Two comedy icons making an exit

Two comedy icons making an exit

Two comedy icons making an exit
April 15
09:22 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

Earlier this month, late night television lost an icon when David Letterman announced he would be retiring next year.

A week later, CBS announced Stephen Colbert’s move to take Letterman’s place.

Normally, giving the paragon of political satire a bigger timeslot and a broader audience would be a welcome change. But with the announcement came the catch: Colbert will be retiring the “Colbert Report” character that made him famous.

In Colbert’s own words, “NOOOOOOO!!!”

Good God, is he going to start pronouncing the “T” at the end of his name now?

In hindsight, it was ridiculous to think that Colbert’s antics on his show were genuine. Painting himself as a caricature of conservative talk-show hosts, the fiercely anti-intellectual Colbert became the perfect hybrid of a cultural icon and a cult leader.

His antics were borderline psychotic at times, and they had real-world consequences. He campaigned for U.S. president both years he was on air for an election, and more recently developed a Super PAC to expose the insanely legal corruption surrounding campaign financing.

In what is, if you think about it, the most epic acting performance of all time, the man has stayed in character for almost a solid decade, and outside of a seven-year stint on “The Daily Show,” which he spent developing that character, he hasn’t done much else. He’s written two books, received an honorary doctorate and hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner all in character. It begs the question — if he’s going to be himself, why hire him at all?

This was the man who raised more than a million dollars as a joke. This was the man who ruined Wikipedia when he argued that viewers should alter reality by altering the user-generated knowledge base, resulting in red tape between the average internet user and editing the website. This was the man who told George Bush to his wrinkly little face that his approval rating was “backwash” on national television in front of a host of political figures and media members and left that face smiling.

And this is not the man who will be taking over for Letterman, and no one has any idea who will be.

Colbert first came to the public light in 1997, and since then he has never been far from the bizarre mix of idiocy and deep insight he represents on his show. CBS is taking a huge gamble on the strength of Colbert’s name, but not what made that name.

Late night enthusiasts will be left holding the bag, having lost not one but two of the most influential talk show hosts of the past decade.

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