From the annals of intra-company pettiness, silliness and intrigue, the following: Stephen Colbert claims Comedy Central has demanded he no longer play Stephen Colbert.
Colbert’s response? He created an entirely new Stephen Colbert on Wednesday’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” also named . . . Stephen Colbert.
“One moment I enjoyed last week,” said Colbert -- umm, the real one -- on Wednesday’s “Late Show,” “was the return of Stephen Colbert,” (umm, the fake one -- or the blowhard he played on Comedy Central for nine years).
“You know who didn’t enjoy it so much? Immediately after the show, CBS’ top lawyer was contacted by the top lawyer from another company to say the character Stephen Colbert is their intellectual property, which is surprising because I never thought he was intellectual.”
Colbert returned the character to “Late Show” at the outset of his string of live editions, last Monday, July 18, and even dusted off “The Word” -- the long-running feature on “The Colbert Report” and parody of “The O’Reilly Factor” “Talking Points Memo.”
(His “word” of the day? “Trumpiness.”)
On Wednesday’s show, Colbert insisted as “true” Comedy Central’s protest. A CBS spokesperson declined comment. A Comedy Central spokesman said, “we will not be providing any comment at this time.”
In fact, it almost certainly is true: Networks fiercely protect their “intellectual property” for all sorts of reasons (aftermarket revenue notwithstanding). David Letterman also made fun of NBC’s minor protests when he joined “Late Show” in 1993 -- but he ended up with his “Top Ten” just the same.
Meanwhile, best to say goodbye to Stephen Colbert -- the old one -- for now. On the bright side, say hello to his “identical cousin,” introduced Wednesday.
You already know his name, while this new Colbert even comes with his own feature. It’s entitled, “The Werd.”
KUDOS TO ‘DAILY SHOW’ HOST TREVOR NOAH
Trevor Noah’s early days in the hot seat -- that “Daily Show” one, formerly occupied by Jon Stewart -- were hot ones. The initial critical response in some places was brutal. His long-ago Twitter missteps still hung over him. He was the New Guy who couldn’t even begin to replace the legendary Old Guy. That was a key part of the initial resistance: Trevor Noah wasn’t Jon Stewart, and because Jon Stewart fans wanted Stewart’s uniquely scabrous, visceral brand of comedy/satire, Noah’s softer, less surefooted approach was an affront (how dare he!).
But as his first anniversary (Sept. 28) heaves into not-too-distant view, you don’t hear that much anymore, and honestly you shouldn’t. Noah’s doing a good job.
These two weeks in Cleveland and Philadelphia have been defining ones. These conventions are a vital part of what “The Daily Show” host does and must do, as defined over a couple of decades by Jon Stewart -- which is to lacerate the ruling parties, most notably the GOP one.
Oh, so you’re shocked -- shocked -- that “TDS” tilts hard left and almost always has (except during the early Craig Kilborn run)? Where have you been, or what rock have you been under? That’s the brand, that’s the mindset, and that’s the way late-night TV mostly rolls on the other networks, too. Deal with it.
The question, the only one, that matters is: How well does it roll? Is it funny, effectively produced, smart, energetic, and does it say something that cuts sharply and deeply? If the answer to all those questions is “no,” then both show and host should retire now, preferably to that rock. Noah’s challenge was to bring out the knives, then throw them -- and hit the target, in this case, Donald Trump. Trump -- bluntly speaking -- is a funnier figure than Hillary Clinton, and a much easier target. (That hair, those pronouncements . . .) Miss this target and you really shouldn’t have a job as late-night host.
On this note, his Wednesday program was possibly his most effective to date at the conventions -- and these have been a good two weeks. It was all you could ask or want of a “TDS” host -- sharp lines, anger, passion and a cherry on top (a Stewartesque screed on the dangers of voting for Trump).
The heart of the show was an eight-minute stretch that mined Trump’s early-in-the-day news conference Wednesday where he made the request -- serious or not, you be the judge -- that the Russians find the 30,000 “deleted Clinton emails.”
“For a guy claiming to want to bring jobs to America,” said Noah, “he’s sure outsourcing them really quickly.”
There was a riff -- courtesy of a series of Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort clips -- on the word “absurd,” which he noted doesn’t really mean “untrue,” but just ridiculous. “He’s just acknowledging,” said Noah, ‘that all of this is [expletive] crazy.”
There was a clever on-screen bumper -- “Dancing with the Tsars” -- marred only by the fact that, well, the tsars haven’t been with us for a hundred years.
There was a smart line on Trump’s off-the-cuff flip-flop on whether China or Russia was behind the email leaks.
Noah: His “foreign policy is like a game of ‘Clue’?! It’s China in the library with a computer?!”
Funniest riff: He pulled up the Trump clip suggesting a China hack, then another Trump clip saying “I heard earlier today” it may have been China.
Noah: “You were the one who said it! You can’t cite yourself as a source.”
Keep an eye on this new guy. There’s a bright future here.