Thursday, December 18th, marked the final episode of the Colbert Report, and the end of Stephen Colbert's fake pundit character as he takes over from David Letterman in September. Brooke and Bob reflect on their thoughts when they first heard the news of Colbert's retirement.
BOB: How will the collapse of the ruble affect Putin’s power base? How will normalizing relations with Cuba affect the 2016 election? How will the US respond to the Sony hack? More important, how will Stephen Colbert use his new network perch, when he takes over for David Letterman next September? Speculation abounds because on Thursday, Stephen Colbert, the fake pundit, stepped down.
COLBERT: Folks, if this is your first time turning into the Colbert Report, I have some terrible news. This in fact is your last time tuning into the Colbert Report. Until 10 years from now when they reboot it directed J.J. Abrams.
BOB:Here were our thoughts when we first learned he was retiring his bullhorn...
BOB: When guests on his show waited in the comedy central green room, he would always stop in, to warn them that the man they would meet on stage was an idiot, and it would be their job... to educate him.
COLBERT: But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.
BOB: The first riddle is how comfortable the politically diverse audience of network TV will be with a comedian so associated with the political left? Colbert, in the character of a right-wing blowhard, has used irony as a bludgeon against conservative Republicans for 9 years.
COLBERT: I’m sure you all agree with me that it is a proud day to be an American. because thanks to a minority of the US senate, we no longer have to live in fear of some maniac coming after those we love with a gun control bill…
BOB: How might such satire play at 11:30 pm in Kansas and Oklahoma? Well, at least one actual right-wing blowhard says it isn’t meant to.
Limbaugh “CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional America values… now its just wide out in the open …It’s media planting a flag here.
BOB: Let’s just assume that CBS, a profit-making enterprise, is not actually plotting to alienate exactly half of the network’s late-night audience. There remains the question of who even will be hosting late night: the preening, pretend ideologue Colbert will not be filling the chair. Instead it will be occupied by the inveterate comedian Colbert, rarely glimpsed since his emergence as a star in 1997 on the Daily Show.
BROOKE: Here’s the genuine Colbert, in 2007 with Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
RUSSERT Is it hard getting in and out of character?
COLBERT: No I started with Second City in Chicago and the saying there was wear your character as lightly as cap.
BROOKE: Maybe he wears his character lightly as a cap, but I take its passing hard. Here’s Colbert with Letterman in 2005 just before launching the Report.
LETTERMAN: And the type of thing you’ll be doing on the show?
COLBERT: Changing the world. Evidently i’m being asked to. The people are clamoring for it...I've been on the Daily Show for years.
LETTERMAN: how long do you think it’ll take you to change the world?
COLBERT: I think we have an 8 week initialcommitment
GLADSTONE: You know I think the crowning moment of my career was when I got to be on his show, talking about The Influencing Machine. a media history-slash-manifesto I’d made with illustrator Josh Neufeld.
COLBERT: It's a great book. It's kind of like a graphic novel. Got lots of pictures in here. It's a comic book.
COLBERT: And you're in it a lot.
GLADSTONE: I am
COLBERT: If you're going to put yourself in a comic book, why cast yourself as an NPR host. Why not give yourself like heat vision.
BROOKE:: I was so excited he liked the book I didn’t respond with the obvious rejoinder - “with all the characters in the world to choose from, why in your nightly comic book, did you choose this particular one to play?” In retrospect the answer is obvious: Fake pundit Stephen Colbert contained multitudes: political pitchman; self-righteous hack; pompous patriot; sloppy sentimentalist; and of course, oblivious, ignorant boob. Many said it couldn't be done, a one-note character sustaining a show night after night after night.
COLBERT: Now I know some of you may not trust your gut, yet, but with my help you will. The truthiness is, anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you.
BROOKE: Who could have imagined what a many splendored thing it could be? Not just for skewering the right, but of the nation’s increasingly splenetic zeitgeist that fosters the accretion of balderdash. Which he confronts right at the source...and for just a moment, shames and shrivels it.
COLBERT: "I am happy to use my celebrity to draw attention to this important, complicated issue and I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-Span 1.
BROOKE: Legislators sat glumly at this subcommittee hearing on immigration and border security and (quote) “protecting America’s harvest.”
COLBERT: "I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American. Then sliced by Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian."
BROOKE: Hardly anyone laughed.
COLBERT: Because my great-grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of Atlantic ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland."
BROOKE: It was hilariously painful.
COLBERT: "I trust that following my testimony, both sides will work together on this issue in the best interest of the American people as you always do.
BROOKE: Stephen Colbert, is a brilliant comedian who uses his power for good. He seems to be a modest man. Too modest, perhaps, to see that by lightly shedding the cap of his creation he’s depriving us all of a national treasure. And I’m not joking.