Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon have seen their positions in the ratings reverse since Donald Trump took office. Fallon famously tousled Trumps hair during a late-campaign appearance on The Tonight Show, a move that was widely panned at the time and has aged like yogurt left in the sun.
Colbert bought pizza for his staff the first time they beat Fallon in the ratings, a tradition now going for a whopping nine straight weeks. Colbert’s formerly floundering Late Show has had new life breathed into it as Trump occupies the White House. No wonder; Colbert made his bones during George W. Bush’s presidency. But, as he tells The Hollywood Reporter in a new profile, he “would trade good ratings for a better president.”
That’s only natural. The most fascinating part of his interview is the question he wants to ask Trump. Here it is:
“What do you mean by ‘great again’? Define 'great.’ ” Or, “I challenge you to say anything right now that Vladimir Putin wouldn’t like. Say one thing. You could dispel all of these rumors if you would just say one thing. Just say, 'Yeah, he kills journalists.’ Say it.”
That’s a fascinating question. I have my own ideas about it – that Trump was dogwhistling a non-existent part of American history in which we were free of racial and economic strife – but there’s no beating hearing the man himself dissemble about what constitutes greatness. Even if you point to the 1950s as the so-called “great” part of American history to which we want to return, you’re pointing to an era of rampant repression, one of which the founding of magazines like Playboy helped bring to an end. Of course, we’re about as likely to see Trump on Colbert as we are to see dionsaurs once again walk the earth.