Did Comedy Central really issue a cease and desist to CBS and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” over use of “Stephen Colbert” — the blowhard who spent nine seasons at Comedy Central before morphing to the real Stephen Colbert at CBS?
“One moment I enjoyed last week,” said Colbert — umm, the real one — on Wednesday’s “Late Show,” “was the return of Stephen Colbert.” (Umm, the fake one.)
“You know who didn’t enjoy it so much? Immediately after the show, CBS’ top lawyer was contacted by the top lawyer from another company to say the character Stephen Colbert is their intellectual property, which is surprising because I never thought he was intellectual.”
Colbert insists (I think that’s the right word) “this is true.” On Thursday morning, “Late Show” declined to further comment, and a Comedy Central spokesman couldn’t be reached.
If true — and let’s assume it is — this wouldn’t be a huge surprise. David Letterman (reportedly) got some pokes from NBC and GE after going to CBS about reviving classic bits — they of course relented for reasons unknown (by me) because “Top Ten” of course went on to become a “Late Show” treasure.
But “owning” an actual character who happens to share the same name of a real human? Now that, my friends, would be unique in the annals of intellectual property law.
Colbert decided to press the issue by creating another “Colbert” — also named Colbert and the identical cousin of that other Colbert (a long story; ask Stephen, or just watch the clip).
“The Word” — a classic “The Colbert Report” bit — was also revived. The new name: “Werd.”
Yeah ... weird. But funny.
KUDOS TO ‘DAILY SHOW’ HOST TREVOR NOAH
Trevor Noah’s early days in the hot seat — that “Daily Show” one, formerly occupied by Jon Stewart — were hot ones. The initial critical response in some places was brutal. His long-ago Twitter missteps still hung over him. He was the New Guy who couldn’t even begin to replace the legendary Old Guy. That was a key part of the initial resistance: Trevor Noah wasn’t Jon Stewart, and because Jon Stewart fans wanted Stewart’s uniquely scabrous, visceral brand of comedy/satire, Noah’s softer, less surefooted approach was an affront (how dare he!).
But as his first anniversary (Sept. 28) heaves into not-too-distant view, you don’t hear that much anymore, and honestly you shouldn’t. Noah’s doing a good job.
These two weeks in Cleveland and Philadelphia have been defining ones. These conventions are a vital part of what “The Daily Show” host does and must do, as defined over a couple of decades by Jon Stewart — which is to lacerate the ruling parties, most notably the GOP one.
Oh, so you’re shocked — shocked — that “TDS” tilts hard left and almost always has (except during the early Craig Kilborn run)? Where have you been, or what rock have you been under? That’s the brand, that’s the mindset, and that’s the way late-night TV mostly rolls on the other networks, too. Deal with it.
The question, the only one, that matters is: How well does it roll? Is it funny, effectively produced, smart, energetic, and does it say something that cuts sharply and deeply? If the answer to all those questions is “no,” then both show and host should retire now, preferably to that rock. Noah’s challenge was to bring out the knives, then throw them — and hit the target, in this case, Donald Trump. Trump — bluntly speaking — is a funnier figure than Hillary Clinton, and a much easier target. (That hair, those pronouncements ...) Miss this target and you really shouldn’t have a job as late-night host.
On this note, his Wednesday program was possibly his most effective to date at the conventions — and these have been a good two weeks. It was all you could ask or want of a “TDS” host — sharp lines, anger, passion and a cherry on top (a Stewartesque screed on the dangers of voting for Trump).
The heart of the show was an eight-minute stretch that mined Trump’s early-in-the-day news conference Wednesday where he made the request — serious or not, you be the judge — that the Russians find the 30,000 “deleted Clinton emails.”
“For a guy claiming to want to bring jobs to America,” said Noah, “he’s sure outsourcing them really quickly.”
There was a riff — courtesy of a series of Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort clips — on the word “absurd,” which he noted doesn’t really mean “untrue,” but just ridiculous. “He’s just acknowledging,” said Noah, ‘that all of this is [expletive] crazy.”
There was a clever on-screen bumper — “Dancing with the Tsars” — marred only by the fact that, well, the tsars haven’t been with us for a hundred years.
There was a smart line on Trump’s off-the-cuff flip-flop on whether China or Russia was behind the email leaks.
Noah: His “foreign policy is like a game of ‘clue’?! It’s China in the library with a computer?!”
Funniest riff: He pulled up the Trump clip suggesting a China hack, then another Trump clip saying “I heard earlier today” it may have been China ...
Noah: “YOU WERE THE ONE WHO SAID IT! You can’t cite yourself as a source ...”
Keep an eye on this new guy. There’s a bright future here.