Unethical Quote Of The Month: “Late Show” Host Stephen Colbert

“The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.”

Comic Stephen Colbert, in the climax to an anti-President Trump hate-rant, on CBS’s “Late Night”

Ten points regarding Colbert setting several new lows for network fare, in entertainment, in comedy, and in political discourse:

1. “Cock holster,” needless to say, all by itself and without context, is gutter language. It does not belong in network TV monologues. It does not belong at the dinner table. You would not, if you had an atom of respect, common sense, dignity or decorum, use the term as a guest in a home,  in the workplace, in a conversation with your mother, in a conversation with a stranger, or in an exchange with someone within earshot of a child. There is no excuse for using such a term in public, and anyone using such a vulgar phrase in metaphorically littering our civic and cultural environment.

2. Colbert is a performer on a network TV show. The fact that it is on late at night is no mitigation of the ugly conduct here, just a rationalization (#22): at least it wasn’t on “Sesame Street.” Once, the four major TV networks, especially CBS, the Tiffany Network, the network that fired the Smothers Brothers for being excessively disrespectful to President Lyndon Johnson, had departments of standards and practices whose job it was to keep their bonds of trust with the American public that once invited into the collected homes of the nation, they would not abuse the privilege.

Stephen Colbert abused the privilege, and did so deliberately and flagrantly.

3. CBS, as a (once) respectable, responsible cultural leader and communications icon was obligated to suspend Colbert immediately.

If he had made such an ugly comment about Barack Obama, CBS would have done so. If a late night host had made such a comment about any previous President, it would have done so. (If he had made such a comment about President Hillary Clinton, Colbert would have been fired.) It should make no difference to CBS’s assessment of its obligations that it may calculate that a sufficient number of CBS audience members are poisoned with hate and have the manners and tastes of crude lowlifes. The network’s role in society is to maintain and even elevate our cultural standards, not to accelerate their degradation.

4.  Colbert betrayed his own stated values. It was only November 8 when he said on the same show, bemoaning the loss of civility in political discourse,

“Both sides are terrified of the other side. How did our politics get so poisonous? I think it’s because we overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison. Politics is everywhere and that takes up precious brain space we could be using to remember all the things we actually have in common,” he added. “So whether your side won or lost, we don’t have to do this shit for a while.”

Now the same alleged “adult in the room” not only engages in the “shit,” but escalates it. His rant wasn’t spontaneous, it was scripted. It was planned. It was deliberate. How can Colbert justify this? Yes, he was ostensibly defending a CBS colleague, John Dickerson, whom the President had treated roughly the day before. Obviously, he didn’t have to breach all broadcast precedent and taboos to do it. His defense would have been more effective if it was delivered with Colbert’s trademark wit rather than the stench of a playground insult.

5.  It is time to mark the ongoing “resistance” obsession with the imaginary Russian conspiracy, which Colbert, a prominent “resistance” ally, evoked with the Putin slur, as what it is: the Left’s equivalent of the Crazy Right’s birther accusation against Barack Obama. The difference is that the accusation against President Trump is worse. It is worse because while mainstream Republicans never widely embraced or encouraged the birther lies, the Democratic Party is unified in its certitude, completely without evidence or facts, that President Trump “conspired” with Russia to sway the election. It is worse because the illogical claims that Obama was not a natural-born citizen were moot from their inception, and had no practical implications even if they had been true. It is worse because challenging a President’s place of birth is nothing like claiming that he engaged in treason with a foreign power. The birthers believed what they did, if they believed it, because they hated and distrusted Barack Obama. The Russian conspiracy purveyors are trying to make the American public hate and distrust its President using rumors and innuendo. This is a kind of treason itself.

6. All of those in Colbert’s audience who laughed at his pure vulgarity need to plum their souls. What is it that justified that laughter? The mirth-struck were exactly like the barking leftist seals in Bill Maher’s studio audience who loved  when Bill called Sarah Palin a “twat.” Laughing at pure verbal violence against a woman is misogyny; laughing at the same against the President of the United States is deplorable citizenship.  Both responses encourage and endorse hate and hate-mongering, not humor.

Not satire. Not wit.


If that is what Colbert’s audience has become, Both CBS and Colbert need to think hard about why they are in the entertainment business. Laughter and hate are not the same thing.

7.  If Colbert is worthy of hosting a network TV show, he should apologize immediately to his audience, to his network, and to the President.  Then he needs to take a vacation. “Stephen Colbert is what happens when you let politics take over your life,”  wrote the Washington Examiner’s Becket Adams. “You become ugly, nasty and mean.”

