There are a number of late night talk shows in America which have proven popular over the years. One such example is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which has been around since 2015. It has two main competitors – Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. 

Colbert took on hosting duties in 2014 after David Letterman went into retirement. The Colbert Report had been his previous destination, where he played himself parodying various conservative pundits. This has naturally led to the new version of The Late Show taking on more satirical views of current events, with particular focus on US politics.


The original format for the show was to have Colbert open with a monologue, but this was soon changed and replaced with a series of sketches from Colbert, his staff and typically those who were set to appear as guests on the show that night. The sequence for the show generally acts as a satire for news desk reporting, with an overview of recent headlines as one may find in a television newscast. 

There is a similar sequence seen overall on The Late Show compared to other late-night talk shows, such as segments with sketch comedy, interviews with guests and musical performances to entertain the audience. There have also been many more political guests on Colbert’s show compared to when Letterman was on board.

Cast and characters

Guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert from 2020 include:

  • Jane Fonda
  • Tan France
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Rose Byrne
  • Bobby Cannavale
  • Larry David
  • Pedro Gonzalez
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Penn Badgley
  • Laura Dern
  • Kesha
  • Tom Steyer
  • John Oliver
  • Jason Segel

Filming locations

The Late Show is traditionally based in New York at the Ed Sullivan Theater. There were a number of attempts made by states and municipalities to persuade CBS to move the show to their location, with options including New Orleans, Connecticut and Los Angeles. However, the show remained in its New York location, and CBS became eligible for $11 million in tax credits over five years to continue program production there.


Since taking over on the show, Colbert has had almost complete control over what happens. The host was able to bring over most of the staff members who worked on his previous project, The Colbert Report. After Letterman’s final episode, the Ed Sullivan Theater was completely overhauled and restored to its original 1927 state. There was a new showrunner announced – Chris Licht – in 2016 to help leverage Colbert’s content output due to concerns from CBS that his online presence was not as strong as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

Episodes and reception

There have been a number of notable episodes during Colbert’s time as host on The Late Show. For example, the first show with Colbert at the helm saw him interview both George Clooney and Jeb Bush. After the terrorist attacks in Paris, Colbert dedicated an episode to this location. In June 2016, CBS revealed that there would be two weeks of live episodes during the Republican and Democratic conventions. 

When The Late Show made its debut, there were 8.26 million viewers tuning in to the episode. This meant that The Late Show managed to beat out its competition in the late night talk show sector. The most viewers for an episode came about after the Super Bowl 50, which managed to pull in an average viewership of 21.1 million. That said, the initial ratings for the show came in after The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, with some critics postulating that this was due to The Late Show having a weaker social media presence.

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