By Kenneth Shipp
Yes, indeed he can. It’s been 9 months since we last encountered Stephen Colbert playing “Stephen Colbert” and it seems he hasn’t lost any of the mojo. But for those expecting the “narcissistic conservative” hero from Comedy Central, you’ll just have to settle for the “narcissistic” version as the man said himself in the premiere episode.
We’ve known for months that we would not be getting the Colbert character we all grew to love over the years. It’s perfectly fine; what he has replaced it with may be better. It will take time to tell for sure, but my first response to seeing last night’s episode was sheer joy. Colbert’s opening dialogue starts strong amongst a wild crowd of fans who he has trouble quieting for the first 5 minutes. He quickly jokes about his time away in a few ways, even the shows playing while Letterman’s slot was open. This sets up CBS CEO Leslie Moonves sitting behind a lever which allows him to switch the live feed to either Colbert or a re-run of the Mentalist, used to great effect many times last night.
I only had one portion I disliked; the Sabra hummus bit where he has to satisfy the corporate demons. It was funny, but not enough to get a laugh out of me. So, I could have done without it. What we did have plenty of was Colbert literally indulging in Trump campaign highlights by eating a double stuff Oreo for every clip. This clip was a great crossing of his desire to pick at the media craziness surrounding Trump while simultaneously getting his licks in too. He didn’t have his normal platform available while “Trump-mania” was kicking off, so this segment was great to showcase his long wait. One twitter account seemed to wrap it up very nicely:
Colbert has always been a great interviewer and last night was no exception. While George Clooney didn’t have a new project to push, the fake trailers he made for Decision Strike were golden. We don’t get to see that side of Clooney very often. Jeb Bush was up next and some of the best highlights were found in this portion. The setup Colbert uses to talk policy differences between the two Bush siblings was excellent. I won’t ruin those for you, we’ve included the links below for both the Clooney fake trailers and Bush interview.
The musical performance of Everyday People, lead by Late Show bandleader Jon Batiste was decent. Colbert came out and sang with Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes), Paul Janeway (St. Paul and the Broken Bones), Buddy Guy, Ben Folds, Aloe Blacc, and a slew of other artists crammed into this jam. I think given more time, they will create some better mashups like Fallon and Colbert have been known for in the past. Speaking of Fallon, he had a two great moments in the show, but none better than the surprise reveal of Jon Stewart at the beginning.
It was a fine way to kick off a new or altered direction for Colbert. The cameos of Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon served as great seals of approval over this new venture. The jury is still out how different his version of Colbert will be from his Comedy Central days, but we will all be eager to find out.