The Unusual Way Letterman Prepared Stephen Colbert to Take Over Late Show

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As he prepares to host the Emmys for the first time on Sunday, __Stephen Colbert__decided to blow off some steam by making the rounds of the late-night shows filmed in Los Angeles. On Thursday night, he stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live—where he chatted with Kimmel about all things Emmys and late-night—and his CBS neighbor, The Late Late Show with James Corden, where he played a round of “Side Effects May Include.” The most fascinating moment of Colbert’s big night on the west coast came when Kimmel asked him about taking over The Late Show—specifically, what David Letterman was like as he handed over the keys to the show he hosted for more than two decades.

“He was really nice. About a week and a half before he went off the air I called him up,” Colbert recalled. He then joined Letterman in his office to ask the No. 1 question on his mind: “Where do you hide from our producers?”

“He showed me a good place,” Colbert quipped. “You need to be able to get away from your producers, because they want you to work, and sometimes you don’t want to work.”

But the most valuable rite of passage came later in the day, when Letterman showed Colbert how to operate the dinosaur of an elevator that connects the Ed Sullivan Theater with its offices. “You have to go down to the basement and walk through these weird tunnels to go under the office building into the theater,” Colbert explained, “and there’s only one elevator that goes down there. And it’s an old, 1927, brass-handled, self-driving elevator.”

“He drove a little bit, had me drive down. He goes, ‘Let me see you land it,’“ Colbert recalled. “And so I tried to land it, and he goes, ‘This is not up to my standard.’“

After a bit of practice and a few lessons, Colbert had it down pat: he landed the elevator and opened its somewhat tricky door properly. And that was that. “After I finished doing all that, he looked around, saw that I landed it, had the door open, and he looked at me and he goes, ‘Now it’s waiting for you,’“ Colbert said. “It was like somebody handing you the keys to an old car.”

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