It’s no secret that Stephen Colbert has had some trouble finding his footing as the host of Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but it looks like his live coverage of the Republican National Convention will give him a serious boost—and he’s got some help. We heard rumblings last week that Jon Stewart would be making a return to television with an appearance or two on Colbert’s Late Show RNC coverage (although he previously popped up on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), and indeed Stewart appeared last night in a very funny bit that found Colbert breaking the news to Stewart that Donald Trump is the Republican Nominee for President.
Stewart is an executive producer on Late Show so this wasn’t an out-of-the-blue desperation play, and one imagines the guy’s been itching to at least address some of this Trump madness in some form or another. But Stewart wasn’t the only familiar face to pop up on Late Show last night, as the bit ends with the former Daily Show host resurrecting “Stephen Colbert.” Yes indeed, the Colbert Report host made a triumphant return complete with a grand entrance and a new The Word segment.
It’s true that Colbert’s transition from Comedy Central character to CBS late night personality has been a rocky one, and while last night’s bits provided some hope, the interview segments fell right back into the traps that have plagued the show since Colbert took over. He’s simply uncomfortable and not great with making small talk. His strength as a personality is political commentary, but after hiding under the guise of a rude and confrontational character for so long, the nice Stephen Colbert is almost polite to the point of alienating.
The return of “Stephen Colbert” last night was funny, but it also served to further highlight just how unfunny Late Show normally is. I’m not entirely sure what the fix is here. It’s been suggested that Colbert’s follow-up, James Corden, is best suited for the 11:30pm slot whereas Colbert should move back and thus allow himself to get a bit weirder, but I doubt CBS or Colbert would be willing to make a backwards step like that given the PR nightmare that would ensue—although that didn’t seem to stop NBC from prematurely replacing Conan O’Brien as host of The Tonight Show.
For now, Colbert’s RNC coverage should be interesting, and I love the fact that he’s airing the show live every night this week. Here’s hoping this gives him a creative boost in the weeks to come.