One of the biggest stories of the late night talk show wars has been the resurgence of Stephen Colbert. Up until around 6 weeks ago there really wasn’t much of a competition. Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show had securely placed itself in the top slot against Colbert’s Late Show. However, in the last 6 weeks Colbert has actually been the ratings king and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where there were numerous reports that claim Jimmy Fallon is feeling the ratings pressure and that his show would be altered to be more political in the near future.
While I say the surge in ratings is mainly because of Donald Trump’s administration and Colbert has always been the most political of all late night talk shows, apparently that’s not the entire story. Rumor has it than in 2015 Colbert had the reputation of being a micromanager and sweated nearly every single thing on his new gig which was OK to do on The Colbert Report but it didn’t fly on The Late Show. Things apparently changed in 2016 when Chris Licht was brought on board to take some of the pressure off. “Anything that doesn’t involve him thinking creatively and enjoying his performance — anything that gets in the way of that, I take.” Colbert, in turn, would finally be free to focus entirely on the funny. Apparently that formula has worked extremely well. You can read the entire analysis at Vulture.
While all of this may be true, I have to interject. Would Colbert’s ratings be as high with Hillary Clinton in office? I personally don’t think so. This is a function of the political climate. And I’ve said this before, while I think that Jimmy Fallon would benefit with some kind of “Weekend Update” segment on his show (since he was so great at it on SNL), part of the reason his show is so funny is because of his creativity with his guests and making them get out of their comfort zones. It’s easy to say as a fan but “stick to what you’re great at.” Colbert’s always been great at politics. Fallon’s always been great at super original segments and getting along with guests. There’s room for two late night talk show hosts. Both get good ratings. Everyone’s making money. What’s the big deal? It’s not like these guys are getting fired anytime soon. I just don’t get it.
What I do get is the sheer amount of Donald Trump burns Colbert’s made since Trump has been in office. With that said, here’s a great Supercut of some of his best Donald Trump hits.