Stephen Colbert should have stuck to the puns. Offended by Donald Trump’s treatment of Face the Nation host John Dickerson, the late-night comic declared solidarity with his CBS colleague by slinging a series of insults back at Trump. The Daily Beast’s Matt Wilstein found it laudable, but a reference to gay sex has some seeing red — including some who are hardly fans of Trump:
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) May 1, 2017
“When you insult one member of the CBS family, you insult us all!” Colbert began. “Mr. President, I love your presidency, I call it ‘Disgrace The Nation.’ You’re not the POTUS, you’re the ‘gloat-us.’ You’re the glutton with the button. You’re a regular ‘Gorge Washington.’ You’re the ‘presi-dunce’ but you’re turning into a real ‘prick-tator.’”
“Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine,” the host continued. “You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign-language gorilla that got hit in the head.” And then the kicker: “In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.”
The Late Night audience roared through the insults, although none of them showed all that much wit and humor. They seemed predisposed to cheer anything anti-Trump, which hardly comes as a surprise when dealing with New York television audiences. For the most part, it’s a string of mediocre and obvious puns of the kind one could glean from an hour’s worth of observing Twitter. Shouldn’t a team of comedy writers on salary at CBS to come up with something better than “gloat-us” and “prick-tator”?
At least the puns kept Colbert on somewhat safe ground, however. The gay-sex reference has some steaming, as our colleagues at Twitchy curated earlier today:
A joke even close to this brutal about Obama would earn any entertainer a permanent trip out of the business. https://t.co/P80aPmMFgz
— Anthony Cumia (@AnthonyCumia) May 2, 2017
Homophobia for the right cause, with the right targets, is good homophobia, apparently. https://t.co/4rLd1wfTfA
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 2, 2017
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) May 2, 2017
Imagine, Greg P asks, if a late-night show comic had used this joke on Barack Obama. Or, for that matter, imagine the meltdown had a broadcast comic used that joke on Hillary Clinton after the “reset button” fiasco. The media would have melted down into all sorts of recriminations about homophobic/sexist broadcast networks and the seething hatred of conservatives. As T. Becket Adams says, those were the days:
This would be a fireable offense in better times. Worst thing about many Trump critics is they use him as an excuse to act as awful or worse https://t.co/7kIsJYHVnn
— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) May 2, 2017
Will Colbert get fired over this joke? Naaaah. You can’t get fired for Speaking Truthiness To Power when Republicans are in the White House. Should he get fired over it? It’s crude, hypocritical, and demented, but probably not, since what passes for comedy (and entertainment in general) has increasingly become more about shock than wit. We’re likely less than a generation from late-night hosts just unholstering their own genitalia for laughs. Colbert isn’t leading the charge; he’s just a leading indicator of the meltdown.
It’s a measure of how far CBS has fallen that this passes for entertainment in the first place, but outrageous outrage has become more exhausting in direct proportion to the decline, too. If we want, we can all fire Colbert by simply choosing to do something else with our time — either on another network, or by turning off the TV entirely. Maybe they could rename the show … “Displace the Nation.”