Colbert & Colmes: A Little Too Close to Home

Public figures are occasionally a little too eager to look like a good sport, and so it was with Alan Clim’s’ hilarious if slightly uncomfortable appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Monday.

Colmes has always been the small-type half of Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes,” so much so that when he announced plans to leave, Fox finally decided just to leave his chair vacant. Although ostensibly the show’s token liberal, Holmes has been far less than an equal partner, inasmuch as Sean Hannity invariably set the agenda and drove the conversation, establishing a strong conservative tilt. And there’s no nice way to say it, but the disparity in their physical appearance (this is TV, after all) only reinforced that perception.

As always, Stephen Colbert cut right to the heart of this, seating Colmes next to him on a tiny chair, blocking his face with graphics, and giving him a list of approved phrases to say (as in “Right again, Stephen!”). Later, he left Colmes sitting there like a lox while Colbert moved over to conduct an interview — with CNN’s John King, no less.

Score it as another virtuoso performance by Colbert, whose ability to improv while staying true to his pompous blow-hard character remains one of TV’s most remarkable high-wire acts. Yet while his shtick is never really mean-spirited, the gag — which ran throughout the show — went on too long. As for Holmes, it’s swell that he can laugh at himself after 12 years as Hannity’s near-invisible junior partner, but this parody struck a bit too close to home. Still, Colmes possesses a bright future as a cable sidekick if he can continue to exhibit a facility for “top-notch listening.”

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