NEW YORK (MEDIA GENERAL) – As David Letterman bids farewell to late-night TV, Stephen Colbert is preparing to take his next big turn in the spotlight.
The comedic actor and satirist is slated to take over “The Late Show” in September. But before we turn to The Ed Sullivan Theater, let’s look at how Colbert became Letterman’s successor.
Falling in love with acting
Stephen Colbert, born in Washington D.C. but raised in Charleston, South Carolina, first caught the acting bug while at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. After two years at Hampden-Sydney, Colbert transferred to Northwestern University in Chicago to study in the theater program and make inroads in the Chicago theater scene.
While studying as a dramatic actor, Colbert found a home at Second City, a popular improvisation school, after finding a job answering phones and selling souvenirs. Soon after, he was hired on to perform with one of Second City’s travelling shows to serve as an understudy to Steve Carell, who also has gone on to enjoy a prolific acting career.
On the small screen
While acting with Second City, Colbert met and collaborated with Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. The trio soon moved to New York City to launch a sketch show – “Exit 57” – for HBO. The series ended up airing 12 episodes on Comedy Central and received favorable reviews.
After “Exit 57,” Colbert worked as a writer and cast member on another short-lived TV show —
“The Dana Carvey Show.” After “The Dana Carvey Show,” Colbert bounced around from job to job, including working briefly on “Saturday Night Live” and voicing one of the characters on the popular animated sketch, “The Ambiguously Gay Duo.” Colbert also worked as a correspondent for ABC’s “Good Morning America,” although only one of his segments ever aired.
“The Daily Show” and “Strangers With Candy”
After his short stint with GMA, Colbert was hired onto “The Daily Show” in 1997, joining the cast for its second season. Colbert quickly became a popular “correspondent” on the show honing a unique character similar to the one he parlayed into the host of “The Colbert Report.”
Shortly after joining “The Daily Show,” Comedy Central gave the green light to a new comedy series – “Strangers With Candy” – developed by Colbert, Sedaris and Dinello. Thirty episodes of the cult classic TV show aired on Comedy Central, as well as a 2006 movie.
After Jon Stewart replaced Craig Kilborn as host of “The Daily Show”, the show changed structure, focusing more on political satire. The show’s popularity took off along with its star-studded cast. Colbert shared the “Daily Show” limelight with Carell, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms and Mo Rocca.
Colbert won three Emmys as a writer for “The Daily Show” – in 2000, 2005 and 2006.
“The Colbert Report”
After more than 1,300 episodes on “The Daily Show,” Comedy Central agreed to a spin-off with Colbert as a host. “The Colbert Report” was pitched as a parody of television news coverage and its character-focused analysis, notably mimicking Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Colbert debuted with strong numbers, instantly cementing him as a late-night fixture for Comedy Central.
Colbert became a household name as the boisterous, polished neo-conservative personality, publishing multiple books written from his character’s perspective and even staying in character as the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner’s featured entertainer.
Colbert has won five TCA awards for “The Colbert Report” from the Television Critics Association. He also has won two Peabody Awards, in addition to the 2008 Emmy for writing for “The Colbert Report.” Colbert also was honored when the American Dialect Society named “truthiness,” a word coined on the premiere episode of “The Report,” as its 2005 Word of the Year.
Colbert hosted 1,447 episodes of “The Colbert Report,” including the star-filled series finale on Dec. 18, 2014.
“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”
CBS announced Colbert was chosen as Letterman’s successor in an April 2014 press release. “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” will make its debut Sept. 8.
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS president Les Moonves said in a statement. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”
Said Nina Tassler, Chairman of CBS Entertainment: “(Colbert) is a multi-talented and respected host, writer, producer, satirist and comedian who blazes a trail of thought-provoking conversation, humor and innovation with everything he touches.”
Colbert was a guest on “The Late Show with David Letterman” on April 22 and exchanged pleasantries with his CBS predecessor.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be taking over for you,” Colbert told Letterman.
Wrapping up the interview, Letterman quipped: “Ladies and gentlemen, here he is – it’s the new kid. Good luck to you and your family. Good luck with the show.”