"Daily Show" host Trevor Noah flips the script and interviews Colbert in an insightful and delightful chat from J.Lo to Trump and back again.
There's something magical when two intelligent, funny people just sit there and talk about the things that interest them, and that's what we got when Trevor Noah stole Stephen Colbert's seat on "The Late Show" to interview him.
It wasn't the first time Colbert had been booted from behind his desk by a "Daily Show" host; Jon Stewart's done it as well.
And yet, the dynamic here was different. Noah doesn't have the long history with Colbert that Stewart does, and clearly Colbert is someone he looks up to in this field.
In a free-ranging conversation that lasted more than ten minutes, the two late-night hosts talked about everything from Donald Trump to Jennifer Lopez, early (terrible) reviews for their shows and even what they do to cut loose and relax. Hint: Trevor Noah is 34 years old and single and does a lot. Stephen Colbert is 54 with three kids at home.
The entire chat was utterly transfixing, charming, funny and delightful in a way that few talk show conversations are. And that may be because Colbert knows what kind of a guest he wants to have and he was absolutely that guest for Noah ... on his own show.
Colbert was forthcoming, honest and totally transparent. It helped that Noah was asking questions that alternated between fun and probing. At one point they were joking about the mug Colbert was drinking out of and Noah suggested that it held the germs of all of Colbert's past guests, including J.Lo.
"I've never had J.Lo. She's never been on here," Colbert admitted, to which Noah was shocked. "I wouldn't joke about that, Trevor. Have you had J.Lo on your show?"
"F--k you," Colbert said instantly, followed by the lie, "That doesn't bother me at all." This would come up again in the conversation when Colbert got in a good burn on "The Daily Show" host.
And Noah didn't try to sugarcoat his questions, like when he wanted to know about Colbert's early days on CBS after he'd left behind the Conservative pundit parody version of himself on "The Colbert Report" to helm "The Late Show" as his true self.
The reviews were very bad, as Noah insisted to Colbert's resistance.
"I remember they were that harsh because they were similar to my reviews," Noah admitted. Like Colbert replacing David Letterman, Noah had the unenviable task of replacing Jon Stewart. Both were shoes that would prove way too big to fill in the early going.
"Was there ever a moment where you had doubt?" Noah asked Colbert.
"I thought that this was one of the most agonizing things I'd ever done. I thought about that," Colbert said. "I never thought about stopping.
But he did worry about what it would mean to fail on "The Late Show." "I worried that I had taken something beautiful, which was sort of this nine-and-a-half-year version of that character," he said of "The Colbert Report."
"I thought, I could have just walked away from that and kind of had ... a perfect kind of beginning-middle-and-end creation, and that now I'd put myself in a situation of enormous vulnerability where transparently I did not have an understanding of what I was doing and that worried me that that would be my legacy and not the legacy of the old show."
Luckily for Colbert, things turned around as he found his footing in late-night and even supplanted Jimmy Fallon atop the nightly and weekly ratings. Noah asked about the first time that happened. "The only thing is that we bought everybody on the staff pizza," he laughed.
But apparently it was exactly the right thing to do, as Noah agreed that never does his own staff appreciate him more than on pizza day.
"Doing a late-night show is a lot like moving into a new apartment. It can be brutal, grunt work to get the thing up every day and what do you give your friends when they help you move?" Colbert asked. Pizza is apparently the perfect answer for what can sometimes feel like thankless work.
One of the things that has helped both men secure their place in late-night and find their respective voices is their reactions to the Trump Administration, which came along at just the right time. As both men have been known to go live for key Trump developments, Noah asked if Colbert ever worries that those shows might not come together.
"Trump on prompter is always a worry," Colbert said of shows after things like the State of the Union address. "If he gets up there and he just reads what he was told to read, the worry is that he'll seem normal and then there's nothing to say."
So is there a backup plan if things appear to be going terribly normal? "No, there isn't because I have a faith that something always will be strange," Colbert said. "Something will always be a little odd."
He also said of the president that he admittedly keeps tabs on him, along with following news coverage from The New York Times, Drudge Report and Huffington Post. "I'll check his Twitter feed to see what he's been saying, what his mood is in the morning. How executive time went for him," Colbert joked.
"I just look at the nanny cam," he went on. "That's what Twitter is with Trump, it's a national nanny cam."