Stephen Colbert heads for Russia looking for laughs; he’d find better material at home
Funnyman Colbert, host of the accurately titled Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS, must be desperate for material. On Thursday and Friday of last week, he took a hiatus from his talk show to travel all the way to Russia to shoot some comedy bits he will use in later episodes of his program.
While in Moscow, Colbert appeared on a Russian late-night television show hosted by Ivan Urgant that, like its American counterpart, is also very aptly titled, Evening Urgant.
On Mr. Urgant’s show, Colbert made the following declaration, “Ok. I am here to announce that I am considering a run for president in 2020, and I thought it would be better to cut out the middle man and just tell the Russians myself.”
Colbert traveling to Russia to make a joke about alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election is most certainly clever if a bit much. I mean, it’s a mildly funny joke, I guess, but it certainly isn’t funny enough to travel about 4,680 miles (7,530 km) from New York to Moscow just for the gag. That is a frighteningly inefficient comedy rate in terms of laughs produced to miles traveled.
It begs the question though, is New York so devoid of comedic material that poor Colbert has to fly half way around the world to dig up some Boris and Natasha level cold war comedy on his expedition for giggles?
While I admire Colbert’s commitment in undertaking his Arthurian quest to scour the globe in a crusade for the ever-elusive comedy grail (or is it a fountain of eternal guffaws?), I wonder if there isn’t an easier way to get the chuckles Colbert so desperately desires.
I think I have a better idea, and since Colbert is so interested in all things Russia I assume he must be an avid RT reader. Therefore I am going to share my brilliant scheme with him directly.
Anyway, I have an idea that has the potential to save you precious time and travel expenses in your never-ending pursuit of comedy gold. Here it is.
Instead of traveling to Russia to make a “cut out the middleman” joke about Russian “interference” in the US election, why not stay at home and have potential candidates from all of the countries that have had the US meddle in their elections come visit you in The Big Apple?
For instance, you could have all of the future Ukrainian presidential hopefuls come to your New York studio and declare their intentions to run for office. Former Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland could be a guest at the same time, that way you can “cut out the middleman” of the Ukrainian voters and find out from the horse's mouth who the US will select to be the leader of Ukraine. It will be uproariously funny because it’ll be like 2014 when the US supported the anti-government protests, violence and coup which killed over a hundred people, and was followed by thousands more dying in the resulting civil war.
I know what you’re thinking, that this is just a one-trick pony and the comedy will dry up once you do the Ukrainian election show. You couldn’t be more wrong, Mr. Colbert. You could follow up the Ukraine show by “cutting out the middleman” and having some Russians on your program so they can describe how the US shamelessly interfered in their elections of 1996 to keep Boris Yeltsin in power and Russia in their back pocket? The US intrusion into Russian politics in 1996 was so brazen it earned a Time magazine cover with the headline “Yanks to the Rescue: The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win." You would have your fans rolling in the aisles once you showed them that Time cover.
I know what you are thinking, the Ukrainian and Russian shows are masterful ideas, but demographically they are pretty…well…limited. But fear not, we can tap into the crucial Latino audience by having Honduran presidential hopefuls appear on your show too. They can recount how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “cut out the middleman” by supporting and funding a right-wing military coup in 2009 to overthrow José Manuel Zelaya, the center-left, democratically elected president of Honduras. Maybe you could have Secretary Clinton on as well, it isn’t like she has anything else to do with her time, and she can tell you how she refused to call the brutal takeover a coup to skirt US laws and to continue to send financial and military aid to the usurpers. Now that right there would be some top-notch political “interference” comedy.
Frankly, Mr. Colbert, I think you should do a whole Latin America week, where you host potential candidates from all across Central and South America where the US has consistently undermined democracy. Well, I guess a week wouldn’t be long enough, how about Latin America month? To the delight of your adoring fans you could rehash America’s notorious history of supporting anti-democratic, right-wing military takeovers with their accompanying death squads and disappearances in Brazil and the Dominican Republic in the 1960’s, Argentina and Chile in the 1970’s, El Salvador and Panama in the 1980’s, Haiti in the 1990’s, Venezuela in 2002 and the list goes on and on.
We won’t just focus on Latin American countries either. Do you want to target the Asian audience? No problem. You will start that topic off by doing a Vietnam bit that will kill. Maybe not kill as much as America’s disastrous war in the jewel of Southeast Asia, but that is an extremely high bar to clear.
In regards to Vietnam, it is apropos that you do your show in Ed Sullivan’s old theater on Broadway, because Ed himself could have been the first to do this “cut out the middleman” joke back in his day if he had Vietnamese presidential hopeful Ngo Dinh Diem on his show in 1953 when the US hand-picked him to run his country and rigged the election to ensure his victory. Ed could’ve skillfully delivered the gut busting punch line about how in 1963 Diem fell out of favor with his American overlords and was arrested and assassinated as a result of the US-backed coup.
Continuing with the Asian theme, you could absolutely slay if you did shows on Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia and how America’s meddling in those countries eventually resulted in homicide on a catastrophic scale.
I think the showstopper of the “cutting out the middleman” bit will be when you host Iranians who survived the CIA-backed overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 and lived under the brutal rule of the American-installed Shah until 1979.
I am also sure there’s a bonanza of humor a comedy genius like yourself can find in the history of US meddling in Iraq too, where we first installed Saddam, then later deposed him, killing hundreds of thousands, if not a million, Iraqis in the process. Your audience will be splitting their sides laughing when Iraqi presidential hopefuls come, hat in hand, to your studio asking America to “elect” them to rule their ancient land.
I know, you’re right, people are sick of Iraq, but you can always focus on Egypt instead, where the US supported dictator Hosni Mubarak for decades, and after he was toppled in 2011 during the Arab Spring and replaced by Mohamed Morsi in the democratic elections of 2012, the US did what it does best and “cut out the middleman” by backing a coup against Morsi in 2013 and replacing him with General el-Sisi, a military strongman just like Mubarak.
And while you’re clowning about US interference in the Middle East, please don’t forget Libya, Lebanon and (American fingers crossed) the current situation in Syria too! The Middle East is a region that is particularly ripe with the delicious comedy fruits of US intervention that you can pluck to hysterical effect.
I mean Mr. Colbert, with your comedic talent and skill you can turn America’s long history of anti-democratic violence and coups into a veritable goldmine of comedy. I am literally crying right now I’m laughing so hard at all of the jokes I imagine you’ll conjure up about how many times the US has “cut out the middleman” in foreign elections. I would be willing to bet that the millions of people across the globe who live in the countries where America has interfered in their politics have tears in their eyes as well…they just aren’t from laughing.
Michael McCaffrey, for RT
Michael McCaffrey is a freelance writer, film critic and cultural commentator. He currently resides in Los Angeles where he runs his acting coaching and media consulting business. mpmacting.com/blog/
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.