Could there have been a more perfectly timed “Daily Show” reunion on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”? About 10 minutes before Colbert hosted a special episode Tuesday night with his former Comedy Central colleagues (host Jon Stewart and correspondents John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Ed Helms and Rob Corddry) news broke that President Trump had fired FBI Director James B. Comey.
It should have been a gold mine for the politically-minded comedians. However, given that everyone had just minutes to process the shocking announcement, there were only a few jokes about the topic. Colbert mentioned the news in his monologue — and seemed confused when the studio audience burst into applause. Later, during his interview with Stewart, Colbert asked the crowd directly: “When I said that Comey was fired by Trump, you all cheered. Why? Is it because what he did to Hillary?” he asked. The audience clapped in agreement.
“But you know he’s investigating Trump’s campaign’s ties to Russia? Which now will evaporate like cotton candy in the ocean,” Colbert explained. Stewart agreed the audience’s reaction was fascinating: “They didn’t know how to feel, and it was interesting to watch.” Colbert asked Stewart if he misses hosting a nightly talk show on days with major breaking news, such as the FBI director being fired.
“There are nights where I find myself sort of impotently shouting into the abyss, which, if you think about it, wasn’t that different from what I did on a nightly basis,” Stewart laughed. Still, he added, “the process of making the show somehow became entwined with my process of making sense of things that I didn’t understand. And the two sort of merged at some level. So I miss that.”
The two then moved on to other subjects — namely, Bill O’Reilly, who tangled with Stewart many times during his “Daily Show” years. Colbert said they hadn’t yet discussed O’Reilly’s exit from Fox News Channel, which happened last month after the New York Times reported that the network paid $13 million to multiple women through the years to settle sexual harassment claims.
“Are you surprised that it actually happened for him after so many years of it not happening?” Colbert asked. “That’s what surprised me, was not that it happened, but after so many years of people kind of knowing the behavior he was accused of — and the cash payoffs and stuff like that, and settlements.”
“The place was run by a guy doing the same thing,” Stewart responded. “Roger Ailes was involved in a similar thing. … How could you call in, call somebody who works for you and say, ‘This sexual harassment stuff, and the money we’re paying out, it’s got to stop,’ when you are paying out money for sexual harassment? There was no accountability throughout the entire building.”
Later, Colbert made a joke that forced the producers to bleep out a word — which apparently reminded Stewart that Colbert faced backlash last week when he made a vulgar dig about Trump. (“The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c — holster.”) It made headlines again over the weekend when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the panel will review complaints about the comment, even though the FCC does so for every complaint.
Stewart didn’t understand the fuss. “The things you say, even if they’re crass, or even if they in some ways are not respectful enough to the office of the presidency — we can insult. He can injure,” Stewart said. “Like, it’s the difference between insult and injury. And for the life of me, I do not understand why in this country we try and hold comedians to a standard we do not hold leaders to. It’s bizarre.”
Meanwhile, when Bee, Oliver, Helms and Corddry joined them on stage, it was essentially just a casual conversation among old friends. They shared stories about their time on “The Daily Show,” including the many bizarre field pieces. Stewart was upset that he was the only one who has visibly aged out of the group. (“You look like a garden of earthly pleasures, and I am a small handful of potpourri that has dried.”) They also aired a pretaped “flashback” skit that showed everyone on Colbert’s last day at “The Daily Show” in 2005, wearing the appropriate mid-2000s attire, in which the following quotes occurred:
Helms: “I can’t believe you’re leaving us, Stephen. … It’s like Beyoncé leaving Destiny’s Child. We’re never going to hear from her again.”
Corddry: “I’m already ready to hang up my poster of my two favorite comedians: Bill Cosby and Subway spokesman Jared Fogel.” (Colbert: “I know one thing, Rob: They will never let you down.”)
Bee: “I can’t believe you’re leaving right in the middle of the George W. Bush administration. There’s never going to be another president this good for comedy. I mean, this guy does something ridiculous, like, at least once a month! I know there’s one thing for sure: There is no scenario in which I will ever say, ‘God, I wish George W. Bush was president.’ ”