Stephen Colbert to Host CBS Celebrity Pickleball Tournament

Each weeknight, Stephen Colbert takes the stage at CBS “Late Show” to find the lighter side of the latest headlines. In November, he’ll be doing something similar with sports.

The comedian will host a two-hour pickleball tournament, “Pickled,” that will feature 16 celebrities competing for a coveted “Colbert Cup” and benefit the non-profit Comic Relief U.S. “If you love pickleball and you love celebrities and you love helping people, you’re going to love watching these celebrities help people by playing pickleball,” said Colbert in a prepared statement. “Pickled” will debut on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

Celebrities taking part in “Pickled” include Jimmie Allen, Murray Bartlett, Dierks Bentley, Jaime Camil, Will Ferrell, Max Greenfield, Luis Guzman, Phil Keoghan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tig Notaro, June Diane Raphael, Kelly Rowland, Paul Scheer, Aisha Tyler and Emma Watson. Cari Champion, John Michael Higgins and Bill Raftery serve as announcers and add commentary.

Pickleball has become a nascent national craze. According to The Sports & Fitness Industry Association, more than 4.8 million people in the U.S. play the sport — the latest in racket games — which has seen a growth of 39.3% over the last two years.

Colbert has tackled ventures outside of his wee-hours perch in he past. He helped devise the animated “Our Cartoon President” for Showtime and the satirical “Tooning Out The News” for Paramount+. “Pickled,” however, has him venturing onto a new playing field.

And he is part of a parade of late-night hosts who are branching out beyond the late-night timeslot. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel has produced a series of specials that pay homage to sitcoms from the past, including “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” Jimmy Fallon’s Electric Hot Dog production company has backed projects ranging from a kids’ version of “Tonight” to a revival of the popular TV game show, “Password.”

Colbert’s “Pickled” is also tapping two advertisers who are sweet on the pucker-inducing brining process for which the contest is named.

Claussen Pickles, part of the Kraft Heinz Company, is backing a mid-game recap segment called “The Claussen Crunch Time-Halftime Show.” Analysts will gather in a space marked by Claussen insignia and review first-half highlights and lighter moments in the matches. Pickles will be on hand –even for fans at the event.

“As the popularity of pickleball continues to rise, the opportunity to partner with CBS and Stephen Colbert for the ‘Pickled’ TV special was presented to us and the decision was a no-brainer,” said Lizzy Goodman, brand manager of Claussen, via email. The show’s connection to the product “was clear, but it goes far beyond that as both Claussen and pickleball have truly dedicated fans while promoting fun, inclusivity and an overall release from the ordinary.”

Meanwhile, Oofos Active Recovery footwear will present a courtside lounge, where players are able to cool off after matches. The space includes a misting system, comfortable chairs and displays featuring the latest Oofos styles.

“‘Pickled’ is a unique special for CBS and we were glad to be able to work creatively with Claussen and Oofos to develop bespoke activations that brought both brands to life in-show,” says Linda Rene, executive vice president of primetime sales, entertainment innovation and partnerships at CBS, via email. “They were a perfect match for this show and we love having them as part of it.”

There is also room for the offbeat. Kenny Loggins and Stephen Colbert will offer a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Pickled” is produced by Funny Or Die in association with Colbert’s Spartina and CBS Studios. Executive producers are Funny Or Die’s Mike Farah, Joe Farrell and Henry R. Muñoz III and Spartina’s Stephen Colbert, Carrie Byalick, Evelyn McGee Colbert and Tom Purcell.

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