Stephen Colbert is living his best life.
“I’m having a really good time,” he says. “I am more excited about continuing to do this show now than I was a month ago. I feel like I could do the show for 10 years. But call me in a week. Because it changes.”
That said, he adds, “It’s not up to me — it’s up to CBS and it’s up to the audience how long I hang out… We’re now emerging into this new world that we can’t make any predictions about. I want to see what the next couple of years are like. If they’re what I think they’re going to be like, I think I’ve got one of the greatest jobs on the planet.”
He also talks about the eerie experience of shooting “The Late Show” without an audience during the pandemic.
“The silence was deafening for the first few weeks. We knew we had to be ambitious about new ideas all the time because there had to be something there to keep the energy up,” Colbert says. “Because just me talking into a camera — as much as I’m a huge fan of me — you need something that’s an alternative to that energy.”
Hosting a late-night show during the pandemic also meant getting more vulnerable with his audience.
“I’m glad to have relaxed into that vulnerable feeling because it makes you less nervous in general about being a public figure, let alone a public performer. It’s like you’re saying, ‘Well, this is really what I’m like, and I hope that’s OK with you.’ And to find out that was OK was another level of becoming myself, of which this entire show has been a journey to.”
Colbert has also been very political throughout his comedy career, saying of the Trump years, “They played a very complex game of psychology on the American people that damn near worked. Every so often it would come up in the writers’ room. We would need to metaphorically pull the car over and everybody get out to go throw up in a ditch and get our breath back and realize how insane today was. Because you’d become inured to it. And part of the job was to not develop a callus. That was a big part of it.”
In the end, though, it’s all about keeping the show fresh and alive.
“Ultimately, I think you should do these shows as if you’re putting up a college newspaper, as if no one’s watching. Forty-nine per cent of my joy of doing the show the audience never sees,” Colbert explains. “Working with this staff and seeing them rise to the occasion. And wanting to be as dedicated to getting the show right as a performer as they are to getting it right from a technical or production end.”