Stephen Colbert made a “big announcement” Wednesday night about his alter ego “Stephen Colbert.”
Last week, during the Republican National Convention, the conservative pundit character made his first public appearance since saying goodbye to the world on the finale of The Colbert Report more than a year ago. But while Stephen Colbert said he really “enjoyed” the return of his old friend, he added, “You know who didn’t enjoy it so much? Corporate lawyers.”
“Because, and this is true, immediately after that show, CBS’s top lawyer was contacted by the top lawyer from another company to say that the character ‘Stephen Colbert’ is their intellectual property, which is surprising, because I never considered that guy much of an intellectual.” He didn’t need to say the name of that corporation: Comedy Central parent company Viacom.
“So it is with a heavy heart that I announce that, thanks to corporate lawyers, the character of ‘Stephen Colbert,’ host of The Colbert Report, will never be seen again,” he said to groans from the crowd.
But he wasn’t finished. “What can I do?” he asked. “The lawyers have spoken. I cannot reasonably argue I own my face or name.” So with that, he introduced, live via satellite from Philadelphia, “Stephen Colbert’s identical twin cousin, Stephen Colbert.’”
After clarifying that he was not the same guy who had a television show for a decade, “Stephen Colbert” accepted his new role as a “permanent part” of the Late Show team, which means we’ll be seeing more of him in the future—whether Viacom likes it or not.
In a further slap in the face to his former bosses, the real Colbert then introduced a new segment on his show called not “The Word” but instead, “The Werd.” Tonight’s topic was “The Lesser of Two Evils,” in which the host used his classic format to examine the historically low approval ratings of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Colbert likely thought he was done feuding with Viacom after leaving his Comedy Central show. Most notably, the company, which also owns MTV, once blocked him from hosting the band Daft Punk on his show because they were scheduled to make an “exclusive” appearance on the VMAs later that month.
That legal fight was suspected of being a publicity stunt—and perhaps this is, too, given The Late Show’s lagging ratings. But if it means the “permanent” return of “Stephen Colbert” and a host that is willing to take the types of risks he took on his Comedy Central show, it can only be a good thing.