Stephen Colbert on His Daily Routine—And What "DTF" Means at the Late Show Office
What keeps the Late Show host running? Hard work, light gym time, and a lot of liquor. Here, he takes us through 12 hours of his day.
On show days, I’ll get up around 7 a.m. I try to work out from 7:15-8:00. Then I just throw some deodorant over my sweat, throw on some clothes, and get to work.
I try to get here by 9:30, in time to do the pitch meeting, which lasts about 45 minutes. Then we do what’s called “DTF”… which is Digital Talent Field, meaning is there something that our digital team is working on, which sometimes gets put on the show. That takes a long time—up to an hour and a half. Then I have a moment to myself. I might eat an orange. I try to eat an orange before I eat anything else. (I try to save my calories for liquor; lately it’s mostly going toward Cuban rum.)
Around 12:30 p.m., we review the guest questions, which lasts about 45 minutes. I have one sheet on every guest, which has maybe six questions for each guest. I maybe ask two of the questions on the list and then after that I actually have a little break in my day. Sometimes I take a nap.
At 2:30, I have to go into hair and makeup. Then I bathe, then I shower. At 3:00, I have rehearsal. I might have to stop at the edit room on the way down, just to look at something that’s rolling that night. Hopefully we’re done rehearsing at 4:00, depending on how complicated the show is, and then from 4:00-5:15, we rewrite the show. Then, hopefully, I have 15 minutes to make what I call “the turn.” During the day I’m a writer/producer—and that really cranks up in terms of its intensity in the rewrite, because that’s where I put most of my mark on the show. I change the language or I might ask for different jokes or a different way to tell the story. That gets very intense. Afterward, I need a few minutes to just go “phew.”
Then we do the show, and that happens in real time. It’s an hour long. When that’s over, we do a post-mortem, and after the post-mortem, I might go by the edit room to see if there’s anything to cut. Afterward, I see if there’s any show-business business with my assistant. She tells me what I need to do tomorrow, and then I make sure I have enough rum.
Hopefully, I’m home in time to see what’s going on with my kids. We have a glass of wine, you know, some crackers, and watch Anderson Cooper.
As told to Laura Brown.