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SR International: Stephen Colbert Speaks About Optimism, Love, And More As He Covers WSJ. Magazine’s Spring Men’s Fashion Issue

SR International: Stephen Colbert Speaks About Optimism, Love, And More As He Covers WSJ. Magazine’s Spring Men’s Fashion Issue


When The Late Show With Stephen Colbert made its debut in September 2015, the political landscape was undergoing a tectonic shift. Jeb Bush, booked as one of Colbert’s first guests because he was the presumed front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, was polling disastrously, while the news was increasingly dominated by footage of Donald Trump addressing crowds in MAGA wear at his rallies. An hour-long program of silliness, Colbert said, “did not match the moment we became part of.” Stephen Colbert net worth

Stephen Colbert, who reportedly has a net worth of $75 Million according to Celebrity Net Worth, took a while to find his footing and his non-character voice as a host. But the onset of the Trump presidency focused his vision. Colbert has never gone full-on rebrand, but his righteousness is evident every night in his opening monologue. In his first show of the Trump administration, at the end of January 2017, Colbert observed that it was already too late to “wait and see” how the new president was acquitting himself in office. “The line moves really fast on this ride,” he said. “Every day, you just get right back on the roller coaster and start throwing up.”

Photo: Rahim Fortune for WSJ. Magazine

Ever since the monologue has provided a moment of catharsis for Colbert and his audience. After the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he countered Trump’s equivocal condemnation of violence “on many sides” by saying, “Here’s one thing that’s not difficult to express: Nazis are bad. The KKK? I’m not a fan. That wasn’t hard. That was easy. I enjoyed saying it!” And this year, when the leader of the far-right antigovernment militia the Oath Keepers was charged with seditious conspiracy for his actions during the January 6 insurrection, Colbert remarked, “This is starting to restore my faith in the Justice Department. Finally they’re charging people with the sedition we saw with our own eyes on live TV. And hopefully, one day the Feds will learn the identity of that shadowy figure who was the president that told them to do it.” Stephen Colbert net worth

Colbert’s undisguised stance regarding the former president (whose name he takes pains to not utter on-air, instead using such euphemisms as “that ding-a-ling” and “Dubious Caesar”) was a controversial choice—digging in against Trump right after the man had received nearly 63 million votes. And it wasn’t without consequence: Indignant Trump supporters launched a #FireColbert campaign on social media. But 2017 proved to be the making of Colbert’s version of The Late Show. That year, he overtook Jimmy Fallon, whose Tonight Show is a more cheery, variety-minded program, as the ratings leader in the 11:30 p.m. slot, and he has held the No. 1 spot for the better part of the past five years. Stephen Colbert

The surprising thing about this development is that Colbert’s coming of age as a late-night host is less attributable to his knack for political comedy than it is for his gifts as an interviewer and listener. His guest segments, at their best, play out as a sort of lay ministry, with comedy optional—an adult version of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, in which Colbert, like Fred Rogers a slender, clean-cut family man, helps his visitors process their feelings. The viral moments of recent-vintage Late Show are not sick burns at the expense of the Former Guy but heartfelt expressions of emotional honesty.

Here are some things Stephen Colbert and his colleagues revealed to WSJ. Magazine…

Andrew Garfield on Colbert:

Photo: Rahim Fortune for WSJ. Magazine

“The openness and ownership that he has with seemingly culturally taboo subjects, such as grief, allows his guests permission to be in contact and reveal those aspects of their own selves and experiences,” Garfield wrote in an email after I asked why he spoke so unguardedly on The Late Show. “In turn,” he continued, “the audience gets to have a genuine, deep, and connected experience. So the show feels like an act of service to people. I think Stephen would have made a great priest.” Stephen Colbert net worth

Colbert on the initial plans for his CBS program:

He consciously conceived it to be a show about love. “Of course, you can’t say that out loud, because it sounds a little pretentious,” he said. Then he quoted the poet E.E. Cummings, whose father was also killed in a crash: “Love is the every only god/who spoke this earth so glad and big.”

“So, why would you talk about anything else?” Colbert said.

“I actually thought I could come here and be sillier. I thought I could lay down my sword and shield down by the riverside, because that’s the part of the old gig I didn’t particularly like—anybody thinking, ‘Hey, what you do is important!’ Because that is antithetical to being as silly as you possibly can, and I really love being dumb.”

Colbert on the political environment reflecting a different reality:

Photo: Rahim Fortune for WSJ. Magazine

An hour-long program of silliness, Colbert said, “did not match the moment we became part of.”

Colbert on the toll the last few years have taken:

“It was such a breakneck pace,” Colbert said. “It was such a flaming toboggan ride down the hill every day, especially since everything would change. We would rewrite the whole show at 5 o’clock many a night and go on at 5:30.” But the chaos also clarified the show’s mission, Colbert noted: “There’s a lot of gaslighting going on, and someone wants to convince you that you’re crazy. Well, I’m here to say every night that you’re not crazy. It’s crazy to say you’re crazy.”

Colbert on recognizing what we’ve lost:

“We often realize we love something as we’re losing it,” Colbert said. So the show about love became, also, a show about loss. “Many things were lost in the last five years: standards, morals, a shared reality, a shared civic engagement, a lot of friends. And Covid, of course, gave it all a special, piquant little zazz,” Colbert said. Stephen Colbert net worth

Colbert on how he felt during another winter lockdown:

Photo: Rahim Fortune for WSJ. Magazine

“I’m just tired,” he said. “I think America is essentially an optimistic country. That’s the nature. ‘A more perfect Union’ is an optimistic thing to say. We’re all just tired.”

Evie McGee Colbert (Steven’s wife since 1993) on his show being an act of love:

“The hard part of it is, he’s trying to make people laugh. It’s a comedy show, but he’s always been an emotional person,” Evie McGee Colbert told me, Zooming in from her and Stephen’s native South Carolina, where she was looking after her 92-year-old father as he recovered from a bout with Covid-19. “The last two years, we’ve all been on the verge of tears, frankly, a lot,” she said. “I kind of feel sometimes that Stephen has become a grief counselor for people in real time on television. He didn’t seek that task out, and it’s hard. But that, I think, is his act of love.”

Jon Batiste, the Late Show’s bandleader, on Colbert and the show’s evolution:

“When he was taking over for Letterman, he told me the kind of show he wanted to do was a show about people and about love and about being a friend to the regular people out there. Having shiny folks come on and genius intellectuals and politicians and celebrities, but also, at the core of that, being a show about people and community. I would argue that it’s taken a different form, but we’re doing that show.” Stephen Colbert net worth

Colbert, Batiste said, is “a light bearer in a dark time” but nevertheless a vulnerable human being who sometimes needs his own light bearer. “I know that it’s hard for him, so we have a lot of private moments where it just naturally goes to that place” of lending emotional support, Batiste said. “Because my role on the show is to really bring that sense of vibrance and uplift.”


Read the full article here.

Featured photo: Rahim Fortune for WSJ. Magazine

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