BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — With Donald Trump's presidential bid generating news as well as comedy gold, Stephen Colbert is itching to get his share of the laughs once he returns to the air Sept. 8 as host of CBS' "The Late Show."
"Every night I light a candle that he stays in the race until Sept. 8," Colbert says. "But I also hope that nobody gets that candle too close to his hair."
In the meantime, off the air and with no venue, "I'm just dry-Trumping," Colbert added, then, impressed with his pun, stopped to tweet it from the stage as he met with TV critics on Monday.
Other things he said during this session: George Clooney will guest on opening night, with Kendrick Lamar (who performed on the final "Colbert Report" last fall) his first musical guest.
— Like Stephen Colbert, the right-wing blowhard he played for 11 years on "The Colbert Report," the real-life Stephen Colbert is honestly afraid of bears: "If something's gone bad in my life, I dream about bears."
— He's pledging to maintain the eclectic mix of guests he hosted on "The Colbert Report," including artists, intellectuals, "politicians of all stripes," and even ordinary folks: "Somebody who's not famous but who's got something to say, I think that would be the perfect guest to have."
"I'm a comedian, but my favorite thing on the ('Report') became doing the interviews," he added — not the scripted material. "I got into comedy to do improvisation. When you're interviewing people, you don't know what's going to happen, and that's much closer to how I learned my craft."
— He and his staff moved into the offices above Manhattan's Ed Sullivan Theater — former home of David Letterman and his "Late Show" — only last week, and the set is under construction now. Among the physical changes from Dave's decades-long reign: the host desk will be found across the stage.
During a recent conversation with Letterman that Colbert characterized as candid and warm, he asked Dave if there's anything about his own tenure he would have changed. Letterman said he would have liked to have his desk on the opposite side of the stage.
Colbert said he promptly called the production designer: "I have terrible news. Reverse the set, because I want to try that, too."
— He said he likes his soon-to-be-rival, Jimmy Fallon, and admires Fallon's "Tonight Show," and he declared any lingering traces of the Late Night Wars to be over: "The idea of war between hosts makes no sense to me. ... I didn't play a lot of sports when I was younger, so maybe I missed the competitive gene. Competition's not that fun to me. We're competing with ourselves to have fun on the show."
— CBS is giving Colbert a free hand to do the show he wants to do: "There have been no instructions. I think they liked what we did and are hoping we do more."
— But now he just wants to stop talking about "The Late Show" and get started doing it: "I don't like comedy in theory. That's just theology. I want to get to the religion!"
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at [email protected] and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore