The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

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The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Late Show with Stephen Colbert Logo (2015).png
Also known as Late Show (franchise brand)
Genre Late-night talk show
News/political satire
Created by David Letterman
Developed by
Written by Jay Katsir
Opus Moreschi
(co-head writers)
Directed by Jim Hoskinson
Presented by Stephen Colbert
Starring Jon Batiste and Stay Human (house band)
Theme music composer
Opening theme "Everyone (Intro)"
Ending theme

"I'm from Kenner"

"The Art of the Bumper"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 152 (as of May 27, 2016) (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Jon Stewart
  • Tom Purcell
  • Meredith Bennett
  • Barry Julien
  • Emily Lazar
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 46 minutes
Production company(s)
Original network CBS
Picture format HDTV 1080i
Original release September 8, 2015 (2015-09-08) – Present (Present)
Preceded by Late Show with David Letterman
Related shows The Colbert Report
External links

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is an American late-night talk show hosted by Stephen Colbert, which premiered on September 8, 2015. Produced by Spartina Productions and CBS Television Studios, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is the second iteration of CBS's long-running Late Show franchise. Stay Human, led by bandleader Jon Batiste, serves as the program's house band.

The program is taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City; unlike predecessor series during its final decade, new episodes are produced five nights a week (as such, The Late Show and its main NBC competitor The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon are the only daily late-night network talk shows that produce and air first-run episodes on Fridays), which air at 11:35 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on Monday through Friday evenings.


Stephen Colbert hosted his satirical news show, which won six Emmy Awards, on Comedy Central from October 2005 to December 2014.

Prior to Colbert's assumption of hosting duties, David Letterman had been host of the Late Show for 22 years, dating to his arrival at CBS in 1993. CBS had not had a regular late-night talk show for most of its existence prior to that point, with only one attempt (the short-lived Pat Sajak Show in 1990) between 1972 and Letterman's arrival. Letterman, who joined CBS from NBC after ending his eleven-year run as host of Late Night and losing out on being Johnny Carson's successor on The Tonight Show to Jay Leno, was initially competitive with his show's bitter rival, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; Letterman's Late Show, however, slowly experienced a decline in ratings over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, dating back to an affiliation agreement between New World Communications and Fox that resulted in all nine CBS-affiliated stations it owned or recently acquired switching to Fox between September and December 1994, relegating the network to lower-rated former Fox affiliates and independent stations in many major cities.

According to TV by the Numbers, in February 2013, the live-plus-seven-day ratings for Letterman's Late Show averaged about 3.1 million per show for the 2012–13 season to date.[1] A year later, average viewership was down to 2.8 million.[2] Late Show also had the oldest audience among the various late-night talk shows, which may have led to CBS' decision to pick a younger replacement for Letterman to compete with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[2] In addition, Colbert's previous program did well among college students and young men 18-34, which are prime target audiences for late-night comedy programming.[2]

On April 3, 2014, Letterman announced his retirement, with his final episode as host of the Late Show scheduled for May 20, 2015. On April 10, 2014, CBS announced Stephen Colbert as Letterman's successor, signing him to a five-year agreement.[3] In contrast with Colbert's previous program The Colbert Report, in which he played a fictionalized version of himself, Colbert hosts the show (which retains the Late Show branding, albeit with the article "The" formally inserted into the title) as himself.[4] On April 23, 2014, the character version of Stephen Colbert appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to announce that he has clearly "won television" and will be closing down The Colbert Report because he has met his goal. This came after the announcement the character would not be used after the end of The Colbert Report.[5]

Several states and municipalities attempted to coax CBS into moving production of the program from its long-time home in New York City with tax credits and other incentives, including Los Angeles, New Orleans and Connecticut.[6] On July 23, 2014, CBS announced that Late Show would continue to be produced at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York when Colbert takes over.[7] Jonathan Batiste was announced as the bandleader on June 4, 2015,[8] with his Stay Human band succeeding the CBS Orchestra as the house band.[9][10]


Subway entrance ad for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, a month before the premiere of the show

In anticipation of the program's premiere, a new online presence was launched for The Late Show in June 2015, including new social media accounts, a podcast, mobile app, and a monologue-styled video focusing on the beard he had grown since leaving The Colbert Report.[11] Throughout the remainder of the summer, webclips would continue to be released through the show's official YouTube channel and mobile app. On July 1, 2015, Colbert hosted a special edition of a public access program in Monroe, Michigan, interviewing Eminem.[12][13]


