In Praise of Decency and Intention in Late Night Comedy

I watch Colbert's Late Show on YouTube regularly because it is the model of intention. This is what Colbert told Stewart during his last Daily Show:
We learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with with respect. 
I want to focus on the first clause. Intention is what I see in every show that Stephen Colbert does from the Ed Sullivan theatre - an intention to provide some levity, to expose us to new artists and art forms, to play in the purest form, and perhaps most important - to educate.

There's a theory of leadership by the late James McGregor Burns that gives us two types of leadership: transactional and transformational. Transaction leaders give us exactly what we want. They use what works, today, and keep the ship floating. They find the place that aligns best with the audience, and sit there, comfortably and likely profitably.

Transformational leaders think strategically about bringing us to the next level of success and thought. They seek to meet people at all levels to bring them higher and further - and the pull of change is not always comfortable for either party. I see that discomfort, sometimes, in the news stories and different skits put on by the Late Show.

I know the Late Show doesn't seek to change the world, but it can - and does - nudge the world. It nudges us towards a deeper, better humanity, more full of wonder and deeper relationships. It puts the "other" on CBS so that we can meet it and be more humanized. It's not perfect, of course, but the intention is there, and I notice that, and am grateful.

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