Colbert: He's Not Letterman, but He Doesn't Need to Be

Critics give new 'Late Show' host a thumbs-up for energetic start
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2015 9:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Stephen Colbert's long-awaited takeover of The Late Show took place last night, and the critics are weighing in. The overall consensus: He may not be David Letterman's clone, but that's probably not what we want anyway. The consensus is Colbert looks to be a solid addition to the late-night lineup. Some of the reviews:

  • "It was good, it was very, very good," was the assessment of Robert Lloyd, who concedes for the Los Angeles Times that there were a "few small glitches and creaks," but that "you don't leave a great party complaining about a crack in the bowl the potato chips were in." He adds while Colbert shares certain traits with Letterman—"curiosity, intelligence, seriousness, a sense of the absurd, a speedy mind, a nose for phoniness"—he's also "less acerbic" and "less haunted."

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  • Lloyd Grove also points out discrepancies between Colbert ("the joyful jester") and Letterman ("the great cynic") for the Daily Beast, noting there "was nary a sour whiff of the world-weary psychic struggle, the undercurrent of self-flagellating insecurity, or the deep suspicion of human motives that fueled Letterman's comic genius." Instead, Colbert offered himself up as an "all-singing, all-dancing performer with a sweetly magnetic smile" and a knack for sending up the media (Donald Trump obsession was last night's target). What Grove didn't care for: some of the prepared skits he says fell flat.
  • James Poniewozik writes for the New York Times that the show was built "around a vibe of smart fun and an urge to show off its host's many skills," including his interviewing acumen. "The host showed he had both fastballs and changeups in his repertoire," Poniewozik says of Colbert's back-and-forth with Jeb Bush, in which Colbert "refused to let [Bush] wiggle out with a joke answer" as to how he differs politically from brother George W.
  • It would be both "stupid" and "amateur" to give Colbert a full-fledged review based on one show, Tim Goodman writes for the Hollywood Reporter, so he gives a "first impression." "This first night seemed like an amalgamation of every piece of Colbert" and "there were some nerves"—but "how could there not be?" he writes. "There were plenty of flashes of the wickedly smart and super-fast comedic intellect he's honed over the years. Did it all work? Of course not. But what I liked most was the feeling that Colbert was going to reveal a side of himself that he didn't get to show much on The Colbert Report or even The Daily Show."
Check out Colbert looking back on Trump's best campaign moments yet. (Read more Stephen Colbert stories.)

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