With George Clooney, Stephen Colbert Demonstrates a Gloves-Off Approach

Stephen Colbert is no longer in the business of undermining. Now he's asking questions for real.

Stephen Colbert’s Late Show premier last night has received generally favorable reviews — and for good reason. It went over like most pilot’s do, slightly soft and safe, still finding its footing, but then came the interview with George Clooney.

Stephen was far more congenial than his previous persona, but beneath his genuine nice guy face was a ripple of his trademark subversion: He broke the cardinal Hollywood/ Talk Show rule and pulled the curtain up to tell the audience that he and George Clooney don’t actually know each other.

Most non-Hollywood people probably assumed they knew each other. After all, they travel in the same circles, and there was this tweet from Stephen:

Clooney even said he has no movie to promote. Doesn’t that signify they must be personal friends? But then Stephen gave him a wedding present — a paperweight that said “I Don’t Know You” — and told Clooney he could feel free to give it to the next celebrity he pretends to know but actually doesn’t.

The whole shtick was less squirmy-uncomfortable than some of his interviews on The Colbert Report, where it seemed like the interviewee was not in on the joke or didn’t know how to handle him. But with one simple gesture, Stephen showed his cards: He won’t coddle celebrities or buddy up to them in manufactured ways like some of his late-night peers. Stephen Colbert might be gone, but Stephen Colbert is following his former mentor’s advice and still slyly blasting through bullshit.

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