Showtime's Stephen Colbert Election Special Is "Prepared for Every Eventuality"

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Courtesy of Showtime

"We are absolutely over-prepared, he said naïvely."

That's how The Late Show With Stephen Colbert showrunner Chris Licht describes how prepared his team is for Stephen Colbert's Election Night 2020: Democracy's Last Stand: Building Back America Great Again Better 2020, the Tuesday special that returns marks the duo's return to Showtime.

Licht told The Hollywood Reporter's TV's Top 5 podcast that the team behind the election night live event learned from their 2016 experience and went above and beyond to ensure there was a game plan for the myriad outcomes that could transpire Tuesday, when nervous Americans will undoubtedly be glued to their screens for results in the presidential election.

"Whereas we four years ago went into the night thinking we have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen, there's no poll, no expert, no prognosticator — absolutely no one — can convince us we know what's going to happen this election night," Licht said. "We are prepared for every eventuality. I feel cautiously optimistic we are prepared, and that is thus reducing the anxiety level we didn't feel last time, but we should have."

The hourlong special will air live Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET and feature Colbert reacting in real time to election results as the state-by-state returns come in. Colbert will be joined by Charlamagne Tha God and hosts Alex Wagner, John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon of Showtime's The Circus (which Licht and Colbert also exec produce) during the special.

Licht told TV's Top 5 hosts Daniel Fienberg and Lesley Goldberg that there may be a special tie-in between Showtime and corporate sibling CBS News. "We’re going to be doing something very cool to help bridge that gap," he said. "I don't know that there's ever been a simulcast between a network news coverage and a pay TV election night coverage, live. That might happen. It might not, but it might."

The showrunner also said they're prepared in the event that there is not a clear winner in the race for president between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. "We are going to swing at the pitches that are thrown. Meaning we have lots of writing and comedy lined up for different results in different states and we will undoubtedly have a lot of results," he said. "We may not have the result but then again, we might. If Florida goes, then the whole mood will change. We're not going to be faced with a situation where we're sitting there like, 'We don't know.' You're going to know a lot — we just may not know the final outcome. And quite frankly, we're in the same situation that news organizations are in of reminding people that, 'It's OK not to know, that nothing nefarious is going on. That this is part of the process; everybody just relax.'"

And if Trump declares an early victory — as has been reported — the team behind Democracy's Last Stand is prepared for that, too. "Whereas the news organizations … have to be somewhat down the middle on it … we can just be like, 'Bullshit, it's not a thing.' That would be exciting; not good for our democracy, but it certainly would allow us to literally do what everyone would be screaming at the television."

The Showtime special will work in tandem with CBS News and provide election results in real time, with Colbert, by being on a premium cable network, having the freedom to speak freely. "You will have the actual real-life certified results and then someone who is basically saying what you're screaming at the TV is saying it on the air," Licht said.

Licht's interview with TV's Top 5, including the two stunts he had planned for 2016 that never happened, can be heard below starting at the 29:46 mark.