Three years into his stint hosting The Late Show, Stephen Colbert is finally starting to feel “a little bit like Jon Stewart.”
For a change of pace Tuesday night, CBS aired a pre-taped episode of the late-night show in which the tables were turned as Colbert sat in the guest chair and took questions from friends like Jake Tapper, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Kerry Washington, Charlamagne tha God and most significantly, his former boss at The Daily Show.
Stewart began his interview by asking Colbert, “Who the hell do you think you are?” That prompted the host’s admission that he is beginning to feel like he is able to pick up Stewart’s mantle as the most trusted man in political comedy.
“Not at all,” Stewart said, joking, “Look how hale and hearty you look, coming in here every night, taking in the toxins, spewing back out rainbow-colored sprinkles. That’s your job and you do it beautifully.”
Stewart then posed a question that Colbert would routinely ask his guests about George W. Bush during his time as host of The Colbert Report: “Donald Trump, great president or greatest president?”
“I think great—great president,” Colbert said, sarcastically. “There’s nothing else other than great or greatest?” This led Colbert to say that he still has people come up to him in public to tell him that while they “love” The Late Show, they “loved the old show more.” He asked Stewart, “Do you get that? Ha, you don’t have new work yet!”
“I don’t think Donald Trump likes the job of president, but he likes the trappings of power,” Stewart added. Asking Colbert about the first time he met Trump, he wanted to know, “Did the bluster seem charming in a sort of Music Man kind of a way?”
“He wasn’t blustering at all,” Colbert said, “He’s got that gear of just some guy you would see some place. And he was like, ‘Let’s take a picture.’ He was all ready to take a picture. And orange like you couldn’t believe.”
Though he was in the guest chair, Colbert couldn’t help asking Stewart if he misses having a topical comedy show now that the man he refers to as “Fuckface von Clownstick” is president of the United States. “Like, that would be nice to take a couple of swipes here and there, no?”
“You and I both famously know, we were turd miners,” Stewart said. “So working at The Daily Show I felt as though I was toiling in the turd mines. And then I finally quit, and a giant turd asteroid heads towards the planet. Now, in that instance, if someone said, ‘You were a turd miner. This is the largest turd deposit ever seen. Don’t you wish you were in there?’ And you’re just like, ‘I’m out of the turd business.’”
“Come on in, Jon,” Colbert replied, “the turd’s fine.”
After a break, the two men got more serious about what the transition from playing a right-wing pundit on Comedy Central to becoming himself for the first time on TV was like for Colbert. The host acknowledged that it was his interview with Joe Biden that first week on the air when he knew he could do it: “Really only I, my real self, could have received what Mr. Biden was willing to share with me and the audience.” After that interview ended, he said, “That nice old man just gave me my show.”
“I used to be way more comfortable in this chair than that chair,” Colbert said later. “Now I want to be in that chair. That’s a huge change. I wanted to be a guest even on my old show. That’s why the character ran over and sat down because he was the guest of his own show.”
Reminiscing about their time spent as guests on David Letterman’s Late Show, the pair highlighted how far they’ve come since that host called them the “cable twins.”
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to interview you,” Stewart said at the end of their sit-down. “But more importantly it is an honor and a pleasure to watch this program every night.”