Decades before he was the “Stephen Colbert” that you’ve come to know and love on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert had the opportunity to intern for David Letterman on his Late Night staff at NBC in 1986. Colbert turned it down.
Eleven years later, in 1997, Colbert and comedy partner Paul Dinello submitted a writing packet to work for Letterman on his Late Show on CBS. By the time Colbert ever heard back from the show, he and Dinello had moved on to work with their friend/colleague Amy Sedaris on Strangers with Candy. Letterman’s Worldwide Pants would go on to produce the Strangers with Candy feature film in 2006.
And now, here in 2014, Colbert sat down with Letterman as his heir to host the Late Show sometime in 2015.
And take a selfie.
“He just dropped by to sign the lease,” Letterman joked in his monologue on Tuesday, noting that Colbert would take over the show next year, “pending the physical.”
For his part, Colbert said he turned down the internship with Dave back in 1986 because it was unpaid. “The next job I’m taking here, that pays?” he quipped.
Colbert jokingly suggested doing everything Letterman did — thereby going to the other extreme for fans of the fake “Stephen Colbert” character that he’d not only drop that but pick up an entirely new alter-ego. Alas, this Colbert is quite sincere. As he told Letterman: “I don’t know why you do comedy, but it’s not because everything’s all right up here, for me. It’s not a normal thing to do with your life. … It’s more dangerous than bungee jumping, deciding to do this for a living. I don’t have the constitution for hardcore alcoholism, so I have to tell jokes all the time or I go a little insane. I had last week off and it didn’t go well.”
As for that writing packet submission from 1997, Colbert offered up a taste allegedly straight from the packet, with his and Dinello’s Top Ten Cocktails For Santa (because it was Christmastime when they submitted?). Even Colbert acknowledged he wasn’t surprised to have been passed over back then.