It’s official! Comedian, and talk show host Stephen Colbert will take over for iconic David Letterman, as the new host of the Late Show. Ronn Torossian said, while the announcement surprised few, it did raise a good many eyebrows, and lead to some interesting public relations questions.
Chief among them is the issue of branding. Colbert has made a name for himself with a carefully cultivated comedic conservative persona. So convincing was his act that, early on, big name GOP politicians sought his stamp of approval to help them win over younger voters. But, soon everyone was in on the joke. Colbert was a parody, albeit a brilliant one.
Yes, he’s a comedian, every bit as sharp and talented as the legendary Letterman. But, will Colbert risk alienating his fans by playing it straight in the host’s chair? Will we finally learn just exactly where Colbert’s politics really lie? Will he try this game, but fall back into the old routine? Staying out of character has proven elusive for Colbert in the past.
It’s a tough question to answer, and one that will surely intrigue viewers enough to watch, at least at first. But, what will they expect? So far, CBS has been mum about any format changes. When Leno finally left the Tonight Show (the second time) there was a clear passing of the torch. Similar format, but a very different show with Jimmy Fallon at the helm.
But, in that case, viewers knew exactly what to expect. Sketch comedy, and rapping with Justin Timberlake. So, what will they expect with Colbert?
Torossian says you can bet that Colbert’s camp, as well as Comedy Central and CBS, all want a strong answer to that question. Colbert needs to know that his brand of comedy – whatever it might be – will play as well as it did on Comedy Central. His old network needs to know it can fill his spot without losing any steam. After all, the Colbert counterpoint to The Daily Show has been working wonders for the network for years. Will they find another faux Conservative comic, or try another formula for success?
Then, there’s CBS. Generally, when you invest in a brand at this level, you have a solid idea what you are getting. So you can bet they know how Colbert will play it. But, how will that brand sell on a major network in a coveted time slot?
These are all questions the public will have answers to, sooner rather than later. However the chips fall, it should make for very compelling PR.