Heeeeere’s Stephen!

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Goodbye Comedy Central, Hello Church Of Tisch – Colbert is CBS’ new late-night host

It’s probably not a surprise who is replacing David Letterman, but a surprise it came this quickly.

CBS announced last Thursday the hiring of Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report as their new 10:35 p.m. guy to replace a retiring David Letterman, who is exiting after his contract expires in 2015. Letterman has hosted Late Show since August 30, 1993.

No firm date has been set for Colbert’s debut, but logic would likely dictate a late summer start, just before the 2015-16 season begins. There’s no set format or title (Letterman owns the Late Show name, so it may or may not be named Late Show with Stephen Colbert.) Colbert would be competing directly with Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC.

Colbert has no plans to import his “Stephen Colbert” character from The Colbert Report to his new CBS late night show, effectively retiring the faux conservative blowhard, who was seen as a parody of Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly.

Meanwhile, Comedy Central now has to look for a new show to replace Colbert, which airs after The Daily Show.

It’s been a long journey for South Carolina-born Colbert, who achieved comedy stardom through the doors of Second City right here in Chicago, starting off selling tickets at their box office to a regular performer at the venue. Colbert left Second City to star in Comedy Central’s Exit 57 and later in Strangers With Candy, both with Second City alum Amy Sedaris.

As an unknown, Colbert also appeared on a 1990 episode of Wild Chicago.

Colbert went on to The Daily Show, which spun off The Colbert Report in October 2005, with Stephen Colbert parodying a conservative talk show host. The show became a surprise ratings and critical hit, especially among adults 18-34 and adults 18-49.

SC 2How ingrained The Colbert Report has become in journalism? When Colbert took a playful shot at Chicago last year, WFLD spent (or wasted) a whole segment of one of its woeful newscasts analyzing his comments (obviously giving Colbert more material to work with.)

In the awards department, Colbert hasn’t done too shabbily: nominated for seven Primetime Awards and two TCA Awards; winners of two Peabody Awards (2008, 2012), a Primetime Emmy For Outstanding Writing (2010); and two Emmy wins in 2013.

The real question now is, can Colbert successfully succeed Letterman? Yours truly was hoping Colbert would transport his brilliant character to his CBS show. He still might do so in some capacity, but making his program into another me-too talk show – in other words, a format similar to the other late night shows – would be a mistake. If CBS wants to make a statement and do something different with Colbert – now is the time.