Stephen Colbert returned Tuesday night to the late-night trick that has helped him win a broader audience for his “Late Show” on CBS: a live broadcast meant to play off breaking news that took place just an hour or so before his program went on the air.
Colbert took to the air live to poke fun at President Trump’s first speech to Congress, using CBS News clips to poke fun at some of the Commander-in-Chief’s remarks and policies. “The Trans Pacific Partnership is one of the trans the President is withdrawing support from,” Colbert cracked.
But he took a bipartisan approach, using one segment to lampoon the evening’s Democrat response, from former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, who held forth from a diner and spoke in folksy tones. “For their powerful rebuttal, the Democrats chose a rerun of ‘The Andy Griffith Show,'” Colbert quipped.
The wee-hours host has reason to tap the live technique. CBS has pitched his show in promos as “the smart choice,” featuring a host who revels in digging into the very current events of the Trump presidency. The live broadcasts lend the show an in-the-moment jolt that most of the programs, taped earlier in the evening, tend not to have.
“The Late Show” tried a series of live broadcasts last year around the Democratic and Republican conventions, as well as on Election Night. They appear to have added th program a boost: Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” on NBC continues to dominate late night by leading in the advertiser-coveted viewership between 18 and 49, TV’s most important measure, but Colbert has for the last month won more viewers overall than his time-slot rivals.
As the evening moved on, Colbert began to pivot from politics. His first guest was Josh Earnest, the former Press Secretary for President Obama, but the show moved to less pointed topics with segments featuring actress Lisa Kudrow and comedian Tony Rock.
One could easily envision another live “Late Show” in the not-too-distant future. “I think we can all agree on one thing,” said Colbert in reference to the President’s speech. “One down, seven more to go.”