WPCNR IN THE WEE HOURS. Television Review by John Bailey. September 9, 2015:
I do not watch late night talk show television. I cannot last past the monologues same boring little men doing set pieces but not getting to you. By not getting to you, I mean they do not make me laugh hard at all.
Take the silliness of Pinky Lee, the manic antics of Jerry Lewis, the droll innocence of Johnny “the One and Only,” the zaniness of Steve Allen on his old daytime and Westinghouse syndicated shows, and the technique of The Cookie Monster “I’m getting laughs everytime I do this so I’m going to keep on doing it”( and keep shoving Oreo cookies in my face 5 or 6 times) and even turning a guest he did not get into a guest through video tape— cleverly taking Donald Trump news clips and getting more laughs simply playing them than if he had Mr. T as a guest, and dagnabbit—Steven Colbert kept me laughing until 12:35 P.M.
He had Jeb Bush laughing, too, and made the Jebber open up and appear easily the most human of any candidate running for President. Bush got campaign advice from Colbert who would be a great campaign consultant. Colbert’s advice to the Jebman: “You see you almost had some claps there. You have to wait… let the claps build don’t cut them off.” (An epithany seemed to cross Mr. Bush’s face his eyes opened wide and tucked that away.)
Bush looked dumbfounded with a look of sudden realization!
Colbert’s clever adlib, unexpected style of interviewing which fans of the much-missed Colbert Report know well—is brutally effective at bringing out the humanity (or lack of it) out of the images that show up on these shows we have been watching for 50 years now.
Why did I keep laughing?
Colbert showed you and anyone who watched last night that you will not know what’s coming next on his show. He has learned that the major flaw in talk shows is they have become monologue centered and fill out the time with polite interviews and lame bits.
Colbert is only going to get better. He was a little slow starting. He was silly, full of himself. But so lovable, not polished, exasperating and over the top with a humor seeking adlib missile ready to fire unexpectedly at any moment. Future guests take note!
Then came his being taken over by haunted objects on the set – a disembodied voice of ancient God forcing him to push hummus—a Monkey’s Paw that came alive to get him to a commercial break.
Enjoying Oreo cookies excessively piling them into his mouth — while Donald Trump talked about Nabisco closing its Oreo plant in Chicago. The audience despite being VIPs was rolling with laughter. Tomorrow night – look for pie-in-the-face or a pie fight – it always works – seltzer bottles may be next.
Mr. Colbert is deranged and deranged is funny. Unstability is funny.
His interview with George Clooney was highlighted by a spoof movie clip starring Clooney called “Decision Strike” that bore uncanny resemblance to the new movie commercials that just peppered this show.
From his bouncing Pinky Lee impish prancing on stage – his contrite homage to David Letterman (he didn’t need to do that, it just held things up) and his acknowledging his “nation” chanting “Steven, Steven,” Colbert seemed a bit overwhelmed then he remembered to be himself and the show started to roll.
With the CBS kingpin in the audience, with a switch off button, a bit that was not very funny, he was understandably nervous. But Colbert just keeps throwing bits at you and when you start laughing at his flat out silliness, well you pack up your troubles and they just go out of your mind.
Can he sustain this five days a week? There’s so much to draw on that no one does anymore– man on the street, visiting strange places like the Hollywood Ranch Market, he hasn’t even done Johnny Carson skits yet. Also, he announces his own show…
I believe the show will start smoother when it settles into a groove. And tomorrow night he has Scarlet Johanson on — Jeb Bush and Scarlet Johanson back to back…well I may even watch tomorrow night.
If you are used to laughing politely at written monologues that invite polite laughter, Mr. Colbert is going to take getting used to. His cameo bits with rival Jimmy Fallon were cute but contrived. Mr. Colbert is at his best when he is working “concept,” usually preposturous and no one works a concept for laughs better.
He is best alone, He turns every guest into his foil. You see a guest more as they really are.
He and the audience were having so much fun,(bits just kept on going), that he hardly had time for Jeb Bush. Colbert kept adlibbing fiercely, rapid fire and kept the audience waiting with baited breath.
He is a little awkward in celebrity small talk and spoofed it beautifully with George Clooney saying to Clooney it was nice having him (Clooney) on when he did not have a project to plug.
But Jeb got across an image that he is the only nice guy running for President. The magic of the Colbert interview. Through humor he reveals truths.
The result: an hour between 11:30 and 12:35 that actually produces hilarity. You don’t need “applause” or “laugh” signs.
We have not had that since Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. Mr. Colbert is taking talk back to the future.