By Leslie Hamilton, Features Writer
Stephen Colbert, after a 1,447 episode run with The Colbert Report, has officially retired his character as Stephen Colbert with the season premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as of September 8, 2015. He announced his retirement December 18th, 2014 on the show’s season finale. Like any fan and supporter of the Colbert Nation, it was a bittersweet goodbye as his character has provided much laughter for viewing audiences.
For those that not familiar with the TV program, The Colbert Report was a spin-off of his already established character as Stephen Colbert on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Though the sharing the same name and body, Stephen Colbert and Stephen Colbert are two different personas. First there’s Stephen Colbert: actor, comedian, news broadcast satirist, husband and father. And then there’s Stephen Colbert: all-knowing and self-righteous news anchor with arctophobia (fear of bears) and former bid candidate on the Democratic presidential ballot in 2008. Stephen Colbert’s character was originally the senior correspondent on The Daily Show who conducted interviews and reports in the aim of destructing a point of view, but only managed to bring out his own ignorance in the process. His character further developed with the first airing of The Colbert Report and followed the same general format of interview and reporting. Unlike The Daily Show, The Colbert Report focused less on daily news and more so on commentaries and opinions of Colbert’s right-winged TV persona. The show aired from October 17, 2005 to December 18, 2014, having filmed 10 seasons in its nine years of success.
Stephen Colbert did not limit his TV persona to television, he often made public appearances in character or used his character’s fame for the greater good. For example, when his TV persona announced his presidential ticket, he asked viewers to vote by donating money to Donorschoose.org, which is an online charity that helps support classrooms in need. In South Carolina alone, his following raised $68,000 in donations, benefiting over 14,000 students. He later asked the same of the followers of the presidential candidates in 2008, raising over $185,000 for public schools in Pennsylvania. This only goes to show the kind of reach that Stephen Colbert and his TV persona have.
Though Stephen Colbert’s TV persona may be “dead,” can we really say that he will be forgotten? It’s hard to say, but it would be hard to forget his genius, especially with the kind of following (dubbed the Colbert Nation) that the show has accumulated over the years. With the help of the internet, TiVo and online streaming services – such as Hulu and Amazon Instant Video – his legacy as a political and news satirist has definitively been immortalized and is accessible to its subscribers; it’s a matter of memory and utilizing media at this point. Additionally, the mere title of his final episode (“We’ll Meet Again”) suggests that Colbert may return as Stephen Colbert at some point in the future or was just a reference to his taking over of The Late Show as himself. Nonetheless, Stephen Colbert himself will not be forgotten considering his recent acquisition and the positive ratings and reviews that the season premiere has received and we can only hope that his original TV persona will live on in spirit.