Sans persona, new kind of Colbert steps up to CBS 'Late Show'

Fri Apr 11, 2014 2:52am EDT
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A new kind of Stephen Colbert will be coming to late-night network television as he succeeds CBS's "Late Show" host David Letterman next year, capping the generational shift in late-night TV's landscape across U.S. networks eager to attract younger viewers and online followings.

Colbert, 49, who made his mark satirizing political conservatives on his Comedy Central weeknight cable show "The Colbert Report," said on Thursday he would drop his known persona of a dim-witted, big-egoed conservative pundit.

"I won't be doing the new show in character, so we'll all get to find out how much of him was me. I'm looking forward to it," Colbert said in a statement.

There is a measure of risk in abandoning a groundbreaking formula for the comedian whose Emmy-winning show has attracted a strong audience among young viewers, a coveted group that CBS is surely eyeing with its choice of Colbert.

"A lot of his audience has never seen him as himself," said TV analyst David Bianculli. "He'll bring a lot of that sensibility to it, but it will be a different tone."

But for the comedian who plays the court jester to U.S. politics and is known for inventing zeitgeist catch phrases like "truthiness," he has a chance to distinguish himself against rivals as an expert interviewer as he has often done on "The Colbert Report" and first as a member of the cast of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

"I think it's smarter than turning it over to someone who has never done the job of interviewing, which he does really well," said Bianculli.

'WE JUMPED AT IT'   Continued...

A combination photo shows "Late Show" host David Letterman (L) during a ceremony at the White House in Washington on December 2, 2012 and Comedian Stephen Colbert (R) at the Time 100 Gala in New York on April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files (L) and Lucas Jackson/Files (R)