Colbert deserves some sympathy in that the job of being a successful nightly late-night talk show host is stressful and daunting, and a potentially crippling psychological burden over time. The grind caused Jack Paar to snap; it turned David Letterman paranoid and bitter. Chevy Chase, who flopped at the job spectacularly, later said that it was the most difficult thing he ever attempted, made more so because it looked so easy when someone did it well, like Johnny Carson. I believe performers should be accorded leave to have the occasional bad moment. If Colbert doesn’t know that calling the President of the United States a “cock holster” is such a moment, however, he needs to find another job.

8. It is unfortunate that most of the criticism coming Colbert’s way is based on anger that he chose an anti-gay slur to insult Trump. Here is Vox,

But the only way [cock holster]  works as a joke is by demeaning gay people. The underlying implication here is that gay relationships are somehow extra funny — that Trump engaging in sexual acts with Putin is hilarious because it’s gay. In a setting in which Colbert is deliberately trying to find a way to insult Trump, it’s telling that he resorts to suggesting that Trump is engaging in sexual acts with another man. The suggestion is that the worst thing that could happen for these men is if they engaged in homosexual acts together, as if that devalues them as men, makes them submissive, or emasculates them.”

Yes, that’s insulting to gays. Meanwhile, pure, vicious, obscene ad hominem attacks on the President of the United States, issued on national television, are insulting to the United States of America, the office of the President, and whatever portion of the population that still comprehends what being an American means, and that among the the basic obligations of citizens and members of society are mutual respect and civility.

If one is properly sensitive to these obligations, you don’t have to worry about insulting gays.

9. The progressively advancing crudeness in public discourse since the election of Donald Trump, lately embodied by the head of the Democratic National Committee regularly seasoning his speeches with “shit” and now Colbert’s “cock holster,” is exactly what I predicted in September of 2015. However, it is the Democrats, progressives and “the resistance” who are now the role models for the nascent assholes in the rising generation.

I didn’t see that coming. For the umpteenth time in my life—why don’t I learn?—I over-estimated the character and integrity of liberals.

10. I can’t seem to remember my tenth point. What would you add?

59 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Month: “Late Show” Host Stephen Colbert

    • At least this wasn’t the Tonight Show. Chase was so right about Carson. One of the older rerun channels, shows them daily and they are still funny.

      • One factor is that Johnny still had the great generation of vaudeville-trained performers to play with. With the exception of Martin Short, Kevin Spacey and a few others, the guests on late night now are narrow, boring, and inarticulate.

        • Early TV people and even through the 70s tried for some class. Now they try for crass, at got so good at it. (coincidence: Martin Short was on last night) The guest hosts were sometimes on as guests, like McClean Stevenson and Burt Reymolds, and they were as amusing as the vaudeville. Carson had a lot of skits and bits. and invited charming normal people like the oldest Avon lady.

  1. I’ve always had a dry sense of humour, watching the old Britcoms; “Are You Being Served?”, “Keeping Up Appearances”, Yes, Minister.” are childhood memories (They ran at 5AM on channel 23 at home, because no, I’m not that old, thank you.). Even now, I find the kind of joke where you need to think about it for a minute to get it, or maybe you need some inside information to contextualise it.

    Which is why I find acts like this… lame. I mean…

    “Trumps, like… bad. Fuck.”

    “oooooh, no he didn’. He said somethign bad about someone I like. And he swore!” *clapclapclapclapclap*

    These jokes have all the subtlely and class of a fart joke, but there’s this built in audience of people who think it’s some kind of sage wisdom. And Colbert isn’t alone… There’s this new movement of “comedians” who kind of all follow the same basic formula: a buildup screed that isn’t meant to be funny, usually on a progressive bent, usually deadpan, usually overtly hostile, followed by a new low in comedy. I’m thinking Samantha Bee, so is the walking “women aren’t funny” stereotype, John Oliver, Amy Schumer.

    Amy Schumer… My God… Did anyone watch her last Netflix special? Don’t…

    “My Vagina’s so dirty, it smells like a barn animal.”

    I wish I was joking.

    • They have surged since the election. Imagine: there are now at least five TV shows—Oliver, Bee, Maher, Colbert, Noah—plus SNL, that are essentially devoted to full time Trump mockery and hate, with little to no criticism of the Left at all.

      I predict the bubble bursts long before 2020, and maybe even before 2018.

            • Because its ugly and BORING. Eventually they will get bored, and more important, everyone will get bored with them. People got sick of disco, reality shows, secret agents, Westerns, CSI, American Idol, George Lucas, Steven Bochco, Bill Clinton, and Robot Wars. They’ll get sick of zombies, Bernie, and the Patriots….and smug comics making partisan attacks as a substitute for wit and humor.

