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Convention Comedy With Stephen Colbert Was Perfect Ending To Speeches

July 23, 2016

What a treat it was each night this week to turn to Stephen Colbert to put the comedy into politics.  He will do the same next week as the Democrats take their turn at nominating their candidate.

This week we got a glimpse of the election-season comedy that might have been. Last night, Colbert gave his desk at the “Late Show” over to Stewart, his former mentor, for a ten-minute, “Daily Show”-style monologue that ridiculed the just-completed Republican National Convention. Stewart, looking a bit feral in a gray T-shirt (over which Colbert tossed a suit jacket and clipped on a tie), delivered the kind of profanely comforting sermon that had helped many liberals sleep better at night through the George W. Bush Administration and a Republican Congress’s obstruction of Barack Obama. Stewart pointed out that Fox News, after spending the past eight years calling Obama a “thin-skinned narcissist with no government experience,” had eagerly embraced Trump, a candidate who embodies those qualities. He also said, “Those fighting to be included in the ideal of equality are not being divisive. Those fighting to keep those people out are.” Toward the end of Stewart’s remarks, as he veered toward a word that you can’t say on network TV, Colbert popped up from behind the desk to cut him off with an air horn. Colbert embraced his old pal and, having just wedged a block of unreservedly ideological commentary into a mainstream late-night show, looked as energized as he has since the first days of his CBS gig.

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In the days that followed, one guest after another came on Colbert’s show to savage Trump. Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, dismissed him as “lazy” and explained why he’d joined the #NeverTrump movement. The comedian Lewis Black said that he’d rather clean a latrine than attend the Republican Convention. The Broadway actress Laura Benanti opened Tuesday’s show with a scathingly funny impersonation of Melania Trump, pushing back against charges of plagiarism by giving a speech peppered with quotes from Dr. Seuss, famous ad jingles, and lines from the movie “Braveheart.” Last night, after Stewart’s appearance, Colbert spent two segments talking to the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, in what felt like the official Democratic response to Trump’s acceptance speech. (Warren said that Trump sounded like a “two-bit dictator,” and added, “I think it was the nastiest, most divisive Convention we’ve seen in half a century.”) This week’s shows offered themselves as an antidote to the Convention itself, and the crowds at the Ed Sullivan Theatre received them with glee. On last night’s show, in an extended critique of Trump’s just-finished speech, Colbert didn’t simply make fun of Trump’s orange skin or ornate hair—the standard late-night targets. Instead, he called the Convention a collection of “hastily assembled lies” and said that it had answered the question “What if Frankenstein’s monster was in charge of the angry mob?”

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