On Saturday night, Daily Show alums Stephen Colbert and John Oliver were sitting together on a stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for a chat about the presidential election, when an audience member asked the pair: “How f—ed are we?”
“I don’t know,” said Colbert, host of The Late Show on CBS. “All I know is that this whole thing about give him a chance? I’m all for giving a chance but don’t give him an inch because I believe everything he said and I remember everything he said and it’s horrifying.”
Colbert and the audience member were referring to President-elect Donald Trump, during the event titled “Wow, That Was Weird: A Post-Election Evening With Stephen Colbert and John Oliver.”
The almost two-hour live show, a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival (Colbert’s wife is president of its board), had plenty of sobering thoughts from the two late-night talk show hosts who are known for their political commentary.
“You’ve been picked up for season four, why not four more seasons?” Colbert asked Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight.
“There’s a clear road you can put your foot out,” Colbert said. “You don’t know what the terrain is going to be like for the next four years.”
Oliver replied glibly, “The kind of road Thelma & Louise drove off.”
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Moving on to other topics, Colbert said fake news “had something to do with promoting the candidacy of Donald Trump, or defeating the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” referring to the proliferation of fake news sites that get promoted and shared on Facebook and social media.
Colbert pointed out a significant difference between what he and Oliver did on The Daily Show and the bogus sites.
“We got on TV and said, ‘This is all going to be fake.’ And the fact that they call this fake news upsets me because this is lying,” he said.
Colbert spoke of his live election-night special, broadcast on Showtime, and how the evening transformed from an anticipated Clinton victory to sobering feeling of unreality as the polls closed.
“That show was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” he says. “My audience was sobbing openly.”
During Oliver’s show after the election, he repeatedly told viewers to remember that Trump’s extreme viewpoints are “not normal.”
Colbert said to Oliver, “Let’s talk about normalization. You said on your last show ‘this is not normal. Don’t pretend like this is normal.’ ”
Over the cheers and claps of the sellout crowd, Colbert said, “You can’t live in an adrenaline fever pitch. You have to live your lives. What is the difference to you between capitulating between feeling this is normal and accepting the reality that it is happening?”
Oliver replied that the danger of “just live your lives and the sun comes out tomorrow” is that for many people in America, their “routine is going to be shattered.”
“That’s the problem. It’s not normal. Not everyone is going to be okay and it’s incumbent upon everyone to remember that,” Oliver said. “You have to keep remembering that this is an abnormal version of what we’ve been through before.”
Colbert replied, “We haven’t anything to compare it to. We haven’t flirted with strongmen before.”
At the end of the evening, which also included some levity and jokes, Colbert answered an audience member who asked the pair how much trouble they thought America was in.
“Here’s why we are most screwed,” Colbert said. “Everyone tried to stop Trump except the people he is going to appoint, they tried to stop Trump and they didn’t. He owes them nothing.”
“That’s what scares me,” Colbert said. “He owes the checks and balances of Washington nothing. Because they tried to stop him and they couldn’t. And he’s a vindictive person. Merry Christmas.”