Colbert has been given near-full control of the show, with little interference from CBS management in regard to format.[14][15] Colbert brought most of his staff from The Colbert Report with him to The Late Show,[14] as well as outsiders such as Brian Stack, who is best known for his work on Conan O'Brien's programs,[16] and Jon Stewart, former host of Colbert's previous sister program The Daily Show, who is credited as executive producer.[17] Colbert no longer uses the character he had portrayed on The Colbert Report, jokingly remarking to Jeb Bush that "I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit – now I'm just a narcissist."[17]

The Ed Sullivan Theater underwent a full restoration to its original 1927 splendor in a process that began following Letterman's final episode, including the uncovering of the theater's ceiling, stained-glass windows and a restoration of a chandelier, due to advances in technology that allow less sound and video equipment to cover up the auditorium's architectural details. The 1993 restoration project for Letterman was only done on a few months' notice after the theater was repurchased in February 1993 by CBS.[18]


Colbert originally started the show with a cold open and brief monologue before the opening sequence. The opening sequence shot, which uses tilt–shift photography of day and night New York City scenes that make the city appear like a miniature model,[19] features an announcer that announces that night's guests and house band Jon Batiste and Stay Human. He then introduces the show with "And now, it's time for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert!".

Starting with the April 18, 2016 broadcast, the open of the show was changed. The opening sequence begins immediately with an abbreviated version of the tilt-shift shots, followed by Colbert walking out on stage and delivering a monologue before introducing the band and walking to his desk. This change occurred under new executive producer Chris Licht, who was a former Vice President at CBS News.[20]

The open is followed by an extended fake news style desk sequence with a run-through of recent headlines, in a manner reminiscent of television newscasts and that of The Colbert Report.[21] Also, the show follows the same basic format as other late-night talk shows including the use of sketch comedy, guest interviews and musical performances. Colbert's guest list includes more political and government figures than his contemporaries; his first two weeks' guests include visits from Jeb Bush, Joe Biden, Ban Ki-moon, Stephen Breyer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz.

Thus far, Colbert has not had any of his staff act as a sidekick or straight man on the show. While Colbert dances and physically interacts with Jon Batiste while the band plays, they only occasionally engage in on-air banter, unlike David Letterman's relationship with Paul Shaffer or the relationship of other late night hosts with their announcers and/or bandleaders. After the first few episodes in which Colbert introduced himself, he now uses an off-screen announcer, who to date is uncredited, though is a member of the house band.[citation needed] Occasionally, Colbert has brought out producers of his show, which assume a sidekick-like role for single segments, engaging in light dialogue about a topic.


Notable episodes

Colbert interviewing Secretary of State John Kerry

In the show's series premiere, Colbert welcomed actor George Clooney and politician Jeb Bush, thanked former host David Letterman, and joined singer Mavis Staples and numerous other musicians for a rendition of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People".[22] The episode nearly missed its broadcast due to technical difficulties.[23] An early interview with Vice President Joe Biden received particular acclaim.[24][25][26]

Following the terror attacks in Paris that November, Colbert devoted his program to the city.[27] A special football-themed episode aired as the lead-out program for Super Bowl 50 in 2016, featuring guests President Barack Obama (in a taped segment), Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Will Ferrell, and Megyn Kelly.[28]


Ratings and viewership

The Late Show debuted to 6.55 million viewers according to Nielsen Media Research, beating out all late-night competition and averaging a 4.9 rating among metered market households. With Live+7, the series debut garnered 8.26 million viewers.[29] The show's ratings quickly dropped to second place behind The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon but remained ahead of Jimmy Kimmel Live.[30] While Colbert still managed more young viewers than Letterman in his first few months, analyst Bill Carter wrote that his "opening splash seemed to dry faster than expected." He suggested this was due to little social media presence (where his competitor, Fallon, surged).[31] A study from The Hollywood Reporter revealed Colbert's version of The Late Show draws the most heavily Democratic audience of the three hourlong late-night shows in its time slot;[32] Carter noted that "some speculate Republican viewers have tuned Colbert out."[31] An estimated 17% of Colbert's audience identifies as Republican, according to a survey in late 2015. His audience also has the highest percentage of Democratic viewers compared to Fallon and Kimmel. The show has been last in views compared to the other two late-night shows, possibly because of Colbert's appeal to Democrats.[33]

