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Editorials

April 14, 2014

In Our Opinion: All Colbert should have to be is good

Those of us at a certain age can perhaps be forgiven if we were to look wistfully back to a time when the only thing that mattered in the choice of a late-night television host was whether he was talented.

In these politically correct times — and most of the time we are squarely in favor of what some derisively call “political correctness” because we think it usually does a lot of good — even the word “he” in the previous paragraph is subject to charges of sexism.

When Jack Paar took over as NBC’s “Tonight Show” host from Steve Allen, or when Johnny Carson took over from Paar or when Jay Leno took over from Carson or when Conan O’Brien took over from Leno or when Leno took over (again) from O’Brien and when Jimmy Fallon took over from Leno, they weren’t really considered great political events.

Yes, all six were white, straight, Christian men, but the only thing that really mattered to the vast audiences they attracted was whether they were talented and likable.

Based on the hubbub over the announcement last week that Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert will be succeeding CBS late-night icon David Letterman (both are white, straight, Christian men) next year, the world has certainly changed.

Why, asked pundits and Internet folks, couldn’t CBS have chosen a women instead of Colbert? What’s wrong with Ellen Degeneres or Chelsea Handler or Tina Fey or Amy Poehler?

Well, nothing, but TV viewership is the only thing that really matters to the networks, and Los Angeles Times television critic Robert Lloyd points out that Colbert already has a large following.

He has won Emmys and “has been on the cover of Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Wired, Outside, Sports Illustrated and the Dartmouth alumni magazine. He has had an ice cream flavor named for him, a species of spider, and a piece of exercise equipment on the International Space Station (the “Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill,” or COLBERT) named for him.”

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