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Bill Carter: Stephen Colbert Needs Conservative Viewers To Succeed In Network Late Night

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Stephen Colbert needs to make nice with some of the conservatives he's made a career out of satirizing if he wants to succeed on CBS, according to veteran television reporter Bill Carter.

Carter, who has written extensively about the late-night comedy landscape, spoke with HuffPost Live's Josh Zepps on Tuesday about the end of "The Colbert Report" and its host's transition to taking over David Letterman's "Late Show."

"You have to be broader on a network late night show, and one of the things you have to do is play to the middle of the country," Carter said.

That means Colbert can no longer be content targeting liberal viewers in New York and Los Angeles, Carter explained.

"Colbert has alienated some conservative viewers, clearly, by the way he's mocked them, and he's going to have to smooth that out. He can't cut off part of the audience," Carter said. "I think the guy is super bright, and he's going to understand all of this. I think his approach will be, 'Yeah, that was my former persona, and this is now a different guy,' and he'll present himself differently."

Colbert's debut in the 11:30 p.m. time slot will make the network ratings race "super competitive," but even with Colbert's possible issues with conservatives, Jimmy Kimmel may be the host with the most ground to make up, Carter said:

Initially -- and I know Jimmy Kimmel feels this way, because I've spoken to him about it -- it's going to be tough for him, because Fallon is winning right now and getting a lot of buzz, et cetera. Colbert will have a honeymoon of some kind, so people will want to see what he does. So in the initial portion of the time, at least, I think it's going to be harder for Kimmel, although he's got, I think, a solid core audience now, but it's going to be a little difficult for him.

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Before You Go

1
He is a Super PAC and so can we.

If there was any confusion about what the Citizen's United ruling and unlimited private donations meant to our election system, there certainly wasn't after Colbert was through mucking about with them. The host created a very real PAC, followed by a Super PAC during the 2012 campaign season, and with a little help from Jon Stewart, educated Americans on exactly how much he could bend the rules every night.
2
He pledged Jimmy Fallon's money to charity.
After auctioning off a portrait of himself for $26,000, Colbert went on his show and announced that Jimmy Fallon had agreed to match those funds. Only problem was, he never told Jimmy he was going to do that. As Fallon explained in an interview with our own Arianna, "Literally he did not call me or ask me or consult with me and see if I would ever match $26,000 to a charity." We guess Colbert just KNEW his BFF for six months would come through.
3
He gave the most daring WHCD speech ever.

It might not have gone over well in the room, but Colbert's daring in-character take down of George W. Bush stands as one of the most epic comedic monologues of all time.
4
He also testified in character before the House.
A lot of people weren't amused by Colbert's in-character testimony before a House hearing on undocumented farm workers, but his appearance shed critical light on an issue that most people don't understand, while also mocking that misunderstanding at its source.
5
He shaved his head for the troops.

In June of 2009, Colbert took the "Report" to Iraq and taped four shows for soldiers at Camp Victory. During the first taping, he submitted to a military-style haircut, ordered by President Obama himself.
6
He ran for President Of The United States Of South Carolina.
Colbert heightened the absurdity of forming his own Super PAC by deciding to "explore" running for President Of The United States Of South Carolina. But before he could enter the election, he was legally required to hand over the reigns of his Super PAC to a trusted source, i.e. Jon Stewart.
7
He trolls uptight British people.

Colbert's was the only Royal Wedding coverage we cared about.
8
He copes with rejection like a boss.
After Daft Punk cancelled their appearance on "The Colbert Report" the day before the taping, Colbert took the high road and mercilessly mocked them, MTV and Viacom. He also revealed the reason: that Daft Punk was to be a surprise performer at the VMA's in September. So... SURPRISE!
9
He gave us the best Maurice Sendak interview.

Watch part two here.
10
He tells it like it is no matter where he is.

Take that, Babylon.
11
He makes the most of every 'sponsortunity.'
It is a brave marketing director who gives Stephen Colbert money for a branded segment. In this Wheat Thins episode, Colbert read an actual memo sent to him by the company, explaining Wheat Thins' role in all of our lives.
12
He takes second billing to NO ONE.

Colbert supersized his show for Sir Paul McCartney, giving his 150-person audience a mini concert with the Beatles legend. Nevertheless, when it came time for the interview, Colbert still took center stage, as per usual.
13
He tells the important stories.

Colbert's segment about Mayor Johnny Cumming's of Vicco, Ky. took the internet by storm and for good reason: it was hilarious, heartfelt and deeply touching.

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