In 2014, we lost “Stephen Colbert,” the bombastic host of The Colbert Report and one of the greatest things to ever happen to American satire. After Colbert announced he would end his show and move to network television to take over for David Letterman as host of the Late Show, the future of satire looked bleak. For nine months, the real Stephen Colbert (minus the persona) laid low, preparing for his return, until September 8, when he burst back on the satirical scene as host of a new, quirky Late Show. Without the persona, many doubted that Colbert would have the same bite, and although he has failed to gain the ratings of entertainers like Fallon and Kimmel, Colbert has proven that his real persona has an important voice, and intelligent and subversive comedy is intelligent and subversive comedy, regardless of venue and character. Below are some of the better segments (in chronological order) from this new Late Show, when Colbert showed that he has not lost any of his bite in the switch.
All You Can Trump Buffet
In the first satirical segment of his new show, Colbert thanked the satirical gods for bringing him the Donald Trump presidential candidacy. And although he knows talking about Trump is terrible for him, he can’t resist because it tastes so good, just like Oreo’s. The metaphor gets a little out of hand as he starts binging on Trump clips and he tries to get himself back under control, but it’s just so hard to resist.
His Holy Merchandise
As is often the case, sometimes the most satirical point is accomplished by simply showing the naturally ironic truth of a situation. During his special Pope episode, Colbert did just that with the irony of Pope merchandise. Reminding the audience Pope Francis referred to capitalism as the “dung of the devil,” Colbert says the Pope’s followers can honor his decree “by buying stuff,” like Pope medallions, pullovers, rosary beads, t-shirts, cologne, a tray that features a tweet from the Pope, and a set of three 50-cent pieces for $24.99.
Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Scandal Yet
To talk about Hillary’s faults, Stephen used a great satirical device that takes a simple or meaningless detail and utilizes it to point out greater concerns. Here, a simple change in Clinton’s registered height becomes fodder for so much more. When Clinton ran in 2008, she was 5’5″, but now she is registered as being 5’7″. Stephen points out that adding two inches is “a tactic normally reserved for guys on Grindr.” Calling it “Heightgazi”, he goes on to suggest this is certainly a conspiracy, but wants to focus on the real questions, like, “Is she tall enough to ride Shock Wave at six flags?” If she stays on this trajectory, Stephen suggests, “Think how big she’ll be when she gets to office. We won’t have to worry about Iran, cause mega-Hillary can swat missiles out of the sky.”
Some Thoughts On Pretending And Honesty
In his three months on the air, Colbert has already needed to address tragedy three times. Before his segment on the first presidential election, Stephen took a moment to talk about pretending in the wake of the tragedy that happened in Oregon the day before, where a shooting left nine dead at a community college. Stephen said, “I can’t pretend that it didn’t happen. I also can’t pretend to know how to prevent what happened…But I think pretending is part of the problem. These things happen over and over again, and we are naturally horrified and shocked when we hear about them. But then we change nothing, and we pretend that it won’t happen again.” Soon the moment was over, and he had to get back to business as normal, because making people laugh in the wake of tragedy can be important, too. “Speaking of honest insanity,” Stephen segued, “Donald Trump.” He then launched into his typical critique of Trump and the circus that is the 2016 presidential election, but he proved that he was capable of not only addressing tragedy with class, but quickly bringing humor back to the people
Waiting for Joe-Dot
For their Democratic presidential, CNN gave Vice President Joe Biden the option of joining the debate even if he announced his candidacy as late as the day of the debate. The network was so eager to have him on the stage, they made an extra podium available next to the stage to be grabbed at a moments notice. In a clip, CNN’s Jim Acosta “imagines news” of how that last minute entrance might play out, explaining how Biden would fly in from Las Vegas and speed to the studio in his yellow Corvette wearing aviator sunglasses. “It’ll be fascinating political television,” said Acosta. Stephen took Acosta’s lead and launched into an epic tale of Biden’s entrance, complete with explosions. He then pondered, “As long as we’re reporting breaking, up-to-the-minute fan fiction, why not speculate on other exciting potential candidates,” before imagining a new cast of characters for the debate, including Jesse Ventura, Animal from The Muppets, and the cast of Family Matters.
“Homeland” Suffered a Major Intelligence Failure
After it was revealed that graffiti artists hired to spray paint Arabic words on walls seen in the background of Homeland actually took the opportunity to ridicule the show, using phrases like “Homeland is racist” to protest the show’s representation of Muslims, Stephen said, “that is a major intelligence failure,” echoing the rhetoric of the political thriller, but “who could have predicted a graffiti artist would break the rules?” He then tried to think of Muslim characters that weren’t terrorists, but only ended up revealing “four spoiler alerts” and, later, “two more spoiler alerts.” Stephen eventually made a stand for Homeland, though. “It might not accurately portray Muslims, but that doesn’t make it racist. Cause the show doesn’t accurately portray anything!”
The Hungry for Power Games: Chafee-ng Fire
Colbert’s use of Hunger Games references to discuss the Republican field has been a highlight of the show. In October, he donned his bright blue Flickerman wig and paid tribute to the recently lost candidates, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb. With the news that Jim Webb dropped out, Stephen said, “I’m sure that’ll come as a disappointment to his supporter,” and regarding the end of Chafee’s run, Stephen thought it a shame, because “this tribute had all the charisma of the logs he was named for.” But Stephen’s parody was just getting started when he received a surprise visit from Caesar Flickerman himself, Stanley Tucci, who got real with Stephen about what it means to play a larger-than-life television host, something Colbert apparently knows nothing about.
