Friday, April 04, 2014

Dear Stephen Colbert:

Please do not entertain any notions of replacing David Letterman.

Slate's Amanda Hess says you're perfect for the job because late-night shows are slick, inoffensive promotional vehicles crafted to appeal to wide audiences, and thus belong to slick, inoffensive white guys. She obviously only knows about you what she saw in a picture she once sprinted past, but her point that genuine talents are better off creating on the fringes is a good one.

David Letterman succeeds as a late-night host because he made the form his own. He took a stuffy genre and mocked it within its confines. But even more importantly, it's how he earned his fame. This, as much as his abilities, separates him (and everyone like him) from the Jay Lenos. Someone like Leno, no matter how well he does, will always be compared unfavorably to his once-edgy stand-up act. You, Dr. Stephen Colbert, DFA, sir, will be judged even more harshly if you take David's reigns. To say nothing of trying to follow up a king — you have nine years running of The Colbert Report, one of the most consistently brilliant and blistering political satires ever to grace the airwaves, ever lurking as a landmark. No matter how hard you try, you will not top that on network television. You are not allowed to top that on network television. Your talents, not to mention the joke if you manage to keep it up, will be wasted in such a forum. There's nothing wrong with a straight-playing, late-night host; indeed, I'm a fan of most of them, even if I don't watch regularly. But you are not right for that role. Many people are. But many people aren't right for your role.

You have a smart, top-rated comedy show on one of the most effortlessly hip networks on cable. People like me — your target audience — hardly ever sit down to watch late-night on the networks, but we'll make a point to catch the Report every night. We do so because we know that you have no obligation but to your young, savvy audience and to your very happy advertisers. Chucking that for a decades-old convention is a trip back in time for you, at a time when you're defining the future.

Again, this isn't to knock mainstream late-night hosts or to imply lack of support in any circumstance. But you are one of the best to do what you do, at a time when biting political satire is needed more than ever. And, hey, it's not like you need the money, I would presume. So I beg you, as an undying loyal fan of what you do (and an owner of at least one of your books), please stay with the show that will forever be your legacy, rather than fall short at filling someone else's shoes.

Thanks,
Ian
(Citizen of Colbert Nation and occasional market participant)

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