Ready for the kickoff of TV’s newest late night talk show? So are we! During its first two weeks, the program’s guests will include SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders, author Stephen King, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Boy, this sounds like it’s going to be a laugh riot, doesn’t it?
Given that the program in question is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (which premieres Tuesday, September 8 at 11:35 PM on CBS), it’s probably a safe bet that there will be plenty of laughs, indeed. But the list of guests for the show’s initial two weeks tells us something else, too: Colbert, something of a comedic Ph.D. if you will, is bringing the smarts to late night. If you want to watch beer pong on TV, you’re going to have to change the channel.
King’s inclusion in the initial guest list also gives us hope that Colbert will continue a tradition he had in his old program: interviewing some of the most fascinating and noteworthy authors in the business.
Colbert’s love of reading is profound and deeply entrenched. As a youth, he was a problem student who never did what he was told, but was consumed by books. “I had so many books taken away from me,” he said in an interview with GQ. “I read a book a day. Spent all of my allowance on books. Every birthday, confirmation, Christmas—books, please, stacks of books.” In an interview with TIME magazine, he said that he routinely spent all of his allowance on science fiction (“I have boxes and boxes of original 1950s and 60s pulp sci-fi that I read,” he said). And he’s a passionate fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, so much so that he landed a cameo in one of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films and interviewed Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) in one of his last editions of The Colbert Report.
All this is not to say that there won’t be show-business stars and big-time musical acts on Colbert’s Late Show. During the first two weeks, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Schumer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Spacey and Carol Burnett will each take a turn in the guest’s seat. And musical acts such as TV on the Radio, Willie Nelson, the cast of Broadway’s An American in Paris, Tobey Keith and Troubled Waters will take to the stage of the legendary Ed Sullivan Theater to, as the show’s former host liked to say, “blow the roof off the dump.”
The new Late Show, though, promises to feature a heaping helping of intellectual stimulation, along with the showbiz glamour and fantastic tunes. It’s not a surprise, really, when you consider the razor-sharp brilliance of the satire and commentary that made up the bulk of The Colbert Report.
“I felt I had done everything I could with him,” Colbert recently told reporters about the ultra-conservative blowhard host he played on The Colbert Report. “And so now I feel actually more freed up. I can just talk.
“You have to be willing to do everything you know how to do,” he said to TIME when asked if the new show will resemble the old show. “These shows require everything you know how to do. So the idea that there are things that we did over there that we wouldn’t do at the new space, I think, is an unrealistic approach to the need. And whether it fits is a discovery to be made, not a philosophical exercise to engage in before you do it. It’s athletic, not intellectual.”
Pretty heady stuff from a guy going into the field that brought us Stupid Pet Tricks.
“Geekily intelligent” is how Colbert has been described by one critic, and one can assume his new show will be as well, as it presents a parade of business innovators, political leaders and literary masters along with the standard show business guests. So pay attention, America—starting Tuesday night at 11:35, Dr. Colbert is in the house, and class is in session.