After a decade-long and wildly successful run, the Colbert Report is finally closing its curtains tonight. For a show that has enjoyed near critical acclaim and rave reviews from every critic, writer, blogger, and influential thinker of the past decade, the Colbert Report is going out with very little fanfare. No media tributes like Leno got. No front page headlines like Conan. Just a few words about what a great show it was, and how we are going to miss the Report so much, and he’s going to be so great on CBS and blah blah blah. And you know what? Fuck that. The Report deserves more. It was one of the most influential and iconic television shows of the next decade, and it deserves more than a Buzzfeed-style “10 Best Moments” list from everyone.
The cliché about satire and comedy you hear from every writing professor you’ve ever had is the point is to hold a mirror to society and make people laugh at what they see. No one was better at this than Stephen Colbert. No one could point out the inherent hypocrisies, contradictions, and absurdities of American politics than he could. No one could take serious subjects and be as consistently funny talking about them as him. No one else could reduce subjects of monstrous proportions down to a few well-timed quips, and stab the heart of the matter more effectively either. When it’s all said and done and the history of the “Satirical News”-era of television comedy is written, Jon Stewart will stand as it’s most important and influential figure. As he should. But no one mastered it like Stephen Colbert. I doubt anyone ever will be again.
His most brilliant moment, ironically, might have happened on C-Span instead of Comedy Central, at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, when Stephen delivered a devastating critique of the Bush Administration and the National Media, all of whom the night was supposed to honor. Everyone always loves to tickle Ricky Gervais’s balls about how brave and badass it was of him to host the Golden Globes and roast the celebrities in attendance, but Colbert did that with the NATIONAL PRESS AND MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD surrounding him at all angles, at a time when people were afraid of being branded unpatriotic for questioning the Government. That’s balls. Of course, Colbert’s monologue was met with icy glares and no laughter. But he wasn’t playing to the audience in the room. He was playing to the larger audience who were going to watch the routine the next day on their home computers. In a lot of ways, that routine was the Godfather of viral content that’s now employed by all the late-night guys he’ll be competing against in a few months.
And that’s who Colbert was. Everything about him was summed up in that dinner. You didn’t always have to agree with him politically. I certainly didn’t a large portion of the time. But what he did transcended that. It was more important than him being left, right, or in outer space. He was direct. He was honest. He was smart. He genuinely cared about the things he was talking about. He tried to throw rocks at giants while pretending to be one himself. He took issues that no one was talking about and made them understandable to us. How many of us knew what a Super-Pac or 501(C)(3) was until he decided to create one himself? So for one of the most iconic and influential shows of the past decade, I say goodbye and I’m really, really, really going to miss you. Stephen is off to take the most prestigious job in all of television. Personally I think it’s a damn shame that he’s leaving a show that challenged the entire American public consciousness to interview celebrities about their next movie, but I understand why he’s doing it. And I bet his next show is great, but he’ll leave a hole that will most likely never be filled after tonight. And that’s tonight’s word.