What It's Like to Go to a Live Taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
The Late Show’s royal blue marquee at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater in Midtown Manhattan can be spotted from blocks away, but walk closer and you’ll notice that one key element is missing: Stephen Colbert’s name. As it turns out, that’s just how the whip-smart comic wanted it. “I love how stupid it sounds,” he told the audience at Friday’s taping, which capped off his first official week as a late-night TV host. “I’m standing right here!”
Inside the freezing cold 400-seat studio, you can fully absorb the sprawling set, which features a second-level tier on either side showcasing a few of Colbert’s precious mementos: a pennant from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a picture of his father (who, along with two of Colbert’s brothers, tragically died in a plane crash on Sept. 11, 1974), and, of course, his beloved Captain America shield from The Colbert Report, gifted to him from Marvel Comics.
Colbert himself played a big role in the set’s design, making daily visits from his home in Montclair, N.J., to make sure everything was copacetic. He even reached out to his predecessor, David Letterman, to ask if he would’ve changed anything about his furniture arrangement. After Letterman confessed that he wished he’d put his desk on the other side of the stage, Colbert made an urgent call to his decorating team.
The meticulous attention to detail is sure to serve Colbert well in his quest to become TV’s most successful late-night host. And if his first week is indicative of anything, it’s that he’s well on his way toward achieving his goal. Hours after conducting an emotional interview with Vice President Joe Biden, he treated his viewers to a double-dose of lighthearted comedy with both Amy Schumer (a 2015 InStyle Social Media Awards nominee—vote for her here) and author Stephen King.
The show began by taking presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to task over her recent efforts to be more genuine (“If only there was some way we could get a glimpse into the private side of Hillary Clinton—I don’t know, read her emails or something?” he joked). Then, a hilarious skit for faux product “Yesterday’s Coffee.” Watch it here:
Off-camera, Colbert shared that the bit was borne out of an interaction that actually happened with his wife. “That one has been 15 years in the making,” he said.
Next up were back-to-back interviews with Schumer, who shared an LOL-worthy story about how she once temporarily stayed in Jake Gyllenhaal’s empty apartment and ate a frozen cake out of his freezer (there was videographic evidence), and King, who wore his recently acquired National Medal of Arts, bestowed on him by President Obama, around his neck. “I feel like Flavor Flav,” he said.
Then, a previously introduced Paul Simon cover band, dubiously dubbed “Troubled Waters.” (The whole act was a gag—Colbert’s team even went so far as to create a fake website for the band, which featured high-profile gigs such as “Yorktown High School FUNraiser for Charity.”) Much to the audience’s excitement, Simon took the stage, introduced by Colbert as “Allen,” before launching into “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” with Colbert performing the whistling solo and stepping in on the second verse:
Simon then closed out the show on a heartfelt, poignant note, with an acoustic performance of “American Tune,” in honor of Sept. 11. Colbert, perhaps contemplating the day’s events and what they meant to him and his family, appeared to be holding back tears. But using humor as the ultimate coping mechanism, he bounced back quickly, cracking a few extra jokes before thanking the audience profusely and wishing them well.