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Wildcats Take Late Night

Colbert joins Seth Meyers and other alumni in network late night comedy show scene

Wildcats are taking over the late night network television lineup. CBS announced today that Northwestern University alumnus Stephen Colbert ’86 will succeed David Letterman as host of “The Late Show” when the veteran host steps down in 2015.

As Colbert enters the late night fray, he faces competition from other Northwestern alumni working on comedy talk shows on the other major networks. Fellow School of Communication alumnus Seth Meyers ’96 recently left his post as head writer of “Saturday Night Live” to get behind the desk of “Late Night” on NBC. Over at ABC, School of Communication alumna Jill Leiderman ’93 has served as executive producer of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” since 2006. Other Northwestern alumni have also served a variety of roles on many of these shows over the years, including Leiderman as a segment producer for "The Late Show" and Jena Friedman ’05 as a writer for "The Late Show” and now a producer for Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

The Northwestern infiltration of the competitive late night television landscape is a testament to the well-rounded education alumni receive from the School of Communication, said William Bleich, a senior lecturer in the school’s radio/television/film department who also wrote for David Letterman early in the comedian’s career.

“With Stephen Colbert taking over ‘The Late Show’ and ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers,’  NU’s presence in that select coveted arena is certainly impressive,” Bleich said. “As the topicality and rapid response required by late night calls for someone smart as well as entertaining, we’d be proud to consider that the Northwestern experience contributed to nurturing their success.”

In their time at Northwestern, Colbert, Meyers and Leiderman all participated in campus productions and student groups that helped them hone their comedic chops at the college level long before they broke into television.

“Here at Northwestern we have an excellent theatre department and host numerous improv groups and student productions as well as many notable writing programs including the MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage,” Bleich said. “As a result, Northwestern students have ample opportunity to get valuable learning experiences, both curricular and extracurricular, that clearly serve them well in the future.”

Colbert and Meyers have both been public cheerleaders of Northwestern and have returned to campus repeatedly. Meyers performed standup on campus in 2007, served as grand marshal of the Homecoming parade in 2011 and even provided a video of support for this year’s Dance Marathon event. Stephen Colbert served as Homecoming grand marshal in 2006 and delivered a memorable “out of character” commencement address in 2011.

Northwestern magazine featured an in-depth cover story on Colbert in its Winter 2010 issue, as well as features on Meyers in the Spring 2008 issue and Leiderman in the Fall 2013 edition.

The Real Stephen Colbert

Seth Meyers: The Good Humor Man

Jill Leiderman: Late Night Light

VIDEO: Stephen Colbert Delivers 2011 Commencement Address

VIDEO: Seth Meyers Appears at 2011 Homecoming

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