                  • It was the sparkle but I still read new books with vampires in them, Hell, I just read Silence Fallen a month ago.

                  • Vampires as bored immortal hedonists and arrested adolescents are by nature boring, just as hedonism and angst are. Vampires as terrifying villains, maybe not so much. Once you make a villain too sympathetic, he’s no longer effective as a villain.

                  • Aren’t vampires just high functioning high class zombies?

                    I mean, they’re undead. They transfer their disease through bites. They sustain themselves by feeding on the living.

                    • There was a funny exchange about this on “Angel,” the “Buffy” spin-off that I liked better than the original. Angel’s estranged son was helping him battle zoem re-animated corpses and the vampire with a soul was trying to explain the difference between them and him. Every time he tried to describe the zombies (“n0, see, their really dead”; “no, they want to eat the living”) the son said, “Just like you, right?”

              • It’s also tiring. Eventually ranting and spewing hate, particularly when it changes nothing, is going to get you tired.

                • Listening to the rants and spewed hate can be exhausting as well. It’s hard work repressing the urge to give such a person the THROTTLING they so richly deserve.

      • What happened to the Carsons and the Mark Russells – equal opportunity offenders.

        I saw Mark Russell about ten years ago. The man behind me would guffaw loudly at all the Republican jokes. I don’t know where he was for the Democrat jokes – maybe we was in the restroom every time for those.

        I don’t mean to stereotype, but GENERALLY the left has always had a very poor sense of humor and NO SENSE of irony (see, one example out of many, Miley Cyrus’s promise to leave the US if Trump was elected).

        • Not to mention a quickness to condemn others for the same behavior they excuse in themselves. My old boss, who was pretty far left, told me to rein in the racist humor. Later that same day he talked about a guy who was “Indian – feather, not dot” and expected us all to snicker. He also drove the sole female associate out of the office with lewd humor and unwanted touching. The man had no shame.

      • Nor have I, but his ratings will be what determines whether he stays or goes, barring an advertiser boycott.

  2. This is the “new normal” for the American culture. The liberal, progressive Democrats who sincerely believe that they are the true leaders of all that is right and honorable also believe that the present bad behavior, incivility and disregard for the rule of law, is justifiable when considering the righteousness of the ends that they are pursuing. And too, they seem to believe that when they regain the political power that was unfairly taken from them, they will return to good behavior, civil discourse, and respect for the laws that they will then oversee. The American culture will be back on track when all this goodness “SNAPS BACK”. Hmmmm… where have I heard that expression?

    Unfortunately, once the “new normal” is in place, it will be impossible to go back. There will be no “SNAP BACK” to civility.

      • I fear that the best we can do for now is to slow the rate of acceleration in the race to the bottom.
        And meanwhile try to remain civil ourselves.

  3. This isn’t a monologue. This isn’t analysis. This isn’t humor. It’s a rant, plain and simple, a bunch of angry thoughts and insults strung together and delivered harshly. I’m a seasoned ranter, to the point where judges, colleagues, and my family have told me I would do better if I dropped out the 20% of what I write that’s trash talking. I usually use it as spice, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s pandering to my like-minded friends who will think it’s funny if I refer to Hillary’s appearance or Bernie’s age or whatever.

    I have done a lot worse in the past, the lowest point being my storming up the stairs to my office (before I was in public service) angry after a dispute over a parking space with an Indian guy. I got about a minute and a half into a rant about “these fucking dotheads, who the hell invited them over here? They don’t wash, they don’t know how to drive, they stink of curry and onions, they can’t speak the language, they take jobs away from people who were born here, someone needs to call dotbusters on them…” before a horrified colleague yelled “Steven! Listen to what you’re saying!”

    If you’re shocked reading this, I don’t blame you. It was pure, unadulterated hate of the vilest kind, spewed mostly because I was angry, 26 years old, and just starting in the world, but it was really what I was thinking at the time, and just kept under wraps when I was under control. I didn’t help it by making up and telling hate-based jokes with the other lawyers in my office, some of whom, dyed-in-the-wool Democrats though they were, were also racist pigs who saw non-whites only as vehicles to get yet another 1/3 fee on a settlement. Interestingly, the top attorney in the office, who shall remain nameless, both defended Bill Clinton against the Lewinsky allegations while still sharing jokes like “swallow the leader,” and later, after I had left, freaked out about the litigation and the decision that ultimately made GWB the 43rd president.

    The fact is that neither the right nor the left is immune to being poisoned by closed-mindedness and hatred. At this point it’s gone much farther on the left, to the point where the left can’t see anything different from it’s view of things as not only wrong, but evil and worthy of only hatred and contempt. If something is worthy only of hatred and contempt, it’s a logical next step to simply spew hatred and contempt and think that hatred and contempt are wit and humor, simply because they are directed against the right targets.

