Stephen Colbert Will Be ‘Forever Grateful’ to Antonin Scalia

Stephen Colbert briefly put the jokes aside Monday night to remember a moment he shared with the late Supreme Court justice after he roasted the Bush administration 10 years ago.

Stephen Colbert has made a lot of jokes about Antonin Scalia over the years. On The Colbert Report, he mocked him for glorifying the first 100 years of American history—“Ah yes, the first 100 years of the Republic: the good old days!”— and once described him as hiding his head in a “flesh-toned cinch sack.”

But Colbert’s most memorable joke about the conservative Supreme Court justice, who died at the age of 79 over the weekend, came during his infamous White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech in 2006. As the Late Show host explained to his audience Monday night, Scalia had just been caught on camera making an obscene gesture, so Colbert did it right back to him. Unlike President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others, Scalia actually laughed.

“Whether or not you agreed with him—or made a lot of jokes about him, like I did—one thing you’ve got to admit is that he had a great sense of humor,” Colbert said. “People have actually broken down the transcripts of oral arguments, and he told more jokes and got more laughs than any of the other justices.”

Recounting the story about the Correspondents’ Dinner, Colbert said he was “lucky enough” to have one conversation with Scalia. “While I had a good time giving the speech, when it was over no one was even making eye contact with me,” the host said. “The one exception was Antonin Scalia.”

The justice came up to Colbert and told him he was “great,” even mirroring the gesture back at him once more in jest before walking off.

“And I watched him go, and I thought, ‘Don’t make me love you, old man,’” Colbert remembered thinking. “I will forever be grateful for that moment of human contact he gave me.”

So, one last time, he “saluted” Justice Antonin Scalia.