Now, I haven't caught much of his show since he's taken over the 11:30 CBS spot. I watched and enjoyed his Comedy Central show when I lived in the Central Time Zone, though I did have my issues with it. But I have followed the news and ratings, and Colbert's apparent decision to make his show more overtly political in response to Trump.
I think this is a terrible idea.
To see why, let's look at Colbert's segment at halftime of today's Big 10 Championship Game on the occasion of Colbert's Northwestern Wildcats imminent first ever selection to the NCAA tournament.
Bear in mind that Colbert was addressing a different audience from his usual fans, and had an opportunity to win them over:
On #SelectionSunday Northwestern alum @StephenAtHome weighs in on @NUMensBball’s momentous season pic.twitter.com/CAbcwC7FFn— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 12, 2017
The Trump/political bits are easily the least funny parts of it. Those who enjoyed them aren't laughing at good jokes, but rejoicing in seeing their own views mirrored by a fancy celebrity. "It's the year of the underdog ... including reality TV show hosts!" Really? March Madness won't be covered by health insurance next year? Is there even a joke there? Or are we just supposed to howl in recognition that health care will obviously be worse next year once the Republicans are done with it.
He's better than this.
But the problem is that Colbert (and his staff) receive tremendous amounts of positive feedback for this kind of thing, likely from people they like and respect. The temptation to just keep pounding out the anti-Trump stuff must be enormous.
But it's a temptation I think he and his cohorts would do well to resist. It doesn't make for particularly good comedy, and I don't think it's particularly good commentary either. If the Republicans really are ruining health care for millions of people, we shouldn't be chuckling about it not covering "March Madness;" we should be doing everything we can to prevent it.
I think Jimmy Kimmel is on the right track with Trump-free Tuesday -- if only force his writers to push themselves past the easy high of an anti-Trump hit.
Comedians like Colbert will have an important role to play in how we respond to Trump. They need to do so with care in order to be effective.