'I'm Dry-Trumping': Stephen Colbert Talks Politics, Dropping the Character and His Election-Year Excitement

On Monday, Colbert spoke at the Television Critics Association about his plans for his “Late Show,” which premieres on CBS on September 8. According to accounts of the panel from Variety and Deadline, he is just excited as we are.

“The emotion I have right now, it’s not anxiety over doing the show. It’s anxiety of the eagerness to get onstage,” Colbert explained while taking questions from an audience of TV critics and reporters, adding that he is eager to shed his Colbert Report persona for the new show. “One of the reasons why I most wanted to drop the character is that I felt I had done everything I could do with him other than have my honest interest in my guest, which is almost constant. Now I feel actually more freed up. That was in some ways the most energetic, the most exciting part of the show to me and now I don’t have to hold back at all.”

Plus, Colbert explains, audiences already know who the ‘real’ Stephen Colbert is. “If you’re wondering who the real Stephen Colbert is, there’s a supercut of me breaking character the entire time… That guy who can’t stop laughing, that‘s the real Stephen Colbert. I can’t wait for that to be the only guy you see.”

Explaining that CBS has been very good about handing him the reins and has asked “nothing of [him], other than I fill an hour every night,” he hinted that there might be some changes to the staid late night monologue format. “I don’t think anything I’ve done on my last show or this show is necessarily traditional, other than what the pieces are,” he conceded when asked about the show’s opening. “We’re gonna try to put them together in a new way.”

Meanwhile, Colbert revealed one element that will be getting a substantial overhaul is the physical space. On a suggestion from David Letterman, Colbert has moved his desk to the other side of the Ed Sullivan Theater stage, which has been revamped in order to showcase its Broadway roots. “The theater’s been completely gutted… it’s been taken back to its 1927 beautiful state,” he explained. “We’re building the ‘Late Show’ set within the context of a Broadway theater. I find it a very intimate setting now, because we acknowledge that we’re in a theater together.”

The future “Late Show” host did say that his show would be more politically focused than the other late night shows, adding that he has brought the bulk of his “Colbert Report” staff over to write for him on the show. “Now I’m hoping certain people stay in the campaign until September 9,” Colbert continued. “I’m not going to name any names, but I want to do jokes on Donald Trump and I have no venue. Right now I’m just dry-Trumping.”

“Every little boy grows up believing they could be president of the United States. I’m so happy that little boy is Donald Trump. Please stay healthy until I get on the air,” he continued. “Every night before I go to bed I light a candle and pray that he stays in the race, and I also pray that no one puts that candle anywhere near his hair.”

But of course, it won’t be all politics. In addition to previously revealed first guest George Clooney, Colbert is bringing an old friend back for his first musical performance.

“My last musical guest [on The Colbert Report] was Kendrick Lamar, and I’d love for him to be my first musical guest,” Colbert said. “In fact, he will be my first musical guest.”

Read more coverage of the panel over at Variety.

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