Stephen Colbert’s Late Show Wish? That Donald Trump Stays in the Presidential Race

'Right now, I'm just dry-Trumping'

As the debut of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert approaches, only one thing is keeping Colbert up at night.

It's not the pressure of replacing an icon like David Letterman, nor is it doing a show without his "Stephen Colbert" persona, which he retired after winding down The Colbert Report last year on Comedy Central.

Instead, he's most worried Donald Trump will drop out of the presidential race by Sept. 8, Colbert's launch day.

"I want to do jokes on Donald Trump so badly, and I have no venue. Right now, I'm just dry-Trumping!" Colbert said at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

"Every night before I go to bed, I light a candle and pray that he stays in the race," he said. "I also pray that no one puts that candle near his hair."

Off the air since The Colbert Report ended last December, Colbert is anxious to get back on camera. "This is the longest I've gone since [the age of] 24 not performing in front of a live audience, and I'm twitching," he said. "I've spent too much time in the simulator, I want to get into the jet."

Colbert also held forth on a variety of topics about his new show—and his old ones:

On his first Late Show guest, George Clooney: "I wish I could have done better than George Clooney, but he'll do for the first guest." (He also announced that Kendrick Lamar, his final musical guest on The Colbert Report, will be his first Late Show musical guest.)

On the Late Show's format: "CBS has asked nothing of me other than I fill an hour every night Monday through Friday."

On the "real" Stephen Colbert: "That guy who can't stop laughing [in supercuts of him breaking character on The Colbert Report], that's the real Stephen Colbert. I can't wait for you to see him."

On making Jon Stewart cry on air during last week's Daily Show finale: "I felt like a rodeo clown trying to keep him on stage. I thought he was honestly going to leave." Colbert added that during the group hug with all the former Daily Show correspondents as the show cut to commercial, everyone was chanting, "Made him cry! Made him cry!"

On his ideal guests: "All I want from a guest, is somebody who has something to say. So that I can play with them." One of the reasons he wanted to drop his Stephen Colbert persona was that the character held him back from having "honest interest in my guest. Now I don't have to hold back at all." As an improvisational comedian, the interviews became "my favorite thing" on The Colbert Report. "When you interview people, you don't know what's going to happen.

On moving into the Ed Sullivan Theater: The theater was completely gutted and has "been taken back to its 1927, beautiful state," he said. Before, "you couldn't tell that it was a theater, but now you can."

On Letterman: Colbert spent an hour and a half with Letterman as he filmed his final Late Show episodes. "He was very gracious," said Colbert, who asked Letterman if there was anything he would have changed during his time on the show. Letterman replied that he wished he had moved his desk to the other side of the stage; the next day, Colbert ordered his desk to be flipped as Letterman had wanted.

On late-night wars: Don't expect another Jay Leno/David Letterman battle royale between him, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. "The war between hosts makes no sense to me," said Colbert.  "Fighting between the hosts doesn't sound funny. There's no joke there…competition's not that fun to me." He said he hopes everyone has "fantastic ratings."

On his video shorts: "I wanted our audience to know we haven't forgotten about them. I wanted to give them something as the summer went on," said Colbert of the shorts he's posted online, including one that mocked Trump's presidential announcement. It also served as an exercise for him and his staff because "that's the speed at which you have to do it."

On shedding his Colbert Report persona: "It feels a little bit like therapy: 'Who's the real Stephen Colbert?'" he joked of questions about what the "real" Colbert will be like on the show. But the character was obviously draining mentally, as he discovered this summer while shooting remote segments for Late Show. "Not having to run everything I say through the character's bible in my head is really lovely," he said. "I'm not tired at the end."

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