I regretted not discovering The Daily Show and The Colbert Report earlier. I only started watching more political satire when Stephen Colbert had ended his show and was about to move to take over David Letterman.
And to be honest, I wish he hadn’t.
As some have noted, while his run as The Late Show host is still more political and thoughtful than his other late night rivals, they are far better at capturing audiences who watch late night to relax. He’s caught in no man’s land, unable (or fearful) of stepping away from traditional late night formats, yet still wishing to have a more intelligent show.
Hence, his brief return as his flamboyant character from The Colbert Report is probably the best segment I’ve seen on his show for a while. His talents as a comedian are severely hampered by the traditional late night format, and he needs to try something different to differentiate himself from Fallon and Kimmel.
Meanwhile, his and Jon Stewart’s mantles haven’t been carried that well by their successors. Trevor Noah is okay, but he really isn’t on par with Stewart. And Larry Wilmore attempts to focus on less heralded issues, but ends up being quite repetitive and a little boring as a result. His style can seem quite combative and divisive when he discusses race as well. Both of them aren’t as funny as their predecessors, which is a big problem when your show is meant to be a comedy.
Gladly, John Oliver and Samantha Bee have very, very good shows. Oliver has his own unique style of taking deep dives into issues that really need attention, while Sam Bee goes all out with her scathing and hilarious attacks on the news at hand. Frankly, I feel like Oliver is doing what Wilmore tried to do with his show by focusing on the less headlining, mainstream topics; while Sam Bee’s is a good evolution of the Daily Show formula.
And it’s all reflected in my own watching habits. I watch mostly Fallon’s segments because they are funny in a genuine way; Kimmel’s are usually more mocking and less appealing as comedy. I watch Colbert’s political segments because they are where he excels, while I devour Last Week Tonight and Full Frontal because they fill the void left when Jon Stewart left his show.
But man, why am I even watching US late night shows?