Expectations were high when The Late Show with Stephen Colbert debuted this past Tuesday. Television critics and audiences alike wondered what kind of Colbert we would see. His first show featured George Clooney and Jeb Bush and seemed to show that this new iteration of The Late Show would be a compelling mix of celebrity interview and political insight. It was a strong first show, full of Colbert's infectious spirit and quirky comedy, but I think his interview with Joe Biden signals that we finally have a late-night show that's not just about laughs. Colbert is willing to be vulnerable, to talk about pain, and to give his guests a level of comfort that leads to emotionally revealing moments.
In an all-too-artificial television world, Colbert facilitated an unforgettable moment of authentic connection. For a few minutes, we didn't see Stephen Colbert the tv host and Joe Biden the politician going through the motions of an interview. Instead, we witnessed two men engaging in a difficult but important conversation about loss, grief, and faith.
In Anton Chekhov's short story "Misery," a father desperately searches for someone he can talk to about the recent death of his son. The story speaks to a very human need to share our grief with other people, to talk about the dead, and to have another person truly listen to us and express sympathy for what we are going through. Joe Biden's interview with Colbert serves a similar function: to publicly express one's grief and to let others know they are not alone in their bereavement. We need more conversations about loss and a greater willingness to allow people to openly express grief and sorrow. Instead of shying away from emotion, Stephen Colbert delved into it, even welcomed it and, in the process, he set himself apart as a comedian who possesses profound depth and compassion, who can make us laugh but can also make us feel.
You can watch the interview below: