Late night comedy staples of my childhood Jay Leno and David Letterman have made way for a new group of talented hosts who will carry “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” forward to a new generation. While change is sometimes hard to see as a positive, it was time for fresh names with the ability to incorporate the latest societal trends in comedy.
Two of my favorite comedians are now in the spotlight for late night programming on NBC and CBS – Jimmy Fallon, who started in February as the “Tonight Show” host, and Stephen Colbert, a Comedy Central host who will lead the “Late Night” franchise following Letterman’s departure in 2015.
Colbert, known for playing a character of the same name on his “Colbert Report” show, will have to find his niche outside of the character. Audiences are generally unaware of his true personality and how wide-reaching his comedy will be as a non-political character.
When he moves to CBS, I hope he doesn’t lose some of that politically-charged branding. It’s a way for young people to learn about politics in a way that is entertaining and refreshing. Late night certainly has room for educated dialogue.
Colbert’s newest rival, Fallon, has managed to invite presidents to his “Tonight Show” and “Late Night” sets, a feat that Colbert is likely to accomplish with his move to broadcast. President Barack Obama has already interviewed with Colbert in a “Colbert Report” cameo appearance.
His conservative pundit status on “The Colbert Report” has led to controversy and lighthearted debate, a quality that is admirable in a comedian who has a message to send.
While I can’t predict what his “Late Show” format will be, I am certain politics will continue to be in the mix. It would be hard for Colbert to avoid touching on a wide variety of political topics, especially when his soon-to-be broadcast counterparts already do.
Fallon is well known for his role on “Saturday Night Live” as a cast member and recently hosted “Late Night,” with Leno as his lead-in.
Fallon and Colbert express themselves in various sketches that invite the audience to watch them act out different scenes related to pop culture.
A segment on the “Tonight Show” featuring thank you notes and regular dialogue with The Roots in-house band are positive aspects. Fallon has also gained a reputation for shorts/sketches
that go viral.
The same can’t be said for Seth Meyers, who began his hosting gig on NBC earlier this year on “Late Night,” replacing Fallon. His show lacks something his “Weekend Update” title and head writing job had on “SNL.”
Over time, I do see him being better on camera and specifically during his monologue but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to his comedic style. Maybe I was just too invested in his “Weekend Update” character and can’t see him doing anything else.
Each comedian has a general target audience, though some have a wider reach than others. With the latest NBC late night shows, “SNL” creator and producer Lorne Michaels now helms “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” as executive producer. His close ties to Fallon and Meyers leave him highly capable of translating their “SNL” talent to an interview and monologue format while maintaining some of the creative sketches each comedian used when “SNL” cast members.
Time will tell whether Colbert can become a formidable challenger for late night ratings. One thing I know for certain, though – he wasn’t the wrong choice. Next step: It’s about time for a woman to host a prominent late night show.