An Ode to Late Night

What a great time for late night television.

I’ve been a fan of late night for a long time now. I remember staying up to watch Jay Leno and Jon Stewart when I was in India. The shows were never broadcast around the same time that they were in the US – in fact the Leno episodes were all broadcast maybe a year or two after they actually aired live, leading to jokes which were not only lost in translation but were also lost as a result of time. I loved the entire concept of late night – the fact that there’s a host and the host satirizes the current state of the country he (and it was almost always a he) lived in and that there were (mostly) interesting guests who would plug whatever they used late night TV audiences to plug.

Now we have guys like John Oliver, Kimmel, Fallon, Meyers and the ever-present Conan to take care of things.

And then there’s Colbert.

A few months ago, I said this to a couple of friends about him: “Colbert has lost his voice completely. He used to be great on the Report but without the veil of satire, he’s just another political commentator now, which doesn’t work for the late night audience… the man also needs a good sidekick to liven things up (Jon Batiste, while making for a great band leader, makes for a terrible sidekick) and he needs to lay off Trump for a while.”

I couldn’t be more wrong.

Colbert has found his footing, and he’s been stunning on television. His repeated take-downs of Trump have been top class – primarily because his rants are actually those – rants. You can see the rage seething out of him (and Sam Bee, who’s been great with Full Frontal) against the nightmarish first month of the Trump administration. By contrast, The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah looks at the administration from a more of an “incredulous outsider” point of view, and hasn’t been doing much yet to take up the mantle left by Jon Stewart. Colbert has clearly filled the void left by the sharp political commentary of Stewart, and it’s good to see him back.

Whether Trump has made America great again is up for debate. He’s certainly made Colbert (and late night) great again.

I’m still right about Jon Batiste though. Dude really needs to up his in-show vocabulary.

(Side note: Seth Meyers has been killing it on his Closer Look segments.)

(Side note #2: Conan should just do an entire show of remotes.)

(Side note #3: It’s interesting that so many late night show hosts have / had first names that start with the letter J.)