It was a scene straight out of Casablanca: On Monday night’s edition of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the late-night host opened the program with his house band playing a rousing rendition of French national anthem “La Marseillaise,” with the Ed Sullivan Theater awash in the French red, white, and blue.
On Friday evening, Colbert held back tears when news broke of the tragic series of terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and scores more injured. Since the comedian only learned of the ISIS-perpetrated attacks toward the tail end of The Late Show’s taping, he didn’t have the time to properly address the horrific event, instead offering a brief, heartfelt message to those in Paris.
But Monday, following “La Marseillaise,” Colbert launched into a poignant monologue dedicated to our long-standing allies.
“I wanted to start my show tonight by once again offering our thoughts and prayers to the people of Paris. New York is a city that sadly knows too well the horror the French experienced on Friday. And we also know there are no words that can reach the depth of their grief and their shock, but we stand with the people of France as a friend, and an ally, and offer a hope that there is a way through the unspeakable tragedy,” said Colbert. “And also let’s take the opportunity to thank France for what they’ve done for us,” he continued. “They’ve given the United States so much over the years: aid to General Washington in our fight for independence; key intelligence on how to put potatoes in boiling oil; my favorite way of kissing; half the continent at a bargain price (no take-backs, guys!); and most of all, France gave America our enduring symbol of freedom,” before throwing to a photo of the Statue of Liberty. “Because we have used that freedom to make foam versions of it for drunk people to wear on New Year’s Eve. And today, in a tribute to its mother country, Lady Liberty offered ISIS a fitting gesture”—he then cut to a photo of the Statue of Liberty giving the middle finger. “Long may it wave.”
Colbert wasn’t done there. The South Carolinian then focused on the positive things that emerged from the tragedy: how the people of the world all rallied around in support of Paris.
“In fact, all over the world this weekend, there were displays of support of the French. The Sydney Opera House. Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. And the Paris Las Vegas hotel dimmed their Eiffel Tower lights,” said Colbert. “Now, some might say these gestures don’t actually do anything, but I disagree. People are trying to find any way they can to show support, however small, to the people of France. For instance, Twitter was deluged with statements of support, from the hashtag #PrayForParis to messages like ‘In support of what is happening in Paris, my wife and I are watching Ratatouille.’ And ‘Watching Ratatouille to honor all the citizens of Paris.’ Is that wrong? No. Is Ratatouille a French film? No. Is it a valid expression? Absolutely.”“Because watching a cartoon Parisian rat make soup is certainly as valid as anything I will say tonight, I promise you that. So, to everybody, if it makes you feel a connection to the people of Paris, go drink a bottle of Bordeaux. Eat a croissant at Au Bon Pain. Slap on a beret and smoke a cigarette like this. Go eat some french fries, which I am now calling freedom fries in honor of the French people. Because anything that is an attempt at human connection in the world right now is positive.”Colbert also said he contemplated canceling his scheduled guests the Acro Cats—a team of acrobatic cats—but that he and his team chose to keep them.
“We asked ourselves, ‘Is tonight an appropriate time for Acro Cats?’ And then we asked a bigger question: ‘Is there ever an appropriate time for Acro Cats?’ No, there is not,” he said. “So we said, ‘Absolutely, let’s have them on.’ Because I’ll tell you what, I don’t think ISIS would like Acro Cats. I don’t. They’re cute and they’re silly, two things ISIS hates. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they’re a bunch of pussies.”