert persona.

“It took me almost half a year to realize … that you can have a highly opinionated, highly topical show as yourself and not essentially fall back into the basket of The Colbert Report,” he says. “Now I have no qualms about being sharp and satirical and highly opinionated and saying whatever’s on my mind as quickly as I can.”

This fall, Colbert’s mind has been on the election. He’s been doing political comedy nearly every night, but don’t expect him to be at his Late Show desk on election night. Colbert’s Nov. 8 show will be pre-empted by CBS News coverage, so instead he’ll be hosting the Showtime special Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going To Clean Up This S***? He promises guest stars, special political commercials, musical guests and, of course, election results.

Interview Highlights

On why he decided to end The Colbert Report

The idea of “truthiness” — that was the thesis statement for the entire show, that how you feel is more important than what the facts are, and that the truth that you feel is correct is more important than anything that the facts could support. … We embodied it satirically, though it’s not really a new idea. … But I didn’t want to play that game anymore. … I just couldn’t take playing that character anymore. … I began to feel like I was stumbling downhill with an armful of bottles and that I couldn’t actually keep up the discipline, because it took discipline to remind myself every day to be the character, don’t be yourself. …

And so I decided a couple years before the show ended that I was going to end the show. … It wasn’t because I didn’t like it anymore — I still liked it — but I just thought, I’m not sure if I can actually keep this up without hurting someone. …

I thought maybe I would make some big mistake with the character because he would say terrible things. And I got away with some of the terrible things he would say or do because it was all filtered through his mask, but if I didn’t maintain the mask, it would just be me being terrible.

On getting The Late Show offer

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~~~  MORE INTERVIEW OR LISTEN  ~~~

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