Late Night Television

Published on September 17th, 2014 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Colbert Countdown: 3 months until the last show

Update: Since this post, the official finale date was confirmed as Dec. 18, not Dec. 17 as had been previously reported elsewhere.

Original article:

When Stephen Colbert was announced as the new host of the Late Show, viewers wondered: how will the Colbert Report end?

That was April. As of today, we’re down to the final months before his last show. The question mark remains. Seeds of a story were sown early, but little has been done to propel it forward since. So what the heck is going on?

Here’s what we know:

  • Colbert’s character is leaving the show by his own free will, because he “won” television. He’s done the show the best he can, has successfully changed the world like he intended, and there’s no need to go on.
  • He first explained this on the Daily Show in April, just a few weeks after the Late Show announcement. He since mentioned it a few times on The Colbert Report, matter-of-factly and with little fanfare — not exactly his character’s style.
  • Colbert and his writers had no definite exit strategy at the time of the Daily Show appearance. That same week, a Report audience member asked Colbert what his plan was for ending the show, and he responded “we don’t know.”
  • On May 5, Head Writer Opus Moreschi was interviewed at the Nordic Media Festival in Iceland. “We’re not sure how it’s going to all end up…. We have some ideas, but I can’t tell you about them…. It’s going to be fun to figure out how we’re going to do that,” he said.
  • In early August, he told his studio audience that “we are working on that right now,” and he will not kill off the character.
  • His character isn’t taking over the Late Show. Remember, in the world of The Colbert Report, Stephen is a pundit. The only reason to mention the real-life transition is to purposely dance around the issue, as he did the night of the announcement.
  • Ben Folds is available. He has a tour date in Australia 2 days after the finale. He could feasibly appear on the show to perform Best Imitation Of Myself, which (prior to the announcement of the show’s demise) Colbert said is how he’d like to end his final episode.

If it sounds like the possibilities are limited, they are and they aren’t. It’s curious that he chose to make this “announcement” on The Daily Show without a plan to back it up in the long run, or even give it a decent payoff in the Report episodes that followed it. And it’s tough to understand why his character hasn’t tried to solicit attention/sympathy in hopes that people will urge him to stay (this is a man, after all, who turned a simple wrist injury into a 6-week me-fest). But all things considered, they’re still working with a mostly-blank canvas.

Maybe his character will try to go back on his promise to leave, and freak out when the network says it’s too late.

Maybe he’ll gain self-awareness, start to realize that everyone else in the world thinks he’s a comedian, and they’ll blow this thing up via some mind-blowing reality-bending, a la “Steve ColberT” interviewing Gorillaz.

Maybe they’ll do nothing. Then the first Late Show will start with a cold open of Stephen’s writers approaching him all concerned-like, offering him something to eat. The tagline “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry” will splash across the screen, revealing that The Colbert Report was a 9-year long Snickers commercial.

There’s still no shortage of terrible ideas, so surely there’s a great one being fleshed out as I type this idiocy. But two months out, it seems even Colbert himself may not entirely know what the final episodes will look like.

The Colbert Report typically takes two weeks off around (American) Thanksgiving – the week of and the week after – which would leave just seven episodes between their break and the finale on Dec. 17.

Are you a mega Colbert fan? Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z, an unofficial fan guide to the show, is coming out in November. It just happens to be co-written by Third Beat’s fearless leader, Sharilyn Johnson. More information about the book is available at


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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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  • The Colbert Report A-Z

    Third Beat editor Sharilyn Johnson presents the ultimate fan guide to The Colbert Report, available from all major booksellers including