We’re used to seeing Stephen Colbert in-character on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, looking supremely confident as a right-wing master of the media universe. But Colbert came across a bit more humble during an appearance on CBS’ The Late Show on Tuesday night. It was Colbert’s first appearance on the show since landing the much-coveted gig to take over as Late Show host.
“I’m going to do whatever you have done,” Colbert told David Letterman, who will retire as the longest-serving late-night host next year. “It seems to have gone pretty well, Dave.”
Colbert told a story about getting an internship on Letterman’s show in the mid-1980s and then turning it down because it was unpaid. “The next job I’m taking here, it pays right?” Colbert asked. “Because I’ve already signed.” He also discussed dreading the downtime after Colbert Report ends this year and his Late Show gig begins. “I have to tell jokes all the time or I go a little insane. I had last week off and it didn’t go well.”
Colbert also brought a Top 10 list he once submitted as a writing sample when was applying for a staff writer position on Letterman’s show in 1997 (“Top 10 cocktails for Santa”). “He doesn’t get that yet!” Letterman shouted at Paul Shaffer when bis band did the Top 10 music for Colbert. “What are you doing over there!? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass…” The exchange gave Colbert a moment to demonstrate his list-reading abilities.
The cocky Colbert emerged at one point during the interview, when he told a story about breaking his wrist while working on his Comedy Central show, then going on vacation without a cast and building a boat. “I built that with a broken wrist, because that’s what I bring to comedy — I bring grit! Sticktoitness!”
Also, the duo took a now-obligatory selfie. “Is this still what people do?” Letterman asked. “No, this is actually very retro now,” Colbert replied.