LOS ANGELES – Last week CBS announced that Stephen Colbert will take over "The Late Show" when David Letterman retires. But opinion is split as to whether the Comedy Central star can be funny without playing the conservative-mocking character that makes "The Colbert Report" so popular.
For the last nine years, the political satirist has fronted his own cable show playing the character “Stephen Colbert,” an egomaniacal conservative pundit, but he confirmed Thursday that he will not be embodying his alter-ego in his new gig.
New York PR guru Ronn Torossian thinks CBS has “alienated millions of conservative thinkers by picking Colbert.”
“One also wonders to what degree political undertones will be on the program. Colbert got this job because of his political satire and claims he is now going to abandon it,” he told FOX411. “Seems that is an admission that ‘what got him here won’t get him there.’”
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly referred to Colbert as “one of the biggest mouthpieces for the progressive movement… playing exclusively to other believers.”
So what are Colbert's previous bona fides? The multi-Emmy award winner was a correspondent on John Stewart's "The Daily Show," which got him his current gig. Before that Colbert had a role in the short-lived TV series “Strangers With Candy,” which he also wrote and created. He also worked on the ABC sketch program “The Dana Carvey Show” which was pulled after eight episodes.
Some industry players think his breadth of TV experience, coupled with his name recognition and experience mounting a daily broadcast, make him a natural to follow Letterman’s footsteps.
“The conservative pundits are overreacting out of the gate on this one, Colbert dropping his cluelessly conservative character is probably a boon for the Rush Limbaughs of the world,” said Hollywood-based pop culture expert Scott Huver. “He’ll be moving on to a much broader topical and pop cultural canvas. But like most late-night hosts, Colbert will likely be skewering both conservatives and liberals – and anyone in the public eye that provides fodder for a good bite.”
CBS entertainment executive Nina Tassler said the network is not concerned about his politics.
“We were most excited about his talent to be creative and innovative, and now he’s going to work on his idea of what his show will look like,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “When you really have such admiration for somebody’s talent, intelligent and satiric ability, you know there’s a gifted performer there.”
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Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay