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Trevor Noah takes Stephen Colbert's job, asks about how badly Colbert originally sucked at it

Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Call it inside baseball, genially insular, or even incestuous, but late-night hosts Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert got together for a funny and compelling extended bit of shop talk on Monday’s Late Show. Noah, taking over the Late Show desk, played guest host for the segment, introducing his host-guest Colbert, who came out to some rapturous applause and a hug from band leader Jon Batiste. “That’s why you’ve got the greatest audience in the world right there,” Colbert deadpanned, about his own audience. The two Daily Show alums and current late-night bosses played out the joke throughout the 12-minute interview (Colbert gave his rival a hearty “Fuck you” when Noah boasted about his two-to-zero advantage in J-Lo appearances), while maintaining an insightful and entertaining running dissection of just what it is to do their unique jobs.

Bringing up that, let’s call it, “adjustment period,” when Colbert’s move from what Colbert termed the “self-contained little snow globe” of the Colbert Report to David Letterman’s old CBS stomping ground, Noah (who’s on vacation this week, technically) asked if Colbert ever thought he’d made a terrible mistake. “I thought,” paused Colbert thoughtfully before continuing, “that this was one of the most agonizing things I’d ever done,” adding, however, “I never thought about stopping.” Colbert, who’s been open about his early struggles to find his comic voice as himself again after nine-plus years of playing “Stephen Colbert,” said of his early Late Shows that he had “transparently no conception of what [he] was doing.” Still, he credited his current critical and ratings success to the people he’d brought with him from The Colbert Report, and the fact that he eventually learned, basically, “to calm the fuck down and go back to work tomorrow.” Pizza parties for the crew are also recommended coping tactics during a rough patch.


Being in the jobs (temporarily swapped) that they are, Noah and Colbert couldn’t avoid talking some Trump, with Colbert showing off some of his always underrated movement work by expertly aping Trump’s “Il Duce” posture. (Seriously, Alec Baldwin, study some tape.) Asked what news sources he checks before presenting his own, uniquely filtered comic take on the day in Trumpworld, Colbert cited the usual sources, plus Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, to gauge the cranky president’s mood during toilet-tweeting “executive time.” Noah and Colbert then went on to riff on Trump’s Twitter as “a national nanny-cam,” which is why they get paid the big, late-night bucks.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.