Late Night: Today Vs. 1979
Writer's Note: I have started 5 articles in the past week, and finished none. I am physically uncomfortable with strained or broken ribs (TBD by Dr.) and I'm unable to type for long periods of time. So you, the lucky reader, get a lazy, half-assed post today.
I don't like Stephen Colbert. Even when Stephen Colbert is right, he's not funny, which wouldn't be a problem if he wasn't a comedian. Sam Kenison would say the most deplorable things that you wouldn't agree with, but he would make you laugh. Stephen Colbert is the opposite of that.
Something hit me while reading an article on The Daily Beast about Colbert's show last night. Late Night Comedy is now a news/comedy hybrid and Stephan Colbert is in the direct lineage of Jon Stewart.
I want you to watch Stephen Colbert's monologue on Sarah Huckabee Sanders last night. Whether you agree with Colbert, or you hate Colbert, I want you to analyze his non-verbal cues, verbiage, and his presence. Ok, here's the link:
Now, hop in the way back machine, and head back to the year 1979.
Johnny was being political, and not all of his jokes hit their marks, but at heart Johnny was a comedian. Let's go around the horn and describe each Late Nite host as either a descendent of Johnny or Stewart
NBC - Jimmy Fallon: Comedian
Seth Meyers: Commentary/Comedian
ABC - Jimmy Kimmel: Commentary/Comedian
CBS - Stephan Colbert: Commentary/Comedian
James Corden: Commentary/Comedian
TBS - Samantha Bee: Commentary/Comedian
Conan O'Brien: Comedian
Now you could be arguing "of course Colbert is a disciple of Stewart, he used to be on his show. Samantha Bee, too." And that is factually correct. What I'm saying is that for nearly 50 years, everyone cited Johnny Carson as an influence in their comedy and today that's no longer the case. I really liked Jon Stewart, but I would have never guessed that his style of political commentary would be the Gold Standard for the next generation of Late Night Hosts.
Late Night Hosts today may cite Leno or Letterman, but both of those examples were from the Johnny Tree. You could argue that Letterman had his own tree. Mmmmm, for the sake of argument, let's say that's true. Colbert may claim Letterman as an influence, but Letterman's style is so much more nonlinear. If anything, Letterman has altered his style in his new Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction to more fit today's comedy norms.