Will Real Colbert Be As Funny As The Fake Colbert?

Sep 3, 2015

Stephen Colbert
Credit Wikipedia

Will Stephen Colbert on CBS’ new “Late Show” Sept. 8 be as funny as the self-important character Colbert played hosting Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report?”

He’s no dummy. He won six prime-time Emmys, two Peabody Awards and a Grammy for his satirical “Colbert Report” on Comedy Central from 2005 to 2014.  And if he’s not an immediate sensation – as Jimmy Fallon was replacing Jay Leno – I think he’s smart enough to figure it out in the first few months hosting the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (11:35 p.m., CBS, Channel 12).

It comes down to this: Will the real Colbert be as entertaining on CBS as the fake Colbert was on Comedy Central?

That’s the question I asked WKRC-TV’s Brad Johansen, who interviewed Colbert for Channel 12 promos on the air now and a story to air Tuesday night before Colbert’s premiere. (Have you seen the one where Colbert calls him “Brad So Handsome?”)

“The man is brilliant,” Johansen says immediately. “He’s not going to have any problem making the transition. He told me the host will be different (on CBS). He won’t be that character.”

Stephen Colbert and Brad Johansen
Credit WKRC-TV

Johansen and reporters from other CBS affiliates went to Chicago last month to tape interviews and promos with Colbert. Each had a strictly enforced 10 minutes with Colbert. After watching Colbert playfully answer questions asked by one reporter, Johansen said he changed his approach on the fly and started by asking Cincinnati questions.

“Stephen can go off on his own at any moment. I knew I kind of needed to change my approach. I knew I wanted to bring up a bunch of stuff about Cincinnati,” says Johansen, the sports anchor-turned-4 p.m. and 10 p.m. news anchor.

He gave Colbert a Cincinnati quiz, which Channel 12 made into promos.

Should Pete Rose be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

What’s a three-way, four-way, five-way?

Colbert can joke that he "pulled that right out of my butt,” but it was obvious he was well briefed for the Cincinnati interview, even dropping Johansen’s "Brad So Handsome" nickname into this exchange:

Then the interview went off the rails when Johansen wanted to chat about George Clooney, Colbert’s first guest Tuesday.

“We were going to get to Clooney. I asked him about potential guests, but we never got to his first guest,” Johansen says.

Colbert also told Johansen he had decided to end his Comedy Central show before he “got the greatest phone call” from CBS asking him to replace David Letterman. CBS announced his hiring in April 2014; the “Colbert Report” ended in December 2014; Letterman signed off last May 20.

After Channel 12 broadcasts his Colbert story at 11 p.m. Tuesday, Johansen says he’ll post the entire 10-minute video on his Facebook page.

Here is Colbert’s guest lineup:

Tuesday, Sept. 8: George Clooney; Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush; musical performance by “Late Show” bandleader Jon Batiste with his band Stay Human and special guests.

Wednesday, Sept. 9: Actress Scarlett Johansson; SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk; interview with and musical performance by Kendrick Lamar.

Thursday, Sept. 10: Vice President Joe Biden; Uber CEO Travis Kalanick; musical performance by Toby Keith.

Friday, Sept. 11: Comedian Amy Schumer; author Stephen King; interview with and musical performance by Troubled Waters.

Monday, Sept. 14: Actress Emily Blunt; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; musical performance by The Dead Weather.

Tuesday, Sept. 15: Actor Jake Gyllenhaal; musical performance by Run The Jewels with TV On The Radio.

Wednesday, Sept. 16: Actor Kevin Spacey; Carol Burnett with comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer; musical performance by and interview with Willie Nelson.

Thursday, Sept. 17: Actress Naomi Watts; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Friday, Sept. 18: Actress Lupita Nyong’o; Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders; interview with and performance by “An American in Paris" Christopher Wheeldon, Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope.