He had to say something.
“Quick question, how was your weekend?” Stephen Colbert said at the top of his Late Show monologue on Monday. “I certainly had an interesting one, because some of my staff had a memorable one.”
From there, Colbert proceeded to break down all of the previously unknown details about the seven Late Show staffers who were arrested on Capitol Hill last week while filming a comedy piece about the Jan. 6 committee hearings.
“Here’s what happened,” he explained. “Last week, I heard from my old colleague Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Triumph offered to go to D.C. and interview some Congress people to highlight the Jan. 6 hearings. I said, ‘Sure, if you can get anyone to agree to talk to you, because—and please don’t take this as an insult—you’re a puppet.’”
Colbert confirmed that both Democratic and Republican members of Congress agreed to talk to Triumph, the long-running comedy creation of writer Robert Smigel—and he and the Late Show crew spent two days shooting footage at offices across the street from the Capitol building. “They went through security clearance,” he said, and shot all day Wednesday and all day Thursday, invited into the offices of the Congress people they were interviewing.
It was at the end of their second day on Thursday when “Triumph and my folks were approached and detained by the Capitol Police,” he continued. “Which actually, isn’t that surprising. The Capitol Police are much more cautious than they were, say, 18 months ago, and for a very good reason. If you don’t know what that reason is, I know what news network you watch.”
According to the host, everyone was just “doing their job,” they were “very professional” and “very calm.” The Late Show crew was “detained, processed, and released—a very unpleasant experience for my staff, a lot of paper for the Capitol Police, but a very simple story.”
“Until the next night, when a couple of TV people started claiming my puppet squad had, ‘committed insurrection’ at the U.S. building,” he said, referring to absurd comments made by Tucker Carlson and others.
“First of all, what?” Colbert said. “Second of all, huh? Third of all, they weren’t in the Capitol building. Fourth of all, and I’m shocked I have to explain the difference, but an insurrection involves disrupting the lawful actions of Congress and howling for the blood of elected leaders, all to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. This was first-degree puppetry. This was hijinks with intent to goof. Misappropriation of an old Conan bit.”
Colbert said it was “predictable” that people like Carlson would make such outrageous claims. “They want to talk about something other than the Jan. 6 hearings or the actual seditionist insurrection that led to the deaths of multiple people, and the injury of over 140 police officers,” he said. “But drawing any equivalence between rioters storming our Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral ballots and a cigar-chomping toy dog is a shameful and grotesque insult to the memory of everyone who died, and it obscenely trivializes the service and the courage the Capitol Police showed on that terrible day.”
“But who knows, maybe there was a vast conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States with a rubber Rottweiler,” he joked. “We all know the long history of puppet lawlessness. The Great Muppet Caper, the Fraggle riots of the 1980s.”
“In this case, our puppet was just a puppet doing puppet stuff,” he assured viewers. “And sad to say, so much has changed in Washington that the Capitol Police do have to stay at high alert all the time, because of the attack on January 6th. And as the hearings prove more clearly every day, the blame for that actual insurrection all goes to Putin’s puppet.”
There’s been no word yet on when the piece that Triumph and crew were filming last week will air on the Late Show, but when it does, it is certain to be one for the ages.
For more, listen to Robert Smigel on The Last Laugh podcast.