Stephen Colbert talks about his plans for The Late Show

Stephen Colbert The Late Show

Stephen Colbert The Late Show“I want to do jokes on Donald Trump so badly, and I have no venue,” Stephen Colbert told reporters back in August at the Television Critics Association press tour, when he was still about a month away from debuting The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “Right now, I’ve just been ‘dry-Trumping.’ I just hope he’s taking his vitamins. Please stay healthy until I get on the air. Every night before I go to bed, I light a candle and pray that he stays in the race, and I also pray that no one puts that candle anywhere near his hair.”

There doesn’t appear to be any danger of Trump leaving the race before Colbert hits the airwaves, and who knows, maybe The Donald will even appear on the show? Another presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, has been announced as a guest during Colbert’s first week, while candidate Bernie Sanders will appear during the second week.

Colbert’s first week — which kicks off Sept. 8 on CBS with George Clooney, Jeb Bush and musical guest Jon Batiste and Stay Human — offers a nice representation of where the show might go in terms of guests, and they seem to reflect a cross-section of Colbert’s interests, at least the interests we could infer from his previous work on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report — politics, music, books, entertainment, comedy, technology.

“I want to have a point of view about them,” Colbert says about his guests. “I want to have a point of view about what their project is, or what their position is. If it’s political, or what the idea of their book is, or whatever it is. I’m honestly interested in them. I find as much as I’m a satirist, I’m not ironically detached from anything I talk about, or anybody I talk to. I don’t fake my orgasm.”

Colbert says he is open to any type of guest on The Late Show.

“Anyone. Anyone. I really want all kinds of guests. I don’t have a litmus test. Really. I mean, you’re going to do this many shows, [so] why have a gatekeeper? … All I really want from a guest is somebody who has something to say so I can play with them.”

CBS has given Colbert free rein on the show. “There have been no instructions” from the network, he says.

THE LATE SHOW with STEPHEN COLBERT Of course, Colbert will be doing his new show as his “real” self, as opposed to the faux right-wing character who hosted The Colbert Report. And in a way, that is freeing.

“It feels a little bit like therapy,” Colbert says. “‘Who is the real Stephen Colbert? Why did you wear a mask? What were you running from? Let it out. It’s a late‑night comedy show. Cry.’

“You know, I don’t think anybody would have watched that old show if they didn’t know who I was, because that guy was a tool, and we did our best from the very beginning to peek around the mask. Do you know what I mean? Not to get too erudite right now, but Oscar Wilde said something along the lines of ‘Do you want to see somebody’s real face? Give them a mask.’ I was able to piggyback on the back of that character and be extremely intimate with the audience because I had the excuse that I didn’t mean it, but I’m here to tell you I meant a lot of it. I even agreed with my character sometimes. But we tried to establish a really intimate relationship with the audience. My hope is that when you see me on the new show, you’ll go, ‘Oh, wow. A lot of that was him the whole time.’ But I won’t know how much of it is until I go do it, honest to God. It’s an act of discovery for me, too.”

And for the people out there who thought the Colbert Report Stephen was a real person?

“Well, I hope they are seeking professional help,” Colbert quips.

Colbert, of course, is taking over the reins of The Late Show from David Letterman, and when asked if Dave left anything for him, Colbert says, “Dave did something better than that. Dave used to get down to the theater in an old brass-handled manual freight elevator, which he asked them not to change — my understanding is back in ’93, when they renovated the theater. I said the same, ‘Please don’t change that.’ After we talked for an hour and a half — he was very gracious with his time — I said, ‘Just one last thing, would you show me how to run the elevator?’ He goes, ‘Oh, it’s the best thing in the building.’ He showed me how to run it. Then he showed me how to open the doors, so that the elevator would be right there. He said, ‘There, now it’s waiting for you.’ That felt like a guy teaching you how to use the tool before he leaves. It was really lovely. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He left me with the keys, you might say.”

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35pm ET on CBS beginning Sept. 8.

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