Did CBS Even Consider Hiring a Woman Before It Pounced on Stephen Colbert?
As a child, I would have told you that by 2014 we'd definitely have jet boots, pills for food and a woman hosting a late-night talk show. Instead we have selfies, Xanax and a bunch of white guys.
When it was announced Thursday that Stephen Colbert was set to replace David Letterman, my first reaction was, well, that's a safe choice. I would have thrown a parade if CBS had cast – or even considered – a woman.
I read so many articles and lists all about different hilarious woman whoshould be up for a late-night TV job – myself being on one of them, I'm happy to say, in a story that I posted to Twitter, of course, to which a follower responded, "Not gonna happen". Can you please unfollow me? I don't need that kind of reality check from someone who volunteered to be my fan.
But I understood what my fan meant: with all of the chatter over the last week since Letterman announced his retirement, even after all the short-lists and opinions, it never seemed like a female comedian was really in the running to be the next host of the Late Show anyway.
Why, exactly, is all of late night still geared only to satisfy the tastes of my Uncle Jack?
Clearly, someone out there thinks that it's just too risky to put a woman behind that desk, that we're not ready yet. I'm not sure who that someone is, because I think the audience is there, so it must be someone powerful – an old-school executive, a nervous sponsor, a lazy senior makeup artist. Or maybe that someone just doesn't want to pay to remodel the host's bathroom.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize CBS is taking a big risk with Stephen Colbert. I know what my Uncle Jack will say when he hears the news: he'll say, "Who?" And it will be tough for me to explain. The only reassuring thing I could tell him is, "He looks like someone you're going to like. It'll seem familiar."
And that's the big headline: Stephen Colbert finally gets to be himself! It almost sounds like the Letterman position is a gift after years of therapy. I have no doubt Colbert has the comedy chops; I just don't have the faintest clue who we're getting.
I've been indulging in this fantasy pitch session, where some bearded young intern rushes into the CBS boardroom and tells the producers he knows just the man for Letterman's job:
He's this guy who hosts a talk show on Comedy Central – no, not Tosh, he already declined. And get this: the man for the job does it as this blowhard-conservative character, like a parody of Bill O'Reilly – he makes fun of the right wing, calls himself factose intolerant, and "willfully ignorant". Sure, his comedy has been described as quirky, odd, New York-y, but he'll appeal to the masses. Yes, he isthe guy who infamously shot down everyone at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner and told President George W Bush not to worry about his low approval rating: "polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in reality." The guy has guts! And he should replace David Letterman! But not as that super popular character - as himself!
News sites have been on a treasure hunt, cobbling together short, three- to four-minute interviews of Colbert through the years as they, too, try to crack the code of what's to come. Will the real Colbert be snarky? Will he be a more cerebral Jimmy Fallon? Will he dance? Will he make it known if he doesn't like a celebrity guest? (God, I hope so.) Will there be a political edge? Will he have to dumb down his name to Stephen Col-burt?
We just have no idea, and, frankly, that is so exciting! CBS is taking one hell of a gamble. Apparently, they are hiring someone who they don't even know! If I were that someone in the boardroom, I would have made a safer choice and hired a woman.
Even if Colbert nails the job and brings his younger audience with him, he too will retire in roughly 15 years. Maybe, by that time, America will be deemed ready for a woman to host its late-night primetime television. And by then, I will have a serious shot. Because I will have grown into a middle-aged man.