Stephen Colbert Urges Americans to ‘Hold on Tight’ During Election Night Panic
Four years after he slowly discovered Donald Trump had won the 2016 election live on Showtime, Colbert returned and almost immediately realized he’d made a huge mistake.
Four years ago this week, Stephen Colbert had one of the worst nights of his professional life during a live Election Night special on Showtime. He was really hoping this time things would be better.
“We don’t know what some of tonight’s show is going to be,” the host warned viewers. “It’s like making cookies and we don’t know what’s going to be in the batch, chocolate chips or raisins or just a handful of thumbtacks.” As Republican operatives were forecasting their plans to get Democratic votes thrown out, Colbert added, “You know the old saying: If you can’t beat ’em, find a judge who says, ‘You know what? You actually did beat ’em.’”
“So as we journey into the unknown,” Colbert said, “please be patient with us, and with yourself. Hold on tight. Hold onto your loved ones. Hold onto your pets. And if you’re holding onto anything else, please turn your Zoom camera off.”
Wearing a suit for the first time since the pandemic began, the host acknowledged that a lot of people have been asking him why he was doing a live Election Night special again this year at all. “We did it four years ago, and it was, quite famously, a painful experience,” he admitted. “But you know what? I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else but you right now.”
But mostly, Colbert was happy to be on Showtime, where he was free from the CBS censors that keep him in check on The Late Show. “Because holy shit, this is a weird fucking election,” he added.
Charlamagne tha God and the co-hosts of Showtime’s The Circus all joined Colbert again four years later and were similarly despondent. “On the bright side, it’s a big night for women who listen to their husbands,” another return guest, comedian and Daily Show alum Jena Friedman, joked at one point.
“What the fuck is going on?” Charlamagne asked once it became clear how close the results would be. Alex Wagner predicted we won’t know the winner of the presidential election until at least Thursday.
As the show stretched past its allotted hour, Colbert learned that he had bumped his own animated Showtime series Our Cartoon President. “Hey, they might get another season!” Colbert joked darkly.
In 2016, Colbert closed out his Election Night special by going off-script and delivering a sobering, insightful speech about how America got to the point that it could elect Donald Trump.
“So how did our politics get so poisonous?” he asked at the time. “I think it’s because we overdosed—especially this year. We drank too much of the poison. You take a little bit of it so you can hate the other side. And it tastes kinda good and you like how it feels. And there’s a gentle high to the condemnation, and you know you’re right.”
This time, Colbert ended the night by pleading with America to be patient. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long,” he said, comparing the 2020 election to Christmas, “and not just because of the judgmental guy in the red hat.”
Now that “millions of you braved the pandemic, an army of poll watchers and even the post office” to vote this year, Colbert said, “All of those votes deserve to be counted.”
Since “we’ve been able to wait out” four years of President Donald Trump, he concluded, “I know we’ve all got what it takes to wait a little bit longer.”
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