For Russian ears only: Stephen Colbert is running for president of the United States in 2020.
In an appearance Friday on the Russian late-night show “Evening Urgant,” “The Late Show” host sat on the other side of the desk for once, bantering with host Ivan Urgant through an interpreter and playing “Russian roulette” with a tray of vodka-filled shot glasses and pickles.
Midway through their game, the American comedian interrupted Urgant to say he had something to disclose — but only if he could confirm first that the show wasn’t broadcast in the United States.
“I am here to announce that I am considering a run for president in 2020,” Colbert said, delivering what was ostensibly a joke with a straight face.
The audience applauded as Colbert nodded seriously.
“And I thought it would be better to cut out the middleman and just tell the Russians myself,” Colbert continued. “If anyone would like to work on my campaign in an unofficial capacity, please just let me know.”
The “announcement” was an obvious jab at President Trump and the swirling allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 presidential elections. Stateside, Colbert has been one of the most vocal critics of Trump, making the president the chief target of CBS’s late-night show.
Colbert has continued to troll Trump, apparently even while traveling abroad. After Trump tweeted earlier this week that he had in fact made no “tapes” of his conversations with former FBI Director James B. Comey — despite ominously tweeting a warning last month to Comey that there might be — Colbert responded by posting a picture of himself in Russia.
In his appearance on “Evening Urgant,” Colbert joked that, because the show was part of a state-owned TV channel, Urgant was “officially an employee of the state.”
“I look forward to going back to America and testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about colluding with Russia,” Colbert deadpanned.
Later, Urgant encouraged him to take a shot of vodka during their game of “Russian roulette.”
“To the beautiful and friendly Russian people,” Colbert toasted, before throwing back his first shot. “I don’t understand why no members of the Trump administration can remember meeting you.”
With their final shots, Colbert and Urgant clinked glasses.
“A strong America!” Colbert yelled. “A strong Russia!”
Joking aside, Colbert has in the past ventured into politics, albeit, well, facetiously. In 2007 he attempted to be listed as a presidential candidate on the Democratic primary ballot in his native South Carolina but was rebuffed by the state’s Democratic Party leaders for not being a viable candidate.
At the time, Colbert was the host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” where he played a caricature of a conservative TV personality. He would continue his antics in 2012, when he formed a “super PAC” and once again tried unsuccessfully to get on the presidential primary ballot in South Carolina.
Failing that, Colbert threw the full weight of his satirical support behind Herman Cain — a Republican candidate perhaps best known for his “9-9-9” tax plan — running television ads that encouraged voters to choose “the one name on the ballot that stands for true Americanimity: Herman Cain.” Cain, a favorite among tea-party conservatives, had already dropped out of the race at that time. (For those curious, the Sunlight Foundation broke down exactly how Colbert’s super PAC spent its money.)
Since last November’s election, Colbert’s show on CBS has enjoyed blockbuster ratings, in large part because he has been unafraid to skewer Trump and his policies, week after week. However, Colbert’s relentless criticism of the president hit a bump in the road last month, after he came under fire for making a vulgar joke about Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The joke prompted accusations of homophobia and calls on the right for Colbert to be fired.
Colbert was relatively unapologetic.
“I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be,” he told his audience a few days after the joke. “I’m not going to repeat the phrase. But I just want to say, for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love in their own way, is to me an American hero. I think we can all agree on that. I hope even the president and I can agree on that. Nothing else. But that.”
There has been little love lost on Trump’s side. In a recent interview with Time magazine, Trump called Colbert a “no-talent guy.”
“There’s nothing funny about what he says,” Trump told the magazine. “And what he says is filthy. And you have kids watching. And it only builds up my base. It only helps me, people like him.”
In a rare unvarnished interview, Colbert recently described what it has been like to deliver jokes, night after night, under a Trump presidency.
“It’s all so petty and venal, and there’s nothing grand about it,” he said in his appearance at the Vulture Festival. “It’s not Shakespearean at all. It’s ‘Veep.’ ”