Why 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Might (Unfortunately) Flop
A few years ago, my friends and I were in a college comedy group.
We performed sketch comedy all over campus and housed shows that would bring in audiences of 300 to 500 people. We were huge comedy nerds. We loved all things comedy, from movies to "Saturday Night Live" and late-night talk shows.
This is why we were all ecstatic to see one of our favorite late-night talk show hosts get a promotion. That man was Conan O'Brien.
On the debut of "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," we all gathered together in a dorm, ordered pizza and watched the very first show together. We were in comedy heaven. One of our favorite comedy performers was finally being shown off on a major scale, and we couldn't be happier.
Then, disaster struck. After a few weeks, Conan's viewership was down when compared to Jay Leno's old numbers, and NBC wasn't happy about it.
Long story short, Conan was canceled and replaced with Jay Leno, who had been at the helm of "The Tonight Show" for many years prior.
One of the biggest reasons why people think Conan didn't translate to a wider audience is because of his quirky humor. He was known for having kind of wacky, albeit smart, comedy in his shows.
He had many famous off-the-wall bits, such as "The Masturbating Bear," "Triumph The Insult Comic Dog" and, my personal favorite, "The Walker Texas Ranger Lever."
While these were perfectly fine for a show that aired at 12:30 am, apparently the audience who was watching at 11:30 pm didn't see the novelty in those bits.
This brings me to Stephen Colbert. Colbert manned the desk at "The Colbert Report" for many years, and his audience of young adults tuned in every night to see his unique and hilarious brand of comedy.
Playing a conservative, right-wing nut-job, Colbert carved out a niche market of viewers who ate up his style of comedy. He, too, had many recurring bits that were quirky and smart and people loved seeing on Comedy Central.
But this is different, and that's why I'm worried. CBS isn't basic cable. It's a major network that has boasted about being America's #1 for many years now. It is all about numbers and getting eyes on its products.
It also seems like the company don't really care how it does it.
"Oh, you like 'CSI'? Well, how about three more different versions of the same show, just in different cities?" And you know what? People eat it up. They watch in droves, and it doesn't seem like anyone will soon be able to stop this juggernaut.
This is why I'm worried about "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
He has such a unique style of comedy and comes from such a quirky comedy background, and I fear he won't translate to a larger audience, just like Conan O'Brien.
In numerous interviews about the show, Colbert has stated he intends to bring highbrow comedy back to the mainstream.
He wants to make a smart show that a lot of people will watch, enjoy and appreciate. But I fear this will be an uphill battle.
You see, most people in this country are, well, for lack of a better term, dumb. It's not an insult to our fine country or any of the people in it, but when it comes to comedy, we don't have the most refined palate.
Some of the smartest comedies fell by the wayside way before their time because they touted themselves as "smart comedy," but smart comedy doesn't pull in viewers.
"Arrested Development," "30 Rock," "Community" even "Parks and Recreation" had a hard time establishing a large audience.
Sure, the Emmys recognized their greatness, but it seemed like every year these shows were on, they were on the cusp of getting canceled.
Smart comedy doesn't really do well here. That would explain why some of the biggest comedies on TV right now are moronic, juvenile nonsense.
"Two and A Half Men" just ended recently, and that show was just one long, overused sexual innuendo. "The Big Bang Theory," the most popular comedy on TV right now, is a show about nerds being nerdy, but it also includes a massive amount of dick jokes and sexual innuendos.
It's not smart. It's low-hanging fruit, and you know what? People love it.
There is a clear divide in terms of who tunes in to TV right now.
Older people are the main television viewers because they actually sit down and watch TV on their TVs. People in my generation usually just watch the next day or at their own convenience online.
As we've learned with many cult TV shows, networks don't care about online viewership. They get most of their money from ads on TV, and if no one is watching a show, they won't hesitate to pull the plug.
I sincerely hope they don't pull the plug on "Colbert," but from what he's been putting out there recently, I don't think it's looking good.
Most of the lead-in videos and teasers he has given us have been his quirky and unique style of comedy, which a lot of people love, but it has never been seen on a wide scale like CBS's "Late Show."
His initial video about him shaving his beard was hilarious to me, but if my mom saw it, I don't think she'd get it.
Colbert's public access show he did with Eminem had me cracking up, but I don't even think my parents know anything about it or that he even did it. And, if they saw it, I genuinely think they wouldn't find the humor in it.
This is troubling, mainly because my parents are the people who tune in to "The Late Show."
My generation's parents are the main audience Colbert now has to attract. It's going to be a hard sell if he continues to do comedy the way he has been for the past 10 years.
I don't think my parents would tune in every night to watch that, and I'm sure a lot of people's parents wouldn't, either.
So, instead of watching on our laptops, we need to actually tune in to "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." We need to actively watch this show because I am sure it will be hilarious, and Colbert has a great reputation in comedy.
I know his TV show will be smart and genuinely hilarious, which is why people in my generation need to set aside what they are doing at 11:30 pm and turn on CBS to watch Stephen Colbert host the hell out of "The Late Show."
I just don't want "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" to be the next "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien."