Brandon Wetherbee is the host of the You, Me, Them, Everybody talk show. He’ll be hosting 8×8 at Black Cat Backstage on Saturday, November 14 with performances from Jack on Fire, Alyssa Cowan, Jamel Johnson, Christine Ferrera, Natalie McGill, Jessy Morner-Ritt, Motherknuckle and more.
Last night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert featured an interview with David Letterman’s white whale, Oprah Winfrey. The talk show trailblazer and television network maven went on the program to promote her upcoming series Belief.
There were two interview segments with Oprah that did not shy away from god. One part of a segment featured Oprah and Stephen trading their favorite Bible verses.
A few years ago, Oprah would not appear on The Late Show. After Letterman’s Uma-Oprah bit at the 1995 Academy Awards, Ms. Winfrey did not appear on the CBS late night vehicle for 10 years. They finally made up completely in 2013. Two years later, Oprah appeared on The Late Show with a new host talking about god.
Even if you’ve never enjoyed Oprah or Letterman, that clip is worth watching. If you’re a devout religious person or atheist, the other clip is worth watching. All three people are excellent at their job.
Who is this for? Adult conversation on late night does not appeal to the sacred 18-34 demographic. It may also turn off the 35-49-year-olds that are too tired to consider religion after work. Colbert’s core is made up of people who are most likely cynical of politicians that grew to love him as host of a fake conservative talking head show. In other words, Colbert does not have a religious base. Oprah’s fan base is my mom and your mom and other moms. Why watch Oprah on CBS when you can watch Oprah on OWN?
This isn’t for me but I’m enjoying it. I’m not a religious person but you don’t need to be a religious person to listen to intelligent people converse about faith. I can not imagine Letterman or Leno having this conversation with Oprah on their late night shows. Oprah appeared on both. I can’t imagine this conversation on Fallon or Kimmel. She’s also appeared on both of those shows. When it comes to Oprah and late night, it’s all about her giving away cars. Talk show hosts love gifts.
This is far from the first time two people had a serious dialogue about belief and faith on late night. In 2009 Craig Ferguson devoted his show to an hour long sit down (it’s really more like 30 minutes due to the monologue and commercials) with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The show opens with the host talking about Oprah’s show with Nelson Mandela. It proceeds to mock The Jonas Brothers (remember, it’s from 2009) and their purity. There’s a dick joke. Then there’s a dad joke. Then there are jokes about apartheid.
The interview between Ferguson and Tutu covers heavy subjects. There’s talk of refugees, death, violence, squalor, rape, how long it takes to burn a human body, the worst horrors imaginable. There are laughs throughout. Even when talking about atrocities there’s a reason to crack wise. It’s possible to have real conversation in a comedy show format. It’s possible to enjoy a talk about god and politics without having the same god and politics as the speakers. It’s possible but extremely rare to learn about the other side of the world between commercial breaks.
The March 4, 2009 episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson won a Peabody Award. It’s arguably the best thing Ferguson has ever done. It’s unlikely that the October 15, 2015 episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will win a Peabody Award. It was a perfectly fine episode (the segment following Oprah featured a cameo by Jon Stewart) but it’s not as transcending as Ferguson and Tutu.
The question of this column is does god belong in late night? The answer is yes. Everything belongs in late night. Nothing should be off limits, be it sacred or profane. I don’t know who this is for, but that’s OK. Not everything needs a target audience.