In the walk-up to Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night special, Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going To Clean Up This Sh*t?, Tom Purcell’s and The Late Show creative team is having to prep three scenarios. In one, the reality TV star Colbert has described as an Untrustworthy Tangerine looks to be White House bound. Another has the “high-fiber bar” that is Hillary Clinton leading in the electoral race. And then, there’s the show they’ll do if election results still are hanging off the cliff when the broadcast kicks off a 11 PM ET.
“We will be prepared for all eventualities,” promised showrunner Chris Licht. “Everything we will do in modules. That way we can change on the fly.”
With polling results so tight, and FBI director James Comey seemingly unable to keep his mouth shut, “We have to be prepared for everything, no matter what,” Licht said. Colbert has touted the one-hour special as the place to “get all the election news without all the ethics and standards of news,” to which Licht adds the show will “be the same brand of comedy” as Colbert’s weeknight CBS late-night show.
Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human will participate, but Licht promises a refreshing lack of guests plugging newly-released movies and TV shows. “There will be no guests that are not somehow tied to what is happening” politically that night, Licht explained – though the show did just announce Elle King will sit in with Batiste, and will have a featured performance toward the end of the night.
Breaks are being built into the show so the writers can catch their breath, including some fake commercials, as well as “surprise guests” appearing throughout the program, though not necessarily in the Ed Sullivan Theater. Among those appearing: Showtime’s The Circus political pundits Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, and Mark McKinnon.
Asked if we will notice any major difference between Colbert’s election-night special and his Late Show, Licht said, “the biggest difference will be that we won’t have to worry about what we draw,” signaling the return of Late Show’s International Conspiracy Board. That’s the large chalk board on wheels, on which Colbert diagrammed every conspiracy theory against Donald Trump, back in October, giving the CBS Decency Police the vapor:
What changes will they make to the special when it’s broadcast three nights later on CBS? “I can’t answer that until early morning on Wednesday…Other than gratuitous things we can do because it’s on Showtime, we’re really doing our show,” Licht said. “We didn’t have a place to be part of the conversation on Election Night because [Late Show] is being preempted [on CBS]. This seemed like the perfect place to be live that night.”
It was not in the original plan to repeat the live election night coverage on Friday’s Late Show, but Showtime President David Nevins was “nice enough to let us do it,” Licht added.
The Ed Sullivan Theater audience that night will be 90% Actual Fans – only 10% will be “network people who want to spend Election Night here,” Licht promises.
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