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3 Late Night Hotties:
Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah
& Neil Patrick Harris


By Gerri Miller


Meet the new stars of late night talk and prime time variety! It takes talent, confidence, and chutzpah to take over the reins of a long running talk show from an iconic host with legions of fans, but Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah are taking on the challenge, and so is Neil Patrick Harris, who’s making the daunting attempt to revive the non-competition variety show in prime time. As they prepared for their debuts this month, the trio talked about their new gigs and what viewers can expect.


STEPHEN COLBERT
Stephen Colbert
He’s a familiar face in late night TV, having parlayed a faux correspondent gig on The Daily Show into nine years on the spinoff Colbert Report. But when Stephen Colbert takes over The Late Show on CBS Sept. 8, he’ll shed his caricature of a newsman character and appear as himself for the first time, a prospect that’s both liberating and slightly scary.

“If you are not a little nervous, you are probably not trying hard enough. But at this point, I'm anxious to get on the air,” Colbert said, relieved to be able to shed his put-on persona and converse with guests “without regard to having to translate it through an idiot's mouth. If that leads to some serious conversations, I'd be very happy.”

The Late ShowGeorge Clooney and rapper Kendrick Lamar are booked for the first show, and in this election season, Colbert looks forward to interviewing politicians. “I want to do jokes on Donald Trump so badly, and I have no venue,” Colbert said with frustration. Of course, he’d love to coax his predecessor to come on. “It would be a real honor” to have David Letterman as a guest, he said, fondly remembering tuning in to Dave’s NBC show as a college freshman back in 1982.

Ten days before he retired, Letterman met with Colbert, answering questions about the job that only he could answer. “I had a chance to tell him how grateful I was for his example and for all of the comedy, for what he did for comedians of my generation. I was able to thank him for a few bits that I stole from him, his not bowing to authority and not thinking that anybody is too good to make fun of, including himself, and that's a tremendous gift to give to a younger generation of comedians,” Colbert said.

Describing himself as an improvisational actor, Colbert started his career in Chicago’s Second City troupe. “I love writing, producing, telling jokes. But my favorite thing is doing interviews because you don't know what's going to happen. Sometimes the people you don't expect to impress you can be your best guests.”

He’s not worried about vying for guest or viewers in the crowded late night TV landscape. “I didn't play a lot of sports when I was younger, so maybe I missed the competitive gene. I got picked last for dodge ball. So competition is not that fun to me. We are competing with ourselves to have fun on the show,” he added.

While The Late Show will remain at the Ed Sullivan Theater, the set will look entirely different. “You’ll probably recognize the stonework on the proscenium that used to be behind Dave on the left, but the theater has been completely gutted, taken back to its 1927 beautiful state. You couldn’t tell it was a theater before, but now you can,” said Colbert , still awed by the opportunity that he’s been given to follow in Letterman’s footsteps.

“I have my own hopes for the kind of show that I want to do, but I won't know until I'm on my wave, you know. All I can feel right now is the swell behind me, and I'm paddling as fast as I can.”


The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert premieres Sept. 8 at 11:35 ET/PT on CBS



TREVOR NOAH
Trevor Noah
Five months before Jon Stewart retired in August, after 16 years behind the desk satirizing the news and politics on The Daily Show, he named his successor: South African comedian Trevor Noah, a regular on-air contributor to the Comedy Central program. As his Sept. 28 debut approaches, Noah is feeling the pressure, specifically, “living up to the expectations that Jon has of me, to live up to that legacy, to keep the flagship going. He laid the groundwork and I’m proud and honored to be a part of it and carry on that journey,” he said.

“I understand there will be comparisons,” he continued. “My intention is to start something off the way he did at the same age many years ago, to try and get something going. Luckily, I have a foundation that has been set up by a wonderfully smart and funny man.”

Trevor Noah and Jon StewartWith writing staff and on-camera contributors carrying over, “We’re keeping the core of what the show is,” Noah said. “Things will change a little bit but we’re not going for a major overhaul. We’ll be covering the elections, obviously that will be part of it. As someone who can’t vote, I have no horse in the race, which opens it up to an interesting point of view. It’s just a different angle that we are looking at things from--my angle--but the show still has its voice. I'm at the helm taking things in a slightly different direction but still trying to get to the same end place.”

Noah, 31, grew up in the slums of Soweto, the son of a black South African woman and a white European father, and brings the perspective of a mixed race man who witnessed violence both in his home and neighborhood. “But because I'm living in America, I'm affected by the same stories. It's just my point of view that may be different. I’m mixed, not just in my blood, but in my life. So the way I see things is from both sides.”

Encouraged to try standup by a friend at 22, he’s been performing around the world ever since, and is not afraid to mine touchy themes like racism and police brutality for comedy. He’s also an excellent mimic. “I speak seven languages. I have an affinity for picking up accents and languages,” said Noah, who is cutting back on his standup gigs to focus on The Daily Show.

But despite its broadcast news milieu, Noah emphasizes that The Daily Show will continue to put the laughs first. “I'm not in the news business. I'm in the comedy business,” he reminds. “The most important thing Jon Stewart left with me is that we are in the comedy business.”

he Daily Show With Trevor Noah

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah premieres Sept. 28 at 11 PM on Comedy Central



NEIL PATRICK HARRIS
Neil Patrick Harris 
When he was in elementary school in New Mexico a few years before he became teen doc Doogie Howser, M.D., Neil Patrick Harris learned to play many instruments- the oboe, bassoon, French horn, xylophone and cymbals. The same versatility characterizes his acting career, which spans a varied comedy and drama spectrum of movie, TV and stage roles including How I Met Your Mother, Gone Girl, American Horror Story and the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which earned him a Tony Award.

But it’s his rare ability to effortlessly host award shows like the Tonys (four times), the Emmys (twice) and the Academy Awards last year, that make him uniquely qualified to emcee Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris, a live variety show that will test his multitasking skills and his ability to think fast on his feet.

Neil Patrick Harris “It’s a new structure and a new idea for a show, and a little bit difficult to explain in many ways,” said Harris of the NBC series, which is based on the British hit Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and will run on eight consecutive Tuesdays beginning Sept. 15.

The myriad segments will include musical, magic, and circus-type acts, stunt competitions, celebrity announcers (like Reese Witherspoon in the premiere), sing-alongs, a seven-year-old ‘Mini Me’ version of Harris, a big finale, and lots of interactivity, giving both the live audience at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, N.Y. and viewers at home a chance to participate and win prizes. In secret set-ups, hidden cameras follow unsuspecting people who will be surprised on live TV. There will also be taped segments, like the prank Harris pulled on The Voice’s judges, showing up on their set for an interview disguised as an Austrian journalist.

“I really do think it will be fun and, I'm hoping, a little bit gamechanging,” said Harris. “But I also didn't anticipate how much work went into the production of it.” With so many elements, “It's essentially producing six or seven shows simultaneously.”

No wonder he didn’t want to commit to more than eight shows, but if Best Time Ever is successful, he’ll do a second season next year. “It was important for me to be able to do it as a chunk and then step back. Also, it’s more of an event that way,” he said. Not doing a full season also allows him more family time with husband David Burtka and their twins, who turn five next month.

While Harris hesitates to sign on for another TV series or a Broadway show right now, he would love to host the Oscars again if he’s asked, and he’d also like to try his hand at directing. He also plays a small part in the comedy Downsizing, a Christmas release. “I’m very grateful that I get to continue to work on random things that I think are fun, and I’ve gotten to do that in very bizarre, disparate ways,” he said. “I’m very fortunate.”


Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris

Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris premieres Sept. 15 at 10 PM ET/PT on NBC




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