Hey, Russia, Keep Your Crab Claws Off Our Internet
In November, Colbert discussed the possibility that the Russians could destroy the cables that form the internet by cutting the underwater cables that connect the internet across the oceans. “First of all, what is the internet doing underwater?…What happened to the cloud?” asked Stephen, and if our enemies can attack us from the bottom of ocean, “why did we put Osama Bin Laden down there?” Stephen imagined what it would be like if the Russians did cut the cords. How would we order bulk vodka and Russian brides? And “could you imagine how long it would take for Time Warner to show up at the bottom of the ocean?” He then gave tips on what to pack in case the internet ever did go down.
Baby Hitler Is No Match For Jeb!
Stephen Colbert discussed the importance of time travel to the Republican candidates after Jeb Bush said, if given the chance to go back in time to kill baby Hitler, “Hell yeah, I would!” Colbert said this is Politics 101: “Shake the hand; kiss the baby; kill baby Hitler.” Colbert saw this time travel question as a crucial issue that should be debated by the candidates, because when time travel technology becomes available, we will want a trustworthy leader “at the helm of Time Force One.” We cannot have a president who would waste it on “taking Jesus on a pterodactyl ride,” despite how fun that sounds.
We Stand With The People Of France
Another tragedy occurred and Stephen Colbert had to react, but again he did it with class and humor. After the horrific attacks on Paris, Stephen reminded us how much France has given America, like “aid to general Washington in our fight for independence, key intelligence in how to put potatoes in boiling oil,” and “half the continent at a bargain price—No take backs, guys!” and we can thank them by giving what little solidarity we have to offer. And people all across the world were trying to show their support in whatever way they could with gestures like #prayforparis, but there were also tweeters watching Ratatouille in support of Paris. Stephen asked, “Is that wrong? No. Is Ratatouille a French film? No. Is that a valid expression? Absolutely! Because watching a cartoon Parisian rat make soup is certainly as valid as anything I will say tonight.” With these words, Stephen touched on the main point of his opening: why should his opening segment be any more important than a random tweet? Most of us can’t do anything to directly help, but if we show any form of support or awareness, it’s not a bad thing, because, as Stephen pointed out, “Did you get up this morning and not try to kill someone? Then you’re already on the right side.”
No Country For Anyone Not Already Here
Stephen Colbert addressed the Syrian refugee debate by declaring that he did not want to talk about ISIS. “Here’s the deal. If you want to live in the seventh century, you don’t get to be on TV.” But he had to address the situation, because “the question of whether to let Syrian refugees into this country has become the new political issue. Donald Trump had said the refugees would be miserable in Minnesota. “It’s a tough call for the refugees…Do I want to stay in a war zone where my family faces certain death, or do I want to go somewhere where I have to put on a jacket before I go to the mall?” Stephen assumed they’d take their chances with ISIS. Obama publicly shamed Republicans by saying they are scared of widows and orphans. Stephen says that’s not entirely fair, because they are obviously afraid of the adult men that might come in. “But since you brought it up Mr. President,” he continues. “Why shouldn’t we be scared of three year olds? You think you can’t negotiate with terrorists, try negotiating with a three year old.” The most damning moment of the segment came when Stephen discussed the fact that Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush only want to let Christian refugees in. When asked how you can tell they are Christians, Jeb said you can just tell. Stephen has a better way. “If you want to know if somebody is Christian, just ask them to complete this sentence: Jesus said, ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you…’ And if they don’t say ‘welcomed me in,’ they are either a terrorist, or they are running for president.”
The GOP Candidates Demand Equal Time
Stephen Colbert broke down the implications of the FCC’s equal time rule for the GOP candidates. The FCC’s equal time rule dictates that all candidates must get equal air time on any given network, so after Trump hosted SNL any candidate could invoke this rule to get air time on NBC. As Stephen pointed out, “invoking this law is pretty rare, because it makes you seem petty and desperate for attention. So, five candidates have invoked it.” The candidates who have invoked the equal time rule are John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Gilmore. “No one panic,” advised Stephen. “You have not fallen into a worm hole into an alternate dimension in which you’re supposed to know that Jim Gilmore is running for president. You’re still in this universe where no one knows that.”
The All-Seeing NostraDonald
In late November, Stephen Colbert challenged the all-seeing Donald Trump’s psychic powers. Trump had come out with claims that he saw Muslims cheering when the towers fell on 9/11. When challenged to prove it, he reaffirmed his stance that he saw it, saying it’s “not good.” “Not good,” agrees Stephen, “also not true.” Reporters and police have found no evidence to back up any claims that Muslims in America cheered on that day. But Trump said he has the world’s greatest memory. “That’s right, he can’t remember exactly where he saw that video, but he can remember that he has the world’s greatest memory.” Trump can also see into the future. He has repeatedly reminded everyone that he predicted in a 2000 book that Osama Bin Laden was a bad guy. “Yes, Trump predicted that Osama Bin Laden was threatening America all the way back in the year 2000, the same year Bin Laden was linked to the bombing of the USS Cole, and only two years after Bin Laden was indicted for the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, and only seven years after Bin Laden was implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing,” said Stephen. “That’s spooky. It’s like Trump has some kind of fifth sense that lets him see what’s in newspapers and on TVs.” But Stephen said the NostraDonald isn’t the only one with this power, and set out to prove that he, too, can predict the predictable.