Since Stephen Colbert took over the Late Show, some fans—including Slate’s Justin Peters—have lamented the loss of “Colbert”’s faux-blowhard interviewing style. “The combination of keen questions filtered through a deliberately fatuous persona often had the effect of throwing his guests off their scripts and eliciting unexpected responses and reactions,” Peters wrote earlier this month, explaining the magic of Colbert Report interviews.
Now, in a wide-ranging interview with Slate’s John Dickerson on Face the Nation, Colbert has broken down exactly how he approaches interviews on the Late Show, and how his style is different from the Report. “For so many years, I pretended to be an advocate for a side, and as such I always had to take sides,” Colbert says. He goes on:
It would be lovely if we all could have a conversation that does not involve demonizing the other side. I think that’s worth doing. I don’t know if it’s my job, but I would say that that’s certainly an objective of mine. I tried to be respectful to Donald Trump, the first thing I did was apologize to him. I didn’t let my audience get mad at Ted Cruz or boo him. I wanted Kasich to have a good time. I hope all the candidates will come on.
As for the difference between his old interviewing style and his new interviewing style, Colbert says that on the Colbert Report, he followed “the Joe Scarborough rule”: “If someone on your show talks for more than seven seconds, you’ve lost control of your show.” Now, approach to questioning guests is “based more on curiosity.” Instead of vilifying his guests and tightly controlling the conversation, “I lay back and just see what they’ll say.” The exchange about “Stephen Colbert” vs. Stephen Colbert begins around 6:55 in the video above and is worth watching in full, as Colbert speaks thoughtfully, openly, and articulately about his process (and not for the first time).