Stephen Colbert is doing his show live this week and next to cover the conventions in a way he couldn't if they taped the show before each evening's festivities took place. On tonight's show, Jon Stewart appeared and did nothing more than a couple of spit takes, which served as a buildup to Colbert appearing as his old Comedy Central alter ego, complete with slicked-back hair. Considering Colbert said he'd never go back to that character again, I wonder who convinced him to do it.
There's no doubt the re-emergence of "Stephen Colbert" was a hit -- particularly when he did "The Word" segment that was so popular on his old show -- but once that was over, it was back to the boring modern-day Colbert, forced to interview Zoë Saldana about the new "Star Trek" movie. You could feel the energy drain from the Ed Sullivan theater.
I won't be surprised if the character shows up again during Colbert's convention coverage. If Jon Stewart re-appears, let's hope he can make a better contribution that simply spitting on cue.
As for doing the show live, not only does it give Colbert an opportunity to be the first host each night to comment on what happened earlier at the convention, it also creates more excitement -- both in the audience and on the stage. Unlike taped shows, which can be edited when something goes wrong or a segment runs too long, the live broadcast forces everyone to be on their toes.
It's not like they're doing anything dangerous, but life is different at 11:30pm in New York than it is at five in the afternoon. Just one example: the later time could mean guests who have had a few drinks in the evening and show up in a much looser mood, leading to the kind of spontaneity that's so drastically missing from all modern late night shows.
It remains to be seen whether Colbert can harness that adrenaline rush into something positive. If so, don't be surprised if his "Late Show" becomes the first network late night show in decades to return to going live every night.