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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Eureka!

I've finally figured out what's bothering me about Stephen Colbert's CBS Late Show.  The epiphany came to me while watching Johnny Carson reruns on WNEP2.

Carson was at his funniest when relating to the audience.  Unscripted moments.  It happened when a joke was bombing, or he was just bantering with Ed and Doc.

Letterman was the same way.  Some of his best moments were ad libs, deviating from the script, letting the moment flow.  He was at his best just rambling on about something in the news, or something that happened in his life.

Everything with Colbert is scripted.  The interviews are weak, at best.  His most human moments came during the Joe Biden interview, and that was several weeks ago.  The problem is Colbert has no one to talk with.  His band leader, a talented musician, is a total stiff in the personality department.  A real zero.  Colbert's first half hour is nearly identical to his old Comedy Central show.  It's not a late night talk show.  It's scripted, unspontaneous comedy.

Colbert is doing the show his way.  He's not going to run around 30 Rock like Letterman did during the NBC days.  Dave explored his neighborhood after the move to CBS.  Colbert recently visited Rupert Jee, Letterman's old friend, at a deli around the corner.  Colbert isn't a Letterman style comic, but that doesn't mean he can't be spontaneous.

Colbert relies too heavy on politics, and it's the same old stuff.  Yes, we know Hillary is one step ahead of the law.  Yes, we know Trump is orange and has funny hair.  Yawn.  Move on.

CBS is getting hammered by NBC in late night.  Still, Colbert isn't making Letterman money.  CBS has taken ownership of Late Show.  In the old days, Letterman was the owner.  CBS paid a licensing fee.  In other words, mediocre ratings still translate in to a financial bonanza for CBS.

Look, all late night comics took a while to hit their stride. Carson struggled at first.  The same for Letterman and Leno.  Colbert has a lot of talent.  He just has to figure out how to best use it.