Over the past six weeks or so, late-night shows have been struggling to figure out how to make comedy out of our collective post-Trump reprieve.
Mostly, they have either found excuses to keep joking about Donald Trump or attacked new conservative targets like QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Cancun Senator Ted Cruz. More recently, on the latest episodes of Saturday Night Live, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, finally started taking some heat.
But one political figure who has mostly evaded comedic scrutiny—much to Fox News’ frustration—is the current president of the United States, Joe Biden. Now that’s about to change on the new season of Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News.
In the exclusive clip below from this Thursday’s premiere of the Stephen Colbert-produced animated news show, which is joining the Paramount Plus lineup for its second season, a new fake news program called The Establishment with Tory Hughes goes hard at the 46th president for both giving Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and for picking up where Trump left off in bombing Syria.
Tory Hughes, voiced by Tooning’s writing supervisor Naima Pearce, describes herself as a “good Republican” who “stands up for the center-right value of politely making things worse alongside an elite panel of Washington termites.”
As Pearce added via email to The Daily Beast, Hughes is a “healthy amalgamation of right-leaning pundits who had their political sensibilities formed during the Bush administration and then positively reinforced, in the last few years, simply because a regime with a more sinister façade took the Oval Office.” Ultimately, she said, the character is “driven by a moral compass whose true north points toward an open timeslot she can fill in a cable lineup.”
In the premiere, her panel includes a handful of fictional pundits along with the very real CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe. Jumping directly into the Khashoggi report, Hughes jokes, “Biden made clear that if you kill an American journalist, he will tell on you to your dad” before disclosing that she is the founder of “The Establishment Ideas Festival: Policy and Pipelines” based in Riyadh. “And let me just say, MBS continues to show me that he values a future where I own a Lamborghini.”
“I don’t think our audience has an impervious allegiance to any particular politician,” Pearce tells me of the show’s pivot to hold the new president accountable. “And there’s a sincere hunger for pointing out hypocrisy and highlighting where robust government mechanisms can harm people actively and passively. If that completely vanished under the Biden Administration, I think we’d happily announce The Establishment’s cancellation.”
Later, the cartoon host introduces a new segment called “Who Did We Just Kill?” that breaks down the details of recent airstrikes in Syria while jaunty music plays in the background. “Who authorized this strike?” Hughes asks, mocking the “polite imperialism” of Biden who is “looking more presidential than ever” with his flashy military debut.
When one of the panelists excitedly remarks how much he loved the segment and reveals that he’s “already forgotten about what happened,” Hughes replies, “That means we’ve done our jobs.”
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