CBS explains why they picked Colbert, confirms dropping conservative character

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Why Stephen Colbert? CBS’ Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler spoke to EW.com about choosing the Comedy Central host to replace retiring Late Show icon David Letterman.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why Colbert?
Nina Tassler
: He just is head and tails above everybody else and Dave is a very big seat to fill. We’re huge fans, he’s inspired and talented for all the obvious reasons.

I’ve heard you’ve had at least hypothetical conversations for awhile now running up to Letterman’s announcement. How long has this deal been in the works?
Tassler: During the last year of the extension we knew at some point Dave was going to retire. We’ve been planning. Obviously the world changed the day after his announcement. We pulled together our resources and put everything in motion.

What does this mean for Craig Ferguson?
Tassler: We’re big fans of Craig. We had an 11:30 issue. That was our first order of business.

Saying it’s the first order of business seems to suggest there’s a second order of business.
Tassler: Obviously, as much as we knew that this day would come with Dave, Craig is here and doing his show at 12:30 and we love having him there.

We’ve been hearing that Colbert will drop his conservative Colbert Report character, is that correct?
Tassler: Correct.

While he’s been doing a talk show for years, he’s been doing it in character. Was there any concern about how he will come across as himself, since that’s pretty untested?
Tassler: He’s done some limited speaking engagements [as himself]. When you really have such admiration for somebody’s talent, intelligence, and satiric ability, you know there’s a gifted performer there. Dave’s shoes are very big to fill, and we believe Stephen will honor Dave’s legacy in terms of his ability and intellect.

Many have urged CBS to pick a woman or person of color, to break up the white-male late-night broadcast club. What was your reaction to that?
Tassler: We talked about everybody. There were a lot of names that came up. All of that was taken into consideration. But his name just stood out above everybody else.

Will certain Late Show tropes like the Top 10 list carry over?
Tassler: Right now we don’t know. But we know the Late Show title will stay.

Colbert is pretty liberal politically, some conservatives don’t like him. Was that a concern?
Tassler: We didn’t have concerns. We were most excited about his talent to be creative and innovative, and now he’s going to work on his idea of what his show will look like.

Anything you would care to add?
Tassler: It’s exciting to be a part of a landmark decision here at CBS. We’re grateful for Dave’s graciousness. He was a part of this decision. We’re extremely thankful to him.

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