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Late Show premiere: What to expect when Stephen Colbert takes over

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CBS

The much-anticipated premiere of Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs Tuesday, and Colbert’s fans and critics alike are eager to see what he’ll do now. After 10 years of hosting The Colbert Report, the Daily Show alum will succeed David Letterman, who sat behind the Late Show desk for 22 years.

There’s been plenty of speculation surrounding what Colbert might have in store, and tidbits from interviews and promos have given us glimpses of what to expect when Colbert takes over. Here’s what we know.

No, he won’t be in character

We’ve gotten used to Stephen Colbert being Stephen Colbert, the extreme right-wing blowhard commentator he played on The Colbert Report, but he’ll shed the persona for Late Show.  

After portraying the character for more than 10 years, it took some time for Colbert to get used to interviewing without that character. “We’ve done a few field pieces, and the very first one I did when I was interviewing someone, my character sat on my shoulder and said ‘Let me at her. I know what to ask. Please, just let me do it. I can do this with my eyes closed.’ I said ‘No no,’ and halfway through I was fine. I didn’t have to have him anymore,” Colbert said.  

And even without the character, Colbert is enjoying himself. “I think the pieces are pretty good and I’m not exhausted at the end of it because I don’t have to run everything through his approval first,” Colbert said. “I’m my own man now. The puppet hasn’t taken over the puppeteer.”

For the first time, he’ll be interviewing guests as himself, and while we don’t know exactly what that will l be like, the Late Show has rolled out a few videos so that audiences may become acquainted. 

Expect a familiar – yet new – lineup

Although Colbert retired his alter ego, The Late Show won’t be such a far departure from The Colbert Report. If the premiere week lineup is any indication, expect a mix of guests instead of the typical celebrities. For every megawatt movie star, there will be a successful CEO or political figure — guests more likely to appear on The Colbert Report than on, say, The Tonight Show. Colbert has already tapped George Clooney and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush for the premiere, with Scarlett Johansson, Vice President Joe Biden, and Elon Musk appearing later in the week. 

Already The Late Show is set apart from its competitors – The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live! –both of which have succeeded largely due to viral videos with their guests. Chances are Colbert will make his name as a host based on substantive interviews rather than musical numbers or skits (although wouldn’t it be fun to see Bernie Sanders put on a wig and perform a rap number?). 

Whatever happens, it’ll be worth watching

The real Stephen Colbert emerges so rarely that no one knows for sure who he really is. And Late Show has only ever had David Letterman at the desk. Who knows if it’ll mimic the success of The Colbert Report or come in first in the late-night battle, but the Late Show will be worth tuning in to, if only for curiosity’s sake.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert premieres Sept. 8, 11:35 p.m. ET on CBS. 

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