These past two weeks have included two landmark events in late night television. The first being Conan O’Brien’s debut on the “The Tonight Show” (as well as the short time I can enjoy without Jay Leno on television). The second being “The Colbert Report”‘s four day special taking place in Iraq for our troops fighting overseas. What makes it so special is that it’s the first time a full-length, non-news show has been shot, edited, and broadcast in a combat zone. Stephen Colbert can’t seem to do anything these days without breaking new ground.
The one real dilemma faced by Colbert for this overseas trip is how to control his character. Would his angry, ignorant, Bill O’Reillyesque character be a little too tasteless for a war zone. Well, as the first episode last night showed, he could still bring along his character and entertain the troops. Instead, Colbert used the more egotistic and childlike side of his character as he declared victory in Iraq and then said he thought the war had ended because the news media wasn’t talking about it much anymore.
The show began with a throwback to old USO shows, as Colbert stood in front of a 50s style mic and did a stand up routine, throwing out some great zingers about Saddam Hussein and North Korea. The show continued with Colbert’s famous “The Word” sequence, but then he decided to break away from his show’s typical format and showed a digital short. This short involved Stephen going through some basic training for the army, and his spoiled self was certainly no match. It was a hilariously delightful sequence, one that felt like a throwback to Colbert’s days as a correspondent on “The Daily Show.” He’s certainly come a long way since then.
The most talked about part of this episode will most likely be the cameo by President Obama (via satellite). In a very funny and self-deprecating cameo, he ordered General Ordierno to shave Stephen’s head so as to complete his basic training. And yes, he did it. This was just another reminder that just a few laughs can truly go a long way. And in this case, all the way to Baghdad.
Here’s the video of Stephen in basic training: