Colbert to Trump: Some of your ‘over-the-top’ remarks sound like me

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Colbert’s magic trick: Taming GOP firebreathers Trump and Cruz.

An uncharacteristically subdued Donald Trump refused to say whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States on Tuesday night during his highly-anticipated first appearance alongside Stephen Colbert on CBS’ “The Late Show.” Colbert pressed Trump to definitively say that Obama is a U.S. citizen, but Trump deflected the question (which the host described as a “big fat meatball” the candidate could “hit out of the park”), saying “I don’t talk about it anymore.” Trump has been giving voice to erroneous rumors about the president’s origins for years.NEW YORK — On Monday night’s episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” the eponymous host, while talking to Texas Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, did something wonderful, something that seemed like a definitive statement of purpose for his new late-night program: He told his audience to stop booing Ted Cruz.When Donald Trump first announced his campaign for the presidency this summer, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart called it a “gift from heaven,” while Tina Fey—who has gotten plenty of ammunition from Republican candidates in the past—declared it “great for comedy!” And they were right.

“@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won’t be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future,” Donald Trump writes in Twitter post.In many ways, it was a dream matchup: Donald Trump versus Stephen Colbert, who played a faux-Trump character on his old “Colbert Report” Comedy Central show. Trump’s past speculation about Obama’s place of birth has received renewed scrutiny after an attendee at a recent New Hampshire rally for the Republican candidate called the president a Muslim. As Cruz was attempting, with more success than you might think, to come across as moderate and reasonable, Colbert, respectfully, pressed him on an issue on which Cruz is outside the mainstream: Gay marriage. Over the past few months, Stewart and Fey and everyone in-between has been having plenty of fun at the expense of The Donald and his enigmatic coiffure.

As Cruz tried to explain that it should be an issue for the states, the crowd-like all New York city talk show crowds, not one predisposed to agree with Cruz on much-began to jeer him. Colbert’s strategy for the interview seemed a play on the one that political journalists have long relied on: Start with softballs, cajole, win over, and then progress to the heavier stuff. He didn’t seem too interested in getting into it with Trump—at least not in the same way that he challenged Ted Cruz on several points a night prior, and certainly not with the outright provocation of his Colbert Report character’s digs at the tycoon-turned-reality star-turned-politician. Though Stewart has, sadly, since retired from The Daily Show, there is still an army of late-night hosts with the opportunity to hold Trump—who is still leading in the polls—accountable for the offensive rhetoric he spews.

Thus, Colbert’s first question: “Are you shocked at all about the amazing reaction you get from crowds?” He added, “Because you shocked the Republicans.” Colbert then mentioned Trump’s most recent polling numbers. (“You see Zogby?,” Colbert asked. “Thirty-three percent! Colbert asked Trump to address questions about whether he’s a Barack Obama “birther,” and when Trump refused, the host appeared content to just move on.

Calling him a “ten billion dollar mouth,” the “Late Show” host had Trump sign a copy of his book “The Art of the Deal” for Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz (his second guest), tried to get him to apologize to anyone he’s ever offended (the candidate wouldn’t), and even engaged him in role-playing as a fictional president of Mexico negotiating payment for the massive border wall the candidate is proposing. “We have to have a wall,” Trump insisted amid what appeared to be facetious cheers from the audience. “In that wall we’re going to have a wonderful, big fat door … a beautiful door where people can come into the country but they have to come in legally,” he added. In Colbert’s first show, when he had Jeb Bush on, the first thing he did was thank him for coming on. “I could never get as many Republicans to come on my last show,” he told him.

Ted Cruz (who the real estate mogul praised as a “good man”), the host acknowledged playing the role an “over-the-top conservative” but “not as long as you did.” The interview concluded with a game where Colbert prompted Trump to guess whether a quote came from him or the host’s faux conservative alter ego from his former Comedy Central series “The Colbert Report”. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that the Jimmys—who are more class clowns than they are biting satirists—didn’t bring out the big guns when tackling Trump. The man has no shame, he is impervious to embarrassment, and he can’t “lose” arguments because he doesn’t allow someone else to dictate the conversation. Colbert wasn’t as chummy and borderline-fawning the way that Jimmy Fallon was when Trump was on “The Tonight Show” last week. (Fallon’s show is becoming so all-denominations-welcome-even/especially-the-lowest-common-one that it’s nearly content-free at this point; he is morphing into Jay Leno before our very eyes.) But Colbert wasn’t an attack dog either.

