Northwestern celebrates Stephen Colbert’s debut as “Late Show” host


Tyler Pager/Daily Senior Staffer

Students show off their Stephen Colbert masks at a livestreaming event of his debut as the host of “The Late Show.” More than 300 people attended the event in Norris University Center.

Alice Yin, Mariana Alfaro, and Tyler Pager

Loud chants of “Stephen, Stephen, Stephen” bellowed in McCormick Auditorium Tuesday night as hundreds of Northwestern students and staff gathered to watch Stephen Colbert make his long-awaited debut as host of “The Late Show.”

Kicking off the show with a comical montage of himself singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Colbert (Communication ‘86) began his reign at the post David Letterman held for 22 years. The TV personality brought back his trademark wit, rolling off one-liners on hot topics from extra-marital affair dating website Ashley Madison to the science behind Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hair.

“With this show I begin the search for the real Stephen Colbert,” Colbert said in his opening monologue. “I just hope I don’t find him on Ashley Madison.”

NU partnered with CBS to livestream the hour-long episode, and more than 300 NU students, staff and Evanston residents gathered in Norris University Center to watch Colbert’s debut. NU students and alumni were also encouraged to use #WildForColbert on social media to show their support.

Even with the start of classes more than a week away, university officials were confident that enough students were on campus to fill a screening, said James McHaley, director of student affairs marketing. Most students in attendance were either peer advisers, resident assistants or members of the Northwestern University Marching Band.

Colbert’s inaugural guests were actor George Clooney and Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The new host teamed up with Clooney to treat the audience to a fake movie. Titled “Decision Strike,” the clips starred the actor as he spoofed action-thriller scenes to a dramatic soundtrack.

Later, Colbert pressed Bush, his second guest, to explain what he would do differently than his brother, former president George W. Bush, if elected. Bush countered with his support to restrict Congress from spending as much as they did under his brother’s terms.

Colbert previously served as the host of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central. In that role, he satirized a conservative anchorman reacting to current events with a narcissistic flair. The show, which ended in December, won multiple Emmy awards in its nine years.

Communication sophomore Sam Shapiro said he decided to go to the livestreaming event because he has been a fan of Colbert since eighth grade. He said he noticed Colbert took a new angle in order to cater to a bigger audience, but he doesn’t think he will lose the humor that made him famous in “The Colbert Report.”

“He has the Northwestern brains. He’s incredibly smart and he’s not just funny, he’s one of the smartest people on TV I would say,” Shapiro said. “Dave Letterman was one of the smartest people on TV and he’s following his footsteps, and as a Northwestern alum, I’m very proud. He continues to inspire me.”

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