Stephen Colbert is Probably Not, Definitely Maybe, Almost the Best Replacement Ever for David Letterman


Stephen Colbert is set to succeed long-time late night host David Letterman. It’s a big win for America’s future, for one really simple reason.

It’s hard not to love Stephen Colbert. Unless, of course, you happen to be a slightly deranged, bitter, white, conservative (middle-aged) man, one of whom he has hilariously parodied for close to two decades—first on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and then on the network’s award-winning “The Colbert Report.”

And now, Colbert’s going to take the reigns over at CBS in what’s become a highly controversial position: The Late Night Host. We saw this most recently with Seth Meyers taking over Jimmy Fallon’s spot when he moved into Jay Leno’s spot, who took it back from Conan O’Brien, who took it from Leno, who sort of retired 18 years after he inherited the show from Johnny Carson, and instead of it going to David Letterman, who was in the spot Seth Meyers holds now, CBS jumped on Letterman. ABC added Jimmy Kimmel, bumping its news program “Nightline” to after the show. Conan moved to TBS. And, of course, there’s Scottish-born Craig Ferguson, who also has a late night show that appears after Letterman. Apparently.


So, a bunch of white, not all that funny, middle-aged men have been playing musical desk chairs for decades.

And somewhere during all this, over at Comedy Central, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rewrote what late night television could be. They often offer the only really honest reporting on major news stories. Comics have always embodied the ability to be painfully honest—allowing us to laugh at things we often dare not speak about. But ever since news media 2.0 took to the airwaves, they’ve called it out, and in Stewart’s case, set the records ridiculously straight on major issues. (It’s probably the reason Stewart wasn’t offered Letterman’s job. No one wants him to stop doing what he does. Colbert is a different story…read on.)

Conservatives blasted CBS’s decision to hire Colbert. Rush Limbaugh said CBS had “declared war on the heartland of America.” Aw.

And others observe that the late night seats lack any type of diversity beyond white male hairstyles and suit choices. Aside from race not being considered, there are no female late night hosts—even Chelsea Handler has announced she’s ending her contract with E! (She may actually replace Craig Ferguson, who follows Letterman.)

But criticisms aside, Colbert’s new job signifies one thing that’s most impressive and telling about where America is at these days: he’ll be dropping the neo-conservative character his fans—of which this writer is one—have loved for so long. But here’s why I’m not sad to see the character go. And I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment.

It’s simple, really. The bumbling ignorant conservative is becoming obsolete. That’s not to say there aren’t millions of gay-bashing, gun-toting, racist, greedy conservative men out there. There are still too many as long as Ted Nugent lives and breathes, if you ask me. But as a country, I think we’re kind of over it. Elon Musk is plotting to colonize Mars, for crying out loud. We have more significant achievements ahead of us than pontificating on about whether Obamacare has destroyed our country. Gay marriage hasn’t caused any cities to implode or demons to emerge from the underworld and subjugate us for our sinful ways. The character Colbert plays serves only to remind us of something we’re desperate to let go of. Whether we realize it yet or not.

America is ready to move on.

We may still never tire of corny white men in frumpy suits telling us mildly humorous jokes at midnight, but what we don’t need any longer is the chorus of haters, the fearmongers and the oppressors who have given Colbert so many years worth of material. Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” team will continue to call out the nonsense as it happens (and certainly Colbert will as well). But it’s behavior that’s becoming so insignificant to where we’re heading that it makes sense Colbert finally let it go at the peak of his career. So, a Tip of the Hat to you Colbert and Letterman. And a Wag of the Finger to anyone standing in the way of progress.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.