It's a week in which a well-known personality is trying to prove he truly belongs in the big leagues.

I'm talking about Stephen Colbert. To the surprise of many, "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" has taken a long time to forge an identity. Is it a talk-show spoof? "Charlie Rose" with laughs?

Problems in the ratings and a change in executive producers have proved that no one is quite sure. It failed to get an Emmy nomination as best variety series.

This week, "The Late Show" is going live, to best react to whatever happens at the Republican Convention, and Colbert has responded with his best shows yet. There's a relaxed tone in his delivery and jokes that reflects its host has come home. After all, political conventions is where Colbert first made his mark as a "Daily Show" correspondent.

Colbert's re-introduction Monday of his old Comedy Central persona -- the Bill O'Reilly clone who pledges allegience to "truthiness" - gave a lot of us goosebumps, and not just because it came with a Jon Stewart cameo.

Colbert had found himself -- by playing someone who is not himself. Since then, he seems more interested in serving his own instincts rather than the audience, a wise rule for anyone not named Jimmy Fallon.

The interviews over the last two days have been shorter -- and sharper. Colbert has abandoned, at least temporarily, his urge to "show off" his intelligence and versatility (The exception: A taped musical number on Monday night that I could have done without).

He's more willing to showcase others, most notably Broadway standout Laura Benanti who did a wicked impersonation of Melania Trump Tuesday night.He even made clever use of a quick-witted intern who he brought out to talk about her impromptu make-out session with guest Keegan-Michael Key (also very funny in a sketch about being the only black man at the convo).

He's also stopped straining to show how much affection he has for bandleader Jon Batiste, spotlighting fresh musical guests instead. Tuesday's performance by NAF, a new group led by Jenny Lewis, was simply terrific.

This is also supposed to be a golden opportunity for Trevor Noah, but he didn't take much advantage of the "Daily Show" being in Cleveland on night one. He might as well have been broadcasting from Duluth.

Both Noah and Colbert poked fun at Trump's rock-star entrance before introducing his wife. Colbert's walk on, which included a tribute to James Bond movies, was better.

Noah, who I like a lot, may eventually rock in Cleveland. Colbert may fall back on old habits. But right now, the veteran holds a commanding lead.

The race for laughs gets even more heated on Wednesday with special editions of "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" and "Real Time With Bill Maher."

I'm gonna be up late.

Older Post

'Lowertown Line' free Season 4 tapings to feature P.O.S., Babes in Toyland

Newer Post

Chris Isaak had wicked game with humor and music at the Pantages