Stephen Colbert said in an interview that he had to give up the fake conservative persona he played on Comedy Central because, “I just couldn’t take playing that character anymore.”
Speaking to NPR’s Terri Gross of Fresh Air, Colbert said that it has taken him over a year, but he is finally starting to feel comfortable without the arrogant, wise-cracking persona, which he performed for so long that it became exhausting.
“It took me a little while to realize that the character was not in danger of re-emerging,” Colbert said. “It took me almost half a year to realize…that you can have a highly opinionated, highly topical show as yourself and not essentially fall back into the basket of The Colbert Report.”
“Now I have no qualms about being sharp and satirical and highly opinionated and saying whatever’s on my mind as quickly as I can,” he said.
“I thought maybe I would make some big mistake with the character because he would say terrible things. And I got away with some of the terrible things he would say or do because it was all filtered through his mask, but if I didn’t maintain the mask, it would just be me being terrible,” explained the former Comedy Central host.
“Toward the end of the show, I started to think that…I might actually drop the entire China set one day because I just couldn’t take playing that character anymore,” he explained. “I began to feel like I was stumbling downhill with an armful of bottles and — and that I couldn’t actually keep up the discipline ‘cause it took discipline to remind myself every day to — no, be the character. Don’t be yourself. And I began to wonder, well, what would it be like to be me?”
Colbert took over The Late Show on CBS when David Letterman retired in 2015.