Although Donald Trump’s presidency has been deemed a gift to late-night comedians in general and Stephen Colbert in particular, the CBS late-night host said he would be happy to have done without it.
“I love my country more than I love a good joke,” Colbert said, during an appearance Saturday at the TV Critics Association tour to promote his new Showtime series, “Our Cartoon President,” an animated parody of what transpires inside the Trump White House.
With his tart Trump-focused monologues, Colbert’s “Late Show” has vaulted atop the ratings in total viewers since Trump’s election. “Our Cartoon President,” meanwhile, will premiere Feb. 11 — after an online preview on Jan. 28, two days before the State of the Union address — having been spun out of an animated version of Trump featured on Colbert’s late-night program.
The new show, the producers noted, will seek to avoid the vagaries of the news cycle by focusing in a broad, satirical way on the characters who inhabit the White House and their interactions.
Colbert described it as, “The relationships you imagine they have, animated,” joking in regard to the controversial new book “Fire & Fury,” “I think [author] Michael Wolff stole all 10 episodes to write that damn book of his.”
Colbert noted that he was “well aware” of how quickly things can change in regard to the current administration, citing how frequently he has to amend or throw out large chunks of his nightly material. While the animated show is equipped to react to topical matters, Colbert stressed, “The purpose of the show is not to respond to the references of today’s news cycle.”
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Colbert also dismissed a question as to whether creating a sitcom version of Trump would in any way normalize his behavior. “I don’t think we’re complimenting him by making a cartoon out of him,” he said. Another Trump-themed satire, “The President Show,” already airs on Comedy Central.
Showtime’s promo for the program spoofed the president’s penchant for hyperbole, calling the yet-to-premiere series “The Highest-Rated Show of All Time.”
Addressing the competitive landscape generally, Showtime president David Nevins insisted in a separate session that it’s “a fantastic time to be working in television,” at least for those seeking opportunities to work and companies able to adapt to meet the industry’s challenges.
“Content, and the demand for it, is in full flower,” he said, citing an explosion of production thanks in part to “our friends from the tech world,” with companies like Amazon, Apple and Google entering the production business.
Separately, Showtime said it will again partner with documentarian Laura Poitras on her latest project, “XY Chelsea,” featuring court-martialed whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Poitras directed the Edward Snowden doc “Citizenfour” and “Risk,” about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the latter of which also premiered on the pay channel after a theatrical run.
Plans for the Manning documentary were previously unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival in May. “XY Chelsea” will be directed by Tim Travers Hawkins, with Poitras serving as producer.
Showtime also announced a May 27 premiere date for “The Fourth Estate,” its four-part docu-series set inside the New York Times, examining the paper’s coverage of the Trump administration’s first year.