6 things we learned in Colbert’s THR interview

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22: Donald Trump talks about his US Presidential campaign on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tuesday Sept. 22, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22: Donald Trump talks about his US Presidential campaign on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tuesday Sept. 22, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images) /

The Late Show may be on hiatus this week, but there’s plenty of delightful Colbert content to keep you entertained. Most recently, an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Over the course of the interview, which is worth reading reading in full, Colbert describes a tumultuous early 2016 and how the show ultimately found its legs. He describes how Trump changed everything – but, without a doubt, he “would trade good ratings for a better president.”

Here are five things about the last year we learned from Colbert’s THR interview.

1. Give Chris Licht credit

After the entirely lackluster post-Super Bowl show, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves invited Colbert to dinner and Colbert thought he was about to get whacked, Godfather-style. Instead, Moonves gave him some specific notes and, most importantly, insisted he hire a showrunner. Chris Licht, previously executive producer of CBS This Morning, joined the team.

Beyond managing the workload of a five-day-a-week broadcast and generally stabilizing the staff, Licht also gets credit for helping Colbert find the tone of his show.

2. Going live in July put things into gear

In July 2016, the Late Show did live telecasts over the course of two weeks covering the Republican and Democratic conventions. Only a few months after Licht’s arrival, the live shows gave Colbert and his team an urgency and identity that they would come to capitalize on as election season wore on.

As Colbert described it, “it reminded us [that] there’s a whole other level to play at.”

3. They never prepared for a confident Trump win

The Late Show prepared for four scenarios and Trump pulling ahead quickly and decisively was not one of them.

"We had a framework for four different shows that night: Hillary wins, and we know it; looks like Hillary’s going to win, but we don’t know it; Trump wins, possibly, but it’ll be a long time before we know because the path is so narrow and Alaska is going to have to come in and who knows. Then the fourth one is that Trump wins, and we know it.We just said: “Well, don’t even write that fourth one. Because I’m not saying it can’t happen, but let’s just say if it does happen, I’m going to be speaking to an audience that are like villagers who’ve been dragged into the soccer stadium in Chile to watch people be executed.” It’s going to be the darkest room you could possibly [imagine]. And I said (knocks on his desk), “Knock on wood we won’t have to do that.” I said, “Look, man, we’re really going to be in trouble if he wins, because we have no plan, and then we will be forced to just be raw. We’ll find out who the f— we are.”"

4. But the night gave the show an identity

Twenty minutes into the election show, Colbert threw whatever semblance of a plan they had out the window and just spoke to the audience, in the room and across the country.

"“Chris and I were like, “OK, so that’s the show now. The show is me absolutely not hiding at all how I feel about this and just raw.” That was what that night was for us. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. (Laughs.) Hardest f—ing thing I ever did.”"

See the segment below.

5. And it’s not about Trump

The Late Show is succeeding now because people care. Back in February, back in July, Colbert and his team started preparing for something, but it wasn’t, Colbert says, for Trump. He gets no credit. They were preparing for people to really latch onto something that defined their priorities. And that happened to be Trump.

By the same coin, tapping into genuinely caring is at the heart of Colbert’s own success. As he describes it,

"The goal is not to be angry on camera. The goal is to take that and run it through your distillation process of your jokes, and then you get a little bit of distance on it. You can’t really bullshit your way through 202 monologues a year."

Later adding, “the anger can help you write passionately, but you shouldn’t bring it to the stage.”

must read: 30 Best Late Night Jokes about Donald Trump

6. He’s as excited to be back with new episodes as you are

“When I’m on vacation, I want to come back and do it. I want to be here.” Say no more.