Stephen Colbert recently announced that he will be leaving the Colbert Report for good. He will soon be taking over for David Letterman on the Late Show, who has recently announced his retirement. Stephen Colbert first gained notoriety as a satirical conservative pundit on the Daily Show, where he began working in 1997. He worked there for eight years before being offered his very own show in 2005. He has since gained a tremendous following, with roughly 1.3 million viewers per show. Many of Colbert’s followers are sad to see him go, but eager to see how he will manage in his new role on the Late Show.
Nonetheless, there has been an abundance of speculation and criticism about Colbert’s decision. The Late Show tends to serve a drastically different purpose than the Colbert Report, which have left Colbert’s fan base perplexed by his decision to change positions. Many see the Late Show as superfluous, pandering more to pop-culture than important or thought-provoking issues. They have questioned why Colbert, as opinionated and influential as he is, would take on a role, deemed somewhat trivial by many.
People need to keep in mind that Colbert’s career was not initially political. He began as a comedian, starring on a number of shows including Strangers with Candy, Saturday Night Live, and Who’s Line is it Anyway? His career as an actor didn’t turn political until 1997, when he first began working on the Daily Show. It is common for actors to become typecast, particularly when they have played a single role for an extended period of time. Few can see Jim Parsons as anyone other than Sheldon Cooper. Jim Carrey was often typecast as being solely comedic, until his Golden Globe winning performances in the Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.
The point is, Stephen Colbert is and always has been an actor. As an actor it is natural for him to want to take on a multitude of diverse roles throughout his life. Taking over for the Late Show in no way denigrates him as an actor or comedian. It doesn’t mean he won’t bring his sarcastic, quick-witted, and opinionated persona with him. It just means his wit and candor will now be applied to a new setting, and one in which he is just as likely to thrive. And who knows, perhaps he will bring a new flare to the Late Show by adding a heightened level of intellect that was previous lacking.