The show's post-Super Bowl episode in 2016 achieved the highest-ever ratings for the Late Show franchise, attracting an average of 21.1 million viewers.[28]

In April of 2016, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Chris Licht, the executive producer of CBS This Morning, will join The Late Show. The reason for bringing Licht on board is to boost ratings and increase the online presence of the show. So far in 2016, Colbert has trailed Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show with an average 2.90 million viewers and a .65 rating among adults 18-49. [34]


The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has garnered mostly positive reviews.[35] The Guardian's Brian Moylan praised the show's humor: "This opener was by no means a perfect show, but there were enough really inventive jokes to make Colbert already seem like an innovator."[36] Robert Lloyd of Los Angeles Times deemed it a "strong start",[37] while Variety's Brian Lowry felt it a "mostly terrific" debut, commenting, "Colbert looks like he has the skill set to settle in and make this job his own, night in and night out."[38] Many critics considered the show's more political segments as reminiscent of The Colbert Report.[37][39] An early interview with Vice President Joe Biden also received praise: Robert Rorke of the New York Post commented that the review gave Biden "that essential sense of humanity that makes people believe in a candidate."[40]

The show's post-Super Bowl episode in 2016 proved polarizing. "Sunday’s live episode felt mostly like a wasted opportunity – one that probably won’t win many converts among those football fans sober enough to stick around," said Brian Lowry at Variety.[41] Daniel D'Addario of Time dubbed his performance "stiff and uncomfortable," writing, "Colbert might have been better advised not to bother trying with football at all and just put forward a program of pure entertainment."[42]


In Canada, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs on Global, airing in simulcast with CBS in most regions.[43][44]

In Australia, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs on Eleven, followed by The Late Late Show with James Corden.[45]

In Asia, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs on RTL CBS Entertainment weeknights at 10:50PM (UTC+08:00) starting September 10, 2015, preceding The Late Late Show with James Corden.[46]

In India and Sri Lanka, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs on STAR World Premiere HD.[47]


  1. Kondolojy, Amanda (February 14, 2013). "Late Night TV Ratings For February 4–8, 2013". Zap2it. Retrieved May 14, 2015. Season-to-date figures are averages of “live plus seven day” data except for the two most recent weeks, which are “live plus same day.”)... SEASON TO DATE/TOTAL VIEWERS...11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. ET: NBC “Tonight,” 3.6 million viewers, CBS “Late Show,” 3.1 million viewers, ABC “Kimmel,” 2.8 million viewers** 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Poggi, Jeanine (February 13, 2014). "Why Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight Show' Can Thrive With Fewer Viewers When Conan's Couldn't". Advertising Age. Retrieved February 14, 2014. 
  3. "Stephen Colbert Next Host of 'The Late Show'". CBS. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  4. Pergament, Alan (April 10, 2014). "Choice of Colbert to succeed Letterman makes perfect sense". The Buffalo News. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  5. Zuckerman, Esther (April 10, 2014). "Stephen Colbert Will Take Over for David Letterman". The Wire. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  6. Hutchins, Ryan (April 11, 2014). "The battle for Colbert's 'Late Show'". Capital New York. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  7. "Stephen Colbert's 'Late Show' to Stay at Ed Sullivan Theatre". The Hollywood Reporter. July 23, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2014. 
  8. "Stephen Colbert picks Jon Batiste as Late Show bandleader". Consequence of Sound. June 4, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  9. "Indiana musician makes late night TV cast". Indiana Gazette. June 5, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  10. "Meet Stephen Colbert’s New Late Show Bandleader, Jon Batiste". Vanity Fair. June 6, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  11. "Stephen Colbert Shaves His Beard in First ‘Late Show’ Promo". Variety. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  12. "Stephen Colbert Interviews Eminem on Michigan Public Access". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  13. "Stephen Colbert's first Late Show promo is a goodbye to the 'Colbeard'". The Verge. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Weprin, Alex (January 12, 2015). "Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ will debut Sept. 8". Capital New York. Retrieved January 12, 2015. 
  15. Bentley, Jean (July 17, 2014). "Stephen Colbert, CBS planning new 'Late Show'". Zap2it. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  16. "Longtime 'Conan' Writer Brian Stack Is Headed to 'Late Show with Stephen Colbert'". Splitsider. April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 2, 2015. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Wong, Tony. "New Stephen Colbert awfully lot like the old one on The Late Show debut". Toronto Star. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  18. Joel Lovell (2015-08-17). "The Late, Great Stephen Colbert". GQ. Retrieved 2015-08-17. 
  19. "The Opening of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Is Amazzzziiinnngggg," The Outtake, Medium, accessed September 15, 2015; "Stephen Colbert's Late Show debut: the good, the bad, and the weird," Vox, accessed 14 September 15, 2015.
  20. Steinberg, Brian (18 April 2016). "Stephen Colbert Makes ‘Late Show’ Change in First Night Under New Showrunner". Variety. Retrieved 21 April 2016. 
  21. "Stephen Colbert Remains Stephen Colbert in ‘Late Show’ Taping". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  22. Lynette Rice (September 9, 2015). "Late Show with Stephen Colbert ushers in a new era of late night". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  23. Dave Itzkoff (September 10, 2015). "Stephen Colbert’s First ‘Late Show’ Almost Didn’t Make It on Air". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  24. "Joe Biden's Raw, Emotional Interview With Stephen Colbert Is Riveting Television". Mother Jones. 
  25. Brett LoGiurato (12 September 2015). "Joe Biden's Stephen Colbert interview is why he should run - Business Insider". Business Insider. 
  26. Russell Berman. "Joe Biden Commiserates Over Son, Ponders 2016 With Colbert - The Atlantic". The Atlantic. 
  27. "Stephen Colbert Honors Paris By Tormenting Bill Maher & Cavorting With Acro-Cats". Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 John Coblin (February 8, 2016). "Post-Super Bowl ‘Late Show’ Draws 21.1 Million Viewers". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2016. 
  29. Michael O'Connell (September 9, 2015). "TV Ratings: Stephen Colbert Tops Late Night With Strong 'Late Show' Debut". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  30. Michael O'Connell (September 16, 2015). "Jimmy Fallon Fends Off Stephen Colbert in First Round of Late-Night Ratings Battle". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 Bill Carter (December 16, 2015). "Bill Carter: How Jimmy Fallon Crushed Stephen Colbert (and Everyone Else in Late Night)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 8, 2016. 
  32. Smith, Kyle (November 21, 2015). Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ has become propaganda for Democrats. The New York Post. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  33. Tesfaye, Sophia (November 19, 2015). "Republican viewers are tuning out Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show”". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  34. Stanhope, Kate; Guthrie, Marisa (2016-04-13). "'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Taps 'CBS This Morning' Vet as Showrunner". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 
  35. Sarene Leeds (September 9, 2015). "The Critics Weigh in on ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  36. Brian Moylan (September 9, 2015). "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert review: new digs, same meta-comedy". The Guardian. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 Robert Lloyd (September 9, 2015). "'Late Show's' Stephen Colbert is off to a strong start as new host". The Guardian. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  38. Brian Lowry (September 9, 2015). "TV Review: ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’". Variety. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  39. James Poniewozik (September 9, 2015). "Review: On ‘Late Show’ Premiere, Stephen Colbert Tries to Bring Big Back to Late Night". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  40. "Stephen Colbert has the power to elect the next president". New York Post. 18 September 2015. 
  41. Brian Lowry (February 7, 2016). "Review: Stephen Colbert’s Super Bowl Episode Squanders Big-Game Showcase". Variety. Retrieved February 8, 2016. 
  42. Daniel D'Addario (February 7, 2016). "Review: Stephen Colbert’s Post-Super Bowl Show Exposed the Host’s Two Sides". Time. Retrieved February 8, 2016. 
  43. Faguy, Steve. "Global Montreal adding more local newscasts this fall". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  44. "Global Montreal planning a noon local newscast this fall (but why?)". Fagstein. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  45. "Eleven to air The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in Australia". Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  46. Brzoznowski, Kristin. "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Lands in Asia with RTL CBS". TVASIAPAC.WS. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 
  47. "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Now in India on STAR b Works Premiere HD". TIMES OF INDIA. Retrieved September 9, 2015. 

External links

Preceded by
The Blacklist
Super Bowl lead-out program
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Succeeded by
24: Legacy