Last week, after I watched Stephen Colbert's interview with Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison -- after I fell in love with Morrison all over again, and exclaimed that I must re-read "Beloved" -- I also muttered, "Thank goodness for Stephen Colbert."
On Thanksgiving -- this overblown American holiday, where we celebrate America's foundational myth and kick off a holiday season of materialism and gluttony with football and apple pie -- I'd like to give thanks for someone very special. I'm thankful for Stephen Colbert. Here's why:
His satire of America:
When I wrote about Toni Morrison's appearance on "The Colbert Report" last week, I received many emails and tweets in protest. Many people took issue with the headline: "Toni Morrison completely schools Stephen Colbert on the topic of racism." Some of them explained the obvious: Stephen Colbert is a satirical figure, so Morrison wasn't "schooling" him. But, hard as it is to believe, there was actually a time not too many years ago when people really believed that Colbert was an in-earnest conservative pundit.
Both perspectives are right in a way, because Stephen Colbert's character on "The Colbert Report" is a stand-in for us. He relentlessly mocks Americans by being as stereotypically "American" as he can be. Stephen Colbert is hilarious and ridiculous and over the top because, dammit, our country is all of those things too.
The interviews he conducts:
There was another, much simpler reason why I was thankful for the Morrison interview. I was thankful that it even happened. Morrison wasn't promoting anything, yet there she was, the amazing, celebrated writer taking this glorious late-night spotlight.
Colbert, as a late-night host, has not just interviewed politicians, actors and pop-stars. He has interviewed mathematicians, authors, indie bands, scientists, strategists and activists. Colbert has interviewed people who were genuinely interesting and working on fascinating projects -- projects that they were passionate about. Colbert didn't just distribute the "Colbert Bump" to run-of-the-mill celebrities on some stodgy daytime cable news show. He delivered it to guests like first-time author Edan Lepucki. I hope he continues to do this on "The Late Show," and that Larry Wilmore carries on the tradition as he succeeds Colbert on Comedy Central.
His coverage of elections:
It seems obvious to be thankful for Colbert's daily political coverage -- the deft satire, the many laughs. And we are thankful for this. His reporting on political campaigns will especially be missed. It is hard to believe that the 2014 midterm election was the last election that Colbert's character will ever cover. (Though he's given us some nice 2016 coverage.)
Here's are just a few example of Colbert's incredible political coverage: When he explained the role of super-PACs, by starting his own; and when he lampooned campaign spending, spin and punditry by running for president in the 2008 election cycle in South Carolina.
He's totally got Thanksgiving nailed:
I mean, right?
They really are the best nut.
Colbert is just as amazing out of character:
We've spilled a lot of digital ink on the many amazing attributes of the conservative blowhard character Stephen Colbert, in part because that is what we're accustomed to. (I mean, he even testified to Congress in character.)
However, Colbert out of character -- the Colbert that will probably grace "The Late Show" -- is pretty damn incredible as well. (And funny!)
Though we'll miss "The Colbert Report," we're thankful that the real Stephen Colbert will still be connecting with viewers on late-night television. And we're equally thankful that we'll get to see what the talented Larry Wilmore has to add to the satirical news arena.