Tuesday’s college admissions scandal story had a bit of everything a late night host could ask for: accusations of bribery and test cheating, a ’90s movie reference and, of course, Aunt Becky. And Stephen Colbert was ready.
“You know how conspiracy theorists say everything is rigged for the wealthy and famous?” Colbert said. “Well, as a wealthy, famous person, let me just respond by saying, ‘You’re absolutely right.’”
The comedian used the opening monologue of his late-night show Tuesday to poke fun at the case by the Justice Department, which charged 50 people in a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme that targeted schools including Yale University, Stanford University and the University of Southern California.
The first clue that tipped off the FBI, the comic said, was an essay question on the college application.
"1. Reflect on an accomplishment that sparked personal growth and/or list your parents’ credit card number. What prompted your choice? What is the 3-digit security code?”
The FBI was also a source of humor. Agency officials described the parents allegedly involved in the bribery scheme as “a catalogue of wealth and privilege.”
"I get that once a month from Anthropologie,” Colbert quipped, referencing the retailer.
Then there was the name of the sting: Operation Varsity Blues.
“Named of course,” Colbert said, “for the scandal where at 22-year-old James Van Der Beek tried to scam us into believing he was in high school. Back to the creek, Dawson.” (Van Der Beek would have his own jokes about the reference.)
After a brief description of the college consultant, William “Rick” Singer, who federal authorities say orchestrated the scheme, the late night host got to the celebrities.
The first was actress Felicity Huffman, who is married to fellow Emmy-winning-actor William H. Macy.
“Celebrity nickname of course, Filliam H. Muffman.”
When he then brought up Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the television show “Full House,” the audience reacted with some doleful surprise.
“I know it’s shocking but this is nothing new,” Colbert said. “I mean back in the ’90s, Loughlin was part of a notorious scheme where they made a pair of twins pretend to be one person.”
"No one knew. No one knew. Millions of dollars ripped off.”
To finish, Colbert examined the way the alleged scammers created the impression that certain students were athletic recruits, which included Photoshopping the face of a prospective student onto the picture of an athlete.
“One applicant to Stanford,” Colbert joked, “claimed he played shooting guard in ‘Space Jam.’ ”
Students also were allegedly provided test answers or a surrogate took the exam in their place.
“Okay, kids, before the test let’s take attendance,” the comedian said, “starting with the 40-year-old man with a beard. Your name?
“Tiffany Parker,” Colbert says in a deeper voice.
Between the jokes, Colbert slipped in some serious commentary: Suspects may have stolen other people’s opportunities, and they allegedly committed tax fraud by taking tax deductions for donating to the fake charity used to pay the bribes.
But there was some good to come out of the scandal, said Colbert.
“So Donald Trump is not involved,” said the longtime critic of the president. “Sort of refreshing in a horrible way.”
Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.