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Some may find this an exercise in futility, others an act of frivolity. Nevertheless, I write this piece in an attempt to assuage my disappointment at being let down by my favourite television comedy show host. I have been watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for over four years now. To put that period in perspective, it was four years of insanity and incredulity that was the Donald Trump presidency. The silver lining of his term was the fodder he used to provide to the late-night talk show hosts with his faux pas and tweets, and the fervour with which they milked it for comedy gold.

Colbert, like scores of his compatriots and most from the rest of the world, had thought that the former pageant owner and reality television host didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to win. Yet in a shocking upset, Trump clinched the presidency from Hillary and denied her the distinction of being the first female POTUS. Colbert’s monologues from that point on were mostly scathing Trump-bashing. 

I used to double over laughing watching his over-the-top Trump impressions and these videos were sure-shot stress busters for me. Regardless of the motivations that drove these daily roasting of the president, for me they were daring, cheeky, and rebellious, a constant endorsement of “Not My President”. He was also vocal and sensitised to many social causes like gun control, the #MeToo movement, and vaccine hesitancy. He really rose in my estimation when he spoke about his boss Les Moonves and made the lofty statement that “Accountability is meaningless unless it is for everybody”.

However, things have changed since Joe Biden took over. He does take potshots at Biden but the acerbity and sting has gone. Matters which held heft earlier have become less significant now. Case in point was his muted criticism of Kamala Harris’s “Do not come to US” statement to Guatemala migrants. But the greatest disappointment came after seeing his response to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Not only did it come across as flippant and ambivalent, it glossed over the fact that the current chaos in Afghanistan is America’s doing. Without making any mention of the need to take in refugees, his closing statement of “when the right thing feels so wrong” felt empty and insincere.

Earlier, when Trump ordered the withdrawal of troops from Syria, he minced no words in criticising the move. He even went on to quote an official who had said that “we are telling the world we will use you and then throw you away”. This could not be truer for the situation in Afghanistan only with the gravity increased manifold. Yet, Stephen Colbert now appears to strive not to be too hard on Biden. After the 6 January Capitol attack, a visibly shaken Colbert seething with rage spoke passionately about what had transpired. Guess only when the problem is close to home does one feel the pang.

Colbert’s views on the Afghan fiasco seemed even more jarring after watching Seth Meyers and John Oliver’s more nuanced ones who seemed genuinely sympathetic of the plight of the Afghans. John Oliver was blunt and comprehensive as always. He pointed out that the 20-year operation in Afghanistan was haphazardly carried out without definite plans or objectives. Although he condoned the troops coming back home, he emphasised the need to safeguard the lives of Afghans and the necessity of granting asylum to people who choose to leave the country. He reiterated that America could not choose to wash their hands of Afghanistan after unleashing turmoil in the country.

This piece might have come across as the naive babble of a peeved fangirl who does not have the slightest conception of the leanings of various sections of show business. It’s with a heavy heart that I realise that the Colbert whom I had adored might just have been the ephemeral product of his feelings for a Republican president he immensely disliked. 

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.


Also read: This is how much the Afghanistan War cost — in lives, dollars, years