Seth Meyers, John Oliver, the Daily Show’s producers, and more tell Vanity Fair how President Trump changed the game—and where late night might go from here.
Two minutes to air? Holy shit!”
“I can’t say shit once we start,” Stephen Colbert continued with a grin, mere moments before Late Show went live following Donald Trump’s speech to Congress on February 28. “Somebody remind me.”
Trump’s address had ended not even two hours before. But as I watched Colbert psych himself up before his live audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater last Tuesday, he didn’t look panicked. Instead, he looked ready—even eager. Only three months had passed since Colbert’s last live special on Election Day—which had quickly taken a turn many, including Colbert, did not expect. That night, Colbert managed to navigate uncharted waters with striking candor and composure. And on February 28, Colbert showed just how far he had come. As unpredictable as Trump’s remarks were, Colbert was ready for them: well practiced and prepared.
This marked Colbert’s fourth live broadcast in seven months. In the summer of 2016, he’d gained considerable momentum—if not significantly better ratings—by broadcasting without delay from both the R.N.C. in Cleveland and the D.N.C. in Philadelphia. His largely liberal audience tuned into Colbert’s subsequent live election special believing they’d watch him document the dawn of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Instead, they saw the birth of the Trump era—much to their, and his, growing horror.
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