This entire week has seen Stephen Colbert unleashed. The Late Show host, who has masqueraded as a milquetoast talk show host for the last year finally threw off his Clark Kent glasses and launched himself, Superman-like, into the stratosphere, just when we needed our comedian pundits to highlight the absurdity of our political situation the most.
It’s been a win-win-win for everyone. Colbert go to spend a week doing what he does best–and chances are, with the Democratic National Convention next week, he’ll get to do it all again starting on Monday. CBS landed ratings wins for their program for the first time since February. And we at home who needed to laugh after the Trump horror show every night got to do so.
But the person who won last night? Jon Stewart.
The truth is, Jon Stewart had gone stale in his final year on The Daily Show. He was tired of railing against the establishment, and that exhaustion came through in waves when you watched. I’ve seen people say that his timing was almost too perfect. He went off the air, and Trump announced his candidacy the next week. He must be home kicking himself. I don;t think so. To be honest, if Stewart had sent the last year on TV chronicling Trump’s rise, his special guest appearance last night wouldn’t have had the same impact. Instead, the time away meant that his rant had even more impact, especially when he began to breathe literal fire too hot for Live Network TV (even if it was after 1am in the east coast market because Trump droned on longer than Bill Clinton last night.)
It will be interesting to see if Colbert keep up this hybrid of the old Colbert Report mashed up with The Daily Show as his Late Show format past next week. But even more so if he attempts to do so after the August break when the show returns for its second season under his reign in September. One suspects that CBS wouldn’t mind the ratings bump, but can they also handle the controversy it might cause? Or will these simply remain one-off specials in between regularly scheduled episodes? Time will tell.