Stephen Colbert on Monday joked that he “prays” Donald Trump stays in the presidential race so Colbert can make jokes about him when “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” debuts on CBS Sept. 8.
“I just want to say that every little boy grows up believing they could be president of the United States, and I’m so happy that little boy turned out to be Donald Trump,” Colbert said at the Television Critics Association press tour. “I just hope he’s taking his vitamins. Please stay healthy until I get on the air. Don’t do anything dangerous, don’t ride any motorcycles. Every night I light a candle and pray that he stays in the race and I also hope that no one puts that candle anywhere near his hair.”
Until he gets on the air, all his jabs amount to “dry Trumping,” Colbert said, pulling out his phone so he could live-tweet that joke from the stage.
Though he’s still prepping for his “Late Show” debut, Colbert appeared on camera for the final “Daily Show” episode last week, and he revealed something that the audience wasn’t aware of: He and the other former correspondents chanted, “Made him cry! Made him cry!” when retiring host Jon Stewart teared up during the last tribute to him.
“That might be my favorite thing I ever did on ‘The Daily Show,’” Colbert said. “He never let you thank him.”
When he was asked to do that final tribute to his former boss, Colbert said he knew it would be a major challenge to keep Stewart on stage as it happened. Colbert said he thought, “He’s going to flop on the dock like a fish — he’s not going to want me to do that. I was like a rodeo clown. I honestly thought he was going to leave.”
What came through during the 40-minute press conference on Monday was Colbert’s eagerness to get on the air and his relief at having dropped the lovable blowhard persona he refined during his time on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Having come from an improvisational background, he said he looked forward to performing and interviewing as himself, not as “Colbert.”
“Not having to run everything I say through the character in my head is really lovely,” Colbert said. “I felt I did everything I could with him and everything I could do with that show, other than [showcase] my honest interest in my guest, which is almost constant. Now I feel almost more freed up.
“When you’re interviewing people, you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s much closer to how I learned my craft,” Colbert said. “All I really want from a guest is someone who has something to say, so I can play with them.”
That said, he hopes to have serious conversations not just with actors and singers, but with authors, politicians and other kinds of public figures, as well.
“The audience followed us” during those kinds of conversations on “The Colbert Report,” he said, “and I don’t see any reason why it should stop.” (Among the news sources he reads daily: Reddit’s political subreddits, the Drudge Report and The Huffington Post.)
Colbert said he spent time with David Letterman before he left the show to ask him about hosting, and to thank him for being a role models. Colbert said he “stole” from Letterman, especially when he read letters from lawyers that specifically stated they should not be read on the air.
“That idea of not being bound by authority and not thinking anyone’s too good to be made fun of — including myself,” all comes from the Letterman model, Colbert said.
The last musical guest on “The Colbert Report” was Kendrick Lamar, who will be Colbert’s first musical guest on “The Late Show,” Colbert revealed Monday. News broke recently that his first guest will be George Clooney.
”I wish I could have done better than George Clooney,” he deadpanned.
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