One of the greatest creations in television history is ending its run tonight. When the series finale of The Colbert Report airs tonight on Comedy Central it will be the end for Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A. For the nine years that the Report aired and for eight years before that as a correspondent on The Daily Show, this character has been bringing hilarious (and sometimes poignant) life to the poorly-informed and rage-filled Id of the American body politic. Though the character was conceived of as a satire of empty cable news bloviators like Bill O’Reilly, he eventually grew beyond that into a refraction of the overweening pride and self-regard of our entire political sphere in all its inane insanity.
An Immortal Contribution to the America Lexicon
There are two perfect distillations of the debt we owe that idiot. The first is “Truthiness,” the word introduced in the very first episode of the Report that now defines any idea or fact that feels true, even when it isn’t. It was darkly hilarious to hear that tossed around in the Bush Era, which was filled with half-forgotten aphorisms like “known-unknowns” and “Orange Threats.” This idea came into full public bloom when some fool invited Colbert to perform at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2006. Standing just feet from the President of the United States, Colbert delivered with both barrels and made sure that all of the elites of Washington faced their ridiculousness at least once.
Doing Public Service Via Satire
But “Truthiness”, and with it Colbert’s ability to skewer those in service of it, cuts deeper than just the Bush administration’s tenuous and oft-evil grappling with the “reality-based community.” In 2012, following the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, Colbert waded into the murky world of campaign finance. Reaching a bigger audience than any traditional muckraker could have, Colbert created his own Super-PAC. He used it to demonstrate the endless farcity of a legal system that gave the wink to dark money in our politics. The show, which never dropped its arch-satire in order to make its points, won a Peabody Award for its public service. That’s just fucking incredible.
With the real Stephen Colbert heading off to take over for Letterman on CBS, it seems that tonight is truly the last we will see of Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A. His last guest is his old friend “Grimmy.” Maybe it is time to move on. Maybe we can deal with only having Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and soon Larry Wilmore to give us the depressing facts mixed with a healthy dose of laughter. I’m still gonna miss that Cheshire Cat grin on that pompous windbag. For my entire adult life, he spoke truthiness to power, and that’s something that will be sorely missed.
Image via thewrap.com.