He had fun with Trump (how could you not?), but also showed him something that resembled respect-which turns out to be a core value of Colbert’s new show. Jake Byrd to a Trump rally in Texas, but the targets of this segment were really the clueless Trump supporters (one lady chanted “D.T.F.” along with Byrd, mistakenly thinking it meant “Donald Trump Forever”). He’s like an internet troll, except there he is on the stage, running for president of the United States—and even apparently leading the pack, despite a post-debate dip. This was essentially a Trumped-up edition of Kimmel’s popular “Lie Witness News” segment, and the antics aimed at Trump himself during the rally were actually pretty gentle.

He kept nodding in response to Colbert’s jokes, saying agreeably, “Sure, you’re right.” When he talked about building his wall on the southern US border, and invoked the Great Wall of China, Colbert interjected that Jesus had helped build that. As Politico pointed out, Trump was subdued, but it wasn’t because he was cowed, or just tired. (Trump is usually subdued only when he’s tired.) He just didn’t quite seem to know what to do with Colbert, and therefore defaulted into simply being a person. He was blaming, he continued, “people that have run the country—for many years, in all fairness.” He proceeded to go on a long lark about the Iraq war and wounded veterans and the destabilized Middle East and ISIS and his belief that “Iran is going to take over Iraq” and that “we’ve handed everything to everybody on a silver platter, and it shouldn’t have happened.” This was a good segue into a discussion of the Iran nuclear deal.

Colbert said that he would offer Trump an easy “big, fat meatball” question. “There’s sauce all over my hand this meatball is so big,” Colbert said. Trump is usually attacking, or is self-consciously absurd, but with Colbert, who tried to engage him as a human, Trump the political performer seemed to recede, something one would imagine impossible. Trump skittered sideways, implying again that he continues to believe in the discredited notion that the president is a foreigner, and thus constitutionally unfit for the job.

The fact that Trump aced Colbert’s test shows that he’s well aware of all the outrageous things he says—that they aren’t just innocuous throwaway remarks, but rather actual beliefs that he holds strongly. Not only was he unfailingly able to choose which statements he’d said in the past and which had been said by Colbert’s old character, he even knew not to attribute the trick question, actually said by Charles Manson, to himself.

In the wake of this cordial, almost casual interview, some liberal critics, used to the old Colbert, have claimed Colbert took it too easy on Trump. (The Daily Beast called him “craven.” ) But this is to miss the point of the new Colbert show. How do you plan to do that?” And Trump, taking full advantage of the segment structure, replied, “Since I’m you, why don’t you tell me?” Fallon did manage to wrest one bit of important commentary from Trump, at least. Worse, Colbert’s rendition of the Mexican president involved him adopting a Speedy Gonzalez-esque voice and uttering responses to Trump that included the line, “Oh! I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” If anyone was in a position to take up the Stewart mantle and pin a slippery Trump down, it would be Stewart’s old Comedy Central buddy Stephen Colbert. Instead, Trump got every single question right. (That’s including a trick question Colbert threw in at the end: “The real strong have no need to prove it to the phonies.” Trump’s guess: “It’s not me.

For example, his emotional and personal interview with Vice President Joe Biden offered an unprecedented on-air glimpse of the man behind the character. It’s possible that all this gentle teasing from Colbert, Kimmel, and Fallon and their after-hours cohorts, like Seth Meyers and James Corden, will be enough to bring down Trump.

The Big Question about Colbert’s place in late night has been, pretty much as soon as it was announced that Colbert would take over for Letterman, how he would negotiate precisely this kind of interview. And that Stephen Colbert—the funny one, the charming one, the complicated one, the one who needs to keep booking politicians for his show—seemed unable to stand up to a man whose response, when asked whether there’s anything at all he would like to apologize for, is a simple “no.”

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