It’s been a rough seven days or so if you’re even remotely aware of the news. There was the healthcare vote in the House, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and any number of other stresses. Oh, and it’s only Wednesday.
Stephen Colbert, coming off some troubles of his own, is no stranger to the rigors of national news. Luckily, he is also no stranger to wringing laughter out of them. So Tuesday night, amid a new wave of American political chaos, Colbert got some old friends together for a full-blown Daily Show reunion on The Late Show.
Colbert devoted nearly his entire hour to the event Tuesday night, which brought together former Daily Show host Jon Stewart (already a frequent Late Show visitor) and former correspondents Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Ed Helms and Rob Corddry. After a brief intro featuring a cameo from current Daily Show host Trevor Noah, followed by his customary monologue, Colbert turned on to memory lane and just kept going.
The reunion kicked off with a “flashback” to 2005, when Colbert first left The Daily Show to strike out on his own with The Colbert Report. The segment featured a somewhat sweet conclusion in which Stewart jokingly acknowledged the lineage his show has left as the correspondents struck out on their own. It was mostly an excuse to make jokes about how naive everyone was back then.
“There’s never going to be another president this good for comedy,” Bee said of George W. Bush, who was president during the flashback. “I mean, this guy does something ridiculous like at least once a month. You know, I know there’s one thing for sure: There is no scenario in which I will ever say ‘God, I wish George W. Bush was president.’”
Then, Colbert took a little one-on-one time with Stewart. Things got momentarily serious when talk turned to the recent controversy surrounding a joke Colbert made at the expense of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. After jokingly chiding Colbert for his language ("I learned it from you, Dad,” Colbert replied), Stewart launched into one of the legendary impassioned points that made him the nation’s comedy conscience for more than a decade.
“The things that you say, even if they’re crass or even if they in some ways are not respectful enough to the office of the presidency: We can insult, he can injure,” Stewart told Colbert. “It’s the difference between insult and injury. And for the life of me I do not understand why in this country we try and hold comedians to a standard we do not hold leaders to. It’s bizarre.”
The rest of the evening could have easily turned to more political talk. Oliver and Bee have both since gone on to their own highly acclaimed political comedy shows and would no doubt have been up for it. Colbert seemed to sense that’s not what the moment called for, though.
So he gathered everyone on couches and they shared silly stories from their Daily Show days. Colbert talked about the time the Klan tried to beat him up, Bee talked about the time some dudes in Florida (because of course it was Florida) tried to talk her into a foursome and Stewart talked about how poorly he’s aged. And for a little while in the Trump era, late night TV was just six incredibly funny friends goofing around.
It was tremendously refreshing, even more so because we all know Bee, Oliver and Colbert are putting their armor back on and heading back into the fray even now.