Stephen in the NY Times! - And Now For
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Stephen in the NY Times! - And Now For
ahab99:
andnowfor
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Your Moment of Zen
Oct. 12th, 2005 08:52 pm
Stephen in the NY Times!

There's an article about the Colbert Report in the Times today: here. Here's the important thing: check out the picture they chose to accompany the article. :)


The News Is Funny, as a Correspondent Gets His Own Show

By JACQUES STEINBERG
Published: October 12, 2005

In the last year, the creative team behind "The Daily Show," the fake-news digest on Comedy Central, has proved that its audience is neither dependent on a presidential election (ratings are up more than 20 percent over last year at this time) nor tethered exclusively to television: its "America (the Book)" was a No. 1 best seller.

But will the show's loyal viewers be willing to linger for another half-hour to watch a spinoff, particularly one that does not include Jon Stewart, at least on camera?

The attempt to answer that question will begin in earnest on Monday night at 11:30, when Stephen Colbert, the faux correspondent known to "Daily Show" viewers for "This Week in God" and various dispatches from the field, will appear for the first time on his own, new show, "The Colbert Report," which will immediately follow Mr. Stewart's Monday through Thursday.

In what, at least initially, is an eight-week tryout, "Colbert" will try to show that it can mine as many punch lines from the quarry of cable-news punditry - the Colbert character is an amalgam of Bill O'Reilly, Aaron Brown, Joe Scarborough and Dan Abrams, among others - as "The Daily Show" has discovered skewering network news anchors and correspondents, to say nothing of the president.

"I don't think he's necessarily a Republican or Democrat," Mr. Colbert, 41, said of his character. "He is part of the 'Blame America Last' crowd. Mostly, he just wants to get those bastards - whoever they are. They know who they are, and they know they're going to get gotten."

For it to succeed on a permanent basis, "The Colbert Report" will have to show that it can overcome numerous challenges, not least that it can avoid the stumbles of other progeny (like "After M*A*S*H" and, thus far, "Joey") that were spawned by hit series but never quite reached the same heights, creative or otherwise.

But Mr. Colbert's situation is somewhat unusual in the annals of television: his show is being given a direct opportunity to capture the lead-in from the show spinning it off, which draws an average of 1.3 million viewers each night, according to Nielsen Media Research. (In a nod to cable news, the two hosts will share a split screen each night just before 11:30, as Mr. Stewart "throws" to Mr. Colbert.) But as Mr. Colbert's show seeks to find its own persona, it will invariably be held up against that fashioned by Mr. Stewart, who has been delivering his wry take on the news as host of "The Daily Show" since January 1999.

Mr. Colbert will also face a level of competition at 11:30 p.m. - in the form of Jay Leno and David Letterman - that simply does not exist at 11, when Mr. Stewart goes up against local news and reruns of shows like "Seinfeld."

Meanwhile, for those viewers who relish "The Daily Show," at least partly, for the straight man Mr. Stewart's anchor plays to Mr. Colbert's opinionated but befuddled reporter, there is the open question of whether each will be quite as funny without the other, even with Mr. Stewart serving as a producer of "Colbert."

"The one risk that this show has is that Stephen works so well contraposed to Jon," said Ben Karlin, a former editor of the satiric paper The Onion, who serves as executive producer of both "The Daily Show" and "Colbert." "If you separate out the instruments and hear just one instrument, will that still sound as beautiful? That's been the challenge."

Mr. Stewart said: "I already miss him. At 42, you don't get the opportunity to be tickled a lot."

But he said that he disagreed that he was taking much of a risk in seeking to expand the "Daily Show" franchise further.

"We look at it more as an opportunity to move in another creative direction," he said. "It's exciting, not frightening."

If the "Daily Show" team can pull off its latest assignment, it will be welcome news for Comedy Central, a unit of Viacom, which has struggled in recent years to develop and sustain an original hit on a par with Mr. Stewart's. Thus far, neither Adam Carolla's late-night talk show nor David Spade's Hollywood send-up ("The Showbiz Show"), which each entered the Comedy Central lineup in recent weeks, have generated the buzz (or the ratings) to suggest that they might someday be playing in the same league as "The Daily Show." And the one Comedy Central show that has - "Chappelle's Show," featuring the comedian Dave Chappelle - remains on an indeterminate hiatus.

Little wonder that Doug Herzog, the president of Comedy Central, is banking on the one-hour "Daily Show" block as a "network within a network," one that can be counted on to hold an audience from 11 to 12, to be passed on to yet another show, which, for now, is Mr. Carolla's.

Mr. Colbert, who pronounces his own name, as well as that of his show, in a French style - col-BEAR ra-PORE - likes to say that his offering will be as different from Mr. Stewart's as "Scarborough Country," on MSNBC, is from "NBC Nightly News." Indeed, Mr. Colbert will be leaving behind one of his signature bits, "This Week in God," which is expected to be bequeathed to another "Daily Show" correspondent, Rob Corddry. ("God has an exclusive licensing agreement with 'The Daily Show,' " Mr. Colbert said. "We're trying to get the Devil for our show.")

Though not intended to feature a dead-on impersonation of Mr. O'Reilly, "The Colbert Report" will have the feel of "The O'Reilly Factor," with an outspoken host delivering blunt opinions, some of them illustrated by graphics - Mr. O'Reilly calls them "talking points" - that are the equivalent of captions for the impaired, emphasizing what the host is trying to communicate.

"Like O'Reilly, we'll grab the most important word out of every sentence," Mr. Colbert said. " 'The,' for example. Also, I'll say, 'I'm angry,' and the graphic will read, 'Colbert angry.' "

At other times, he said, he hoped to emulate the sort of rhetorical flourishes that he said he heard often on Mr. Brown's show on CNN.

"I just love Aaron Brown's folksiness," he said. "He just loves getting lost in the metaphor of the news. He'll say something like, 'Much like the Spanish moss that is draping down like so many tears on the face of that chiseled granite visage we know of, New Orleans is now blackened, though in a different way than the gumbo shrimp of yesteryear.' "

Offered an opportunity for a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal, Mr. Brown declined yesterday through a spokeswoman.

In a homage to Mr. O'Reilly of Fox News, as well as to Mr. Scarborough and another MSNBC colleague, Dan Abrams, Mr. Colbert said he would also try to channel the "common sense answers" that each seems to extract from the most complex of news stories.

"Scarborough's got 'the real deal,' meaning 'here's how it really is,' " Mr. Colbert said. "It's always, 'It's just common sense, folks.' "

As an example, the real Mr. Colbert imagined how the fake one might dismiss Darwin's theory of evolution. "Intelligent design," he said. "It looks like somebody designed the world. At this point, I'm just looking for the signature in the corner."

In an interview, Mr. Scarborough said he thought Mr. Colbert had actually pegged him pretty accurately.

"It's hard to read Jefferson's 'Notes on Democracy' in the format we're given," said Mr. Scarborough, a former four-term Republican congressman from Florida. "You do your best to strip it down, in much the same way Reagan would strip down the great economic questions of the day into a glib little anecdote."

Asked if he had any advice for Mr. Colbert, who will also interview one guest each night, Mr. Scarborough passed on a nugget that he said had been given to him by an MSNBC executive.

"If you let someone talk for more than seven seconds on your show without interruption," he said, "then you are a failure."


x-posted

Mood: excited excited

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