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Whenever Stephen Colbert left The Daily Show to bring his satirically conservative side to prominence on The Colbert Report, it was a relatively different approach to the late night talk show, so there weren’t a whole lot of places he could look to for advice. But in taking the reins of The Late Show, he had one of late night’s greatest minds to pick for guidance: David Letterman. And what was Letterman’s advice? Location, location, location…of the desk.
During this year’s TCA press event, Stephen Colbert took the stage and gave audiences insight into everything from his own past to what he hopes for Donald Trump’s future. He then brought up a conversation he had with Letterman ten days before the host’s Late Show tenure was complete, in which Colbert peppered his predecessor with questions for an hour or so, at one point asking what Letterman would have done differently in his 30+ years in the Ed Sullivan Theater. And apparently one of Letterman’s regrets over the years was not originally putting his desk on the opposite side of the stage. Not exactly what one would expect.
So what did Colbert do with such a seemingly random comment? He took it to heart and immediately called his set designer after that conversation and had him change the set design, with the desk’s new location in the spot that Letterman wished his had been. That’s a smart guy. But was he simply following good advice, or was he trying to deliberately do something to make Letterman jealous, a feat that not many people can boast about? I have a feeling that Colbert the person was genuinely taking direction, while “Colbert” the character would rub it in Letterman’s face. All in good fun, of course.
Letterman also gave Colbert some advice on operating the elevator that the hosts use to reach the stage, telling him how to get the door open so that the elevator would be there and waiting. Colbert said it “felt like a guy teaching you how to use the tool before he leaves.” It doesn’t seem like lot of key knowledge on guiding interviews was shared, since that’s something that Colbert has been doing for years, with a strange level of efficiency that pre-written interviews can’t possibly offer.
And it appears like Letterman didn’t bat an eye at any of the questions his replacement was asking. Here’s how Colbert put it, according to Variety.
I asked him, ‘Do you mind me asking you these questions?’ He said, ‘No. Nobody ever asked me these questions before.’ It was a very gracious way for him to say that only the person sitting in that chair would care about the answers.
Letterman was a class act from beginning to end, even if he was also a class clown for part of that time, and here’s hoping Colbert can fill that void properly. We’ll find out when he sits down with first guests George Clooney and Jeb Bush (and musical guest Kendrick Lamar) when The Late Show with Stephen Colbert premieres on Tuesday, September 8 on CBS.