Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oh Stephen, we missed you

Hearing that Jon Stewart would be joining Stephen Colbert on The Late Show allowed me to hope that the two would reverse their Daily Show roles, with Stewart being Colbert's correspondent reporting from the conventions.

On Monday's Late Show, Stewart's role was limited to one short skit. The skit, though, served to reintroduce the blowhard pundit "Stephen Colbert", the host of The Colbert Report.

The moment Pundit Colbert stepped behind the desk and uttered the word "Nation", I felt I'd been reunited with an old friend.

In a way, the character's return was inevitable. The real Stephen Colbert can't comment effectively on the Republican Party's all-but-anointed presidential nominee, a lying bigot who overcompensates for his pathological inferiority complex with a buffoonish egomania. The idea is too bizarre and tragic for a normal person to frame. Only the pundit "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA" could reach the rhetorical high notes needed to express the outrageousness of this train wreck. And reach those high notes he did, through the resurrection of the Report's best-known recurring bit, "The W0rd".

Though Pundit Colbert was only onscreen for a few minutes, he seemed to add a spark to the whole hour. As his arch "Hungry for Power Games" presenter in a different bit, Colbert hurled brutally accurate barbs at Republicans and the far right while strolling through the mostly-empty Cleveland convention hall. The sequence was audacious and frequently hilarious. Even the show's opening, a musical number, seemed inspired. (The interview with Zoe Saldana was anodyne and a bit with Sam Waterston was a bust, but the hit-to-miss ratio was still better than the last time I saw the show.)

Pundit Colbert asked if we'd missed him. Yes. We missed him terribly.

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