The 2016 political conventions will be remembered by Stephen Colbert fans as the time he emerged, if briefly, from his Celebrity-Suck-Up-Interviewing-At-CBS period, and got back to doing that which he does best: thumbing his nose at authority.
Among the moments that have delighted Colbert fans and the media during RNC and DNC weeks: the return of his The Daily Show lead-in Jon Stewart, to weigh in on Donald Trump’s GOP nomination, as well as the return of Stephen Colbert’s conservative bloviator act, also known as Stephen Colbert.
Last night, however, Colbert said corporate lawyers were trying to kill Gasbag Stephen Colbert. Almost immediately after his brief return, on Late Show last week, CBS lawyers heard from corporate lawyers, Colbert told viewers – he did not specify if they were from Comedy Central or its parent Viacom. Those lawyers gave CBS notice they thought Stephen Colbert II was their intellectual property. Therefore, Original Stephen Colbert said on last night’s Late Show, “it is with a heavy heart that, thanks to corporate lawyers, the character of Stephen Colbert host of The Colbert Report will never be seen again.”
“What can I do?” Colbert said when his studio audience erupted with outrage. “The lawyers have spoken. I cannot reasonably argue I own my face or name.”
It’s not the first time performers have turned into performance art a feud with a corporation laying claim to their name. Prince did it really well. The corporation never comes off very well. Comedy Central has declined to comment on this kerfuffle.
Colbert had said, when it was announced he was leaving Comedy Central for CBS, he would retire that iteration of Stephen Colbert. The comment was made as loud conservative talk talent, were screaming, literally, about the hire. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, announced CBS had “just declared war on the heartland of America” with Colbert’s hiring, “heartland” being Limbaugh’s turf in his mind.
On the other hand, Colbert said, in the walk-up to his debut as Late Show host, that he sometimes had trouble knowing where the Stephen Colbert the character ended and Actual Stephen started, as that relationship evolved over the years.
Last night, Original Stephen Colbert I introduced Stephen Colbert II’s identical twin cousin, Stephen Colbert III. Their mothers, turns out, were identical twins who married identical twin brothers and the two couples had sex at the exact moment and gave their newborn sons exactly the same name.
The “new” character was wearing Stephen Colbert II’s trademark wire-rimmed glasses and overabundance of hair product and patriotism. But, because lawyers were involved, Colbert III lacked the suit and tie that are the uniform of Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly who Stephen Colbert II was born to mock. This was a blue-collar Colbert, sporting a short-sleeved American-flag shirt that surpassed Meryl Streep’s convention blouse in its hideousness. And this Stephen Colbert talked about his identical cousin probably being gay, among other DOA jokes.
But, the important thing here, is that nose was thumbed. Colbert III announced he’s going to become a regular on The Late Show, vowing “Stephen, whenever you need me, wild horses ridden by corporate lawyers could not keep me away.” Hopefully, lawyers will let him go out and buy a suit.
But there was more. After the unveiling of yet another Stephen Colbert character (look out Tatiana Maslany) Original Stephen Colbert introduced to a brand-spanking new Late Show segment, “The Werd.” Which again, lawyers being involved, was one important letter different from The Colbert Report’s The Word segment, and also included other changes, not the least of which was the addition of The Late Show logo on the screen.
With any luck, this too becomes a regular feature of Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, and the lawyers of Comedy Central/Viacom will have earned the undying gratitude of Colbert fans.