The thought of a Trump presidency was considered to be pretty laughable by most media outlets, chief among them, The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert. But now that Trump is president, it seems Colbert is getting the last laugh — and more of them, especially compared to fellow nighttime host, Jimmy Fallon.
When Trump won the election, perhaps no one was more surprised than Stephen Colbert, who was forced to think on his feet during his live election special. Hillary Clinton had long-since been predicted to be the winner, but as the events of the night unfolded, the special took on a much different energy. What started off as a humorous celebration turned into something much darker.
While The New York Times admitted that “no entertainer could have managed this task easily,” the special was “very uncomfortable” and “had a nervous energy that made it compelling, surreal, and sometimes difficult to watch as it unfolded.”
But in spite of the surprising outcome of the election, Colbert has managed to turn things around and make lemons into lemonade.
For the last seven weeks, The Late Show has been crushing the competition on terms of ratings. Colbert has managed to beat out The Tonight Show, hosted by Jimmy Fallon. Fallon was criticized for being too soft on Trump in an interview back in September, choosing to shy away from the tough questions and instead opted for a now-infamous hair tousle.
Colbert, on the other hand, has had no kind words for the Donald on his show — and he’s been rewarded with through-the-roof ratings. Now, he’s got his eye on Fallon’s younger demographic.
Page Six reports that Colbert wants to grab hold of Fallon’s target audience, which is generally individuals aged 18 to 49. While Colbert’s Late Show is the most-watched late night program as of now, those high numbers aren’t coming from this demographic, which happens to be the most important one for most advertisers. Younger folks are still tuning in to The Tonight Show to see Fallon’s hipper guests and games, rather than Colbert’s commentary on current events.
Sources have said that Colbert has brought back his beloved “Colbert Report” character in an attempt to capture these younger viewers. But Fallon’s camp doesn’t seem to be too worried about their ratings dip.
According to Page Six, the team over at The Tonight Show is waiting for the unavoidable Trump fatigue to take hold. It’s their guess that Colbert won’t be able to keep his streak going after that happens.
They’re also quick to point out that Fallon was on vacation for one of those seven weeks that Colbert took the ratings lead. Although U.S. residents logged some 1.7 billion leisure trips in 2015, most getaways don’t carry that kind of weight. Furthermore, the Fallon camp has yet to explain the show’s lower ratings for the remaining six weeks in Colbert’s streak.
Colbert is just one of several late-night hosts who are experiencing a Trump-related boon. With the threat of fake news around every corner, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver have benefited from the highly political climate across the nation, viewed as reputable (if left-skewing) sources of information.
But whether the promise of accurate reporting will draw bigger and younger audiences than A-list guests and silliness remains to be seen.