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Liveblogging the return of “The Colbert Report”

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8:30 — Hysterical opening. Stephen opens with his usual finger pointing, but says nothing other than, “Tonight!” “Then!” “Plus!” “Hey!” “This… is the Col-BERT report!” (Yes, he hits the hard “T”).

8:31 — Colbert gives himself a standing ovation. Big audience cheering.

And they’re still cheering.

8:32 — Still!

Stephen puts his feet on the desk. At least this is killing time! He then runs into the crowd (which is chanting “Stephen! Stephen!” and physically starts pushing them to their seats.

“I thank you for that brief ovation.”

Colbert_001 8:33 — “The situation is FUBAR — that’s showbiz talk. Nobody is to blame here other than my director Jimmy. Jim, I got a problem here — there are no words in my teleprompter. What the hell is going on?” Shot of the prompters, which are dark (left).

8:34 — “That’s not my understanding of how it works. This little magic box, it reads my thoughts and then lays it up on the screen here and I read it.”

“The writers? The guys on the sixth floor with the Opium bongs, playing Guitar Hero all day. You’re telling me those guys are responsible for what I say? I find that much of a stretch. Get it fixed.”

8:37 — It seems like so long ago now. Colbert mentions that the last time his show was on (back at the start of November), it was right after he was denied a spot on the South Carolina ballot. Turns out he took a break from the show, he says, for a good cry.

8:38 — “Huckabee only won because he had the Colbert bump… Everytime Huckabee’s been on the show, he’s offered me the position of his running mate.”

Why does it make sense? “Huckabee recently lost 110 pounds, and over the Christmas holiday I gained 110 pounds. I love marzipan.”

8:41 — Another flashback, this time to late October, when Barack Obama said he couldn’t imagine Colbert being from South Carolina, or eating grits. Then, a few days later, Colbert did just that.

Colbert_003 8:42 — Live, more grits eatin’! “Just eating my tradition snack of grits, which I eat while watching myself eat grits.”

8:43 — No grits-off for now. “Barack Obama will not come on my show while there’s a strike going on.” (Boos from the audience.) “He won’t talk to me. But look at who he will talk to.” (Cut to clip of Obama at summer debate, when he made waves by saying he’d open a dialogue with Syria and Iran). “He won’t talk to to me, but he’ll talk to Mahmoud Ahmad-writers-guild-of-america-inejad? Barak Obama is saying Stephen Colbert is worse than a terrorist. His words.”

8:44 — Strike talk. “There’s an elephant in the room here. Well, the elephant’s not in the room here, it’s on strike as well. Why am I doing the show tonight? All my doubters and haters out there, I have always been anti-labor, always been anti-union. This is completely politically consistent.” (Cut to past labor/union related clips.)

Colbert_004 8:45 — “I don’t need my writers! Which brings me to tonight’s Word.” The Colbert signature segment — and it’s empty (right).

8:51 — Clip compliation from this weekend’s Democratic debate: Every candidate’s overuse of the word “change.” (Like “The Daily Show,” I guess the editors who put together these clip packages aren’t on strike.)

8:52 — Tonight’s guest: Blogger/pundit Andrew Sullivan, who wrote “Why Obama Matters” for this month’s The Atlantic Monthly

8:53 — There’s something awfully surreal in seeing one-time conservative Sullivan — who supported George W. Bush in 2000 (before eventually moving left; he’s still more of a Libertarian) — defending Obama against Colbert’s ultra-right wing “Stephen Colbert” character, given that Colbert in real life is a Democrat.

8:55 — Sullivan mentions his departure from the Republican party, which he left when “they became a relgiious right party that invaded countries without a plan when they go there… They left me. They left a lot of people.”

8:58 — Another guest? “One thing this strike proves, that, whether we like it or not, unions still exist. And my guest seems to think that’s a good idea.” It’s Richard Freeman, author of “America Works: Critical Thoughts on the Exceptional U.S. Labor Market.”

Wait, there’s a minute to go. Did someone screw up at Comedy Central? Was this pre-taped for another evening? Was Sullivan?

8:58 — Colbert: “The capitalists are the chickens, and the workers are eggs that we have the right to scramble.”

And… TiVo comes to a halt. What happened? I’ll have to DVR another airing.

— Michael Schneider