  4. The only positive spin I can put on this, is, it’s a wonderful example of our freedom of speech. I’m not condoning Colbert’s conduct. But time and time, over the last decade, I keep hearing how the US doesn’t respect the freedom of speech, or press. There are progressive organizations that rate us poorly in that regard. And I don’t see how they do that.

    Because Colbert is a wonderful example of that freedom. In most countries, as of right now, if he did that his big worry would be life in prison, or maybe even death. The minimum in a country other than ours would be some for of Government censure. Yes, he would have faced some kind of punishment in any other country but ours. While this slow slide to “Jackass” culture, as depicted in “Idiocracy” saddens me, I can take comfort, that the government won’t use its force to punish Stephen Colbert.

    • The BBC or the decency board or whatever in the UK would have gone after Colbert hammer and tong if he’d pulled that over there.

      • But let’s face it. It’s a mixed blessing. We end up with too many jerks like Amy Schumer and Bill Maher and Howard Stern, among many others. And now Tom Perez. And Kirsten Gillibrand. Potty-mouthedness is just dumb and corrosive. But it sure gets a certain demographic’s attention very reliably.

    • In the marketplace there will be consequences and that is exactly how it should be. Government seldom gets it right, but people usually do. I’d guess Colbert will have an opportunity before much longer to reflect on his behavior where there is no audience (and no paycheck.)

      • You are guessing and Jack is predicting, as if there is some end of the run coming for Colbert. What, in addition to the vacating of the White House and Trump Tower by the Trump family plus the seizure and sell-off of all of DJT’s assets, would cause Colbert’s audience to disappear or dwindle to where Colbert has only his navel to gaze upon? (I do not ask as one who is hoping for it not to happen.)

  5. If I told that joke in my workplace and it was overheard by a gay or female person I could be brought to HR for violating sexual harrassment policy. Thus it stands to reason that if no gay or female person employed by CBS to produce the show does not lodge such a claim now any future claims against others should be seen as questionable when they themselves can be shown to have participated in like behavior and promoted the culture of sexual harrassment.

    • I don’t think they have censors any more. But you’re right: the producer and director need to be suspended/canned too. And even if CBS knew, they should backtrack.

  6. What? Colbert said something nasty about Trump again? YyyyyyyyyaaaaaAAAAAAAWWWWWNnnn…

    Jack, your #4 especially hit all your other points out of the park along with itself – Grand Slam times 2.5 – even with a fill-in-the-blank #10.

    I accidentally heard on the car radio yesterday, Colbert’s “Oh yeah?!” Take THIS!!” retort to President Trump’s “Deface the Nation” snark to his, the President’s, interviewer. (Hannity replayed it – why he replayed it, I can guess, but I would have appreciated and valued “dead air” more at that point, when I just happened to push the Scan button. Oh well – another new low for Hannity, too…)

    Stewart and Colbert are mere noisemakers in the propcastmosphere, anymore. Colbert, especially, is an ideological robowhoopee cushion; his operation is not initiated by anyone sitting directly atop him, but by any number of his ethics-numbed fan base sitting near him or in earshot (known to him): Then he releases a loud report of nothing but malodorous, malicious and Trump-deranged partisan gas – not funny, and utterly ethics-impoverished.

    My tenth point would be that “the resistance” had better take a long, hard look at itself, and what it is setting-up to happen in this country (and to itself), if it doesn’t do a comprehensive turnaround to “take the high road.” But, there I go, microagressing and all – threatening, even. Shame on me.

    For the foreseeable future, I shall sign off as follows:
    “- Lucky: fighting the anti-Trump resistance
    (to keep it from killing itself and its country)
    Slava Rus!”

  7. I agree Jack, really I do. The language is incredibly distasteful, and I would not have laughed if I had watched. But here’s the problem — how can a comedian comment on politics right now when the President uses just as demeaning language? Pussy-grabber, Little Marco, Fat Rosie …. Those are just off the top of my head! I seem to recall dick jokes during the debates — not to mention the vile substantive claims he made, like Cruz’s father was involved in an assassination.

    The only people that care about civility anymore can fit in my house. The public wanted Trump, now we have people emulating Trump everywhere.

    • I agree that the President is the catalyst for this, and that was the theme of the much linked EA September 2015 post. But then I was pointing at the influence on the young. Perez, Colbert, the ad writers etc. are adults, and presumably have free will. They don’t have to do this. It’s a little like the criminal defense that X was abused as a child and had a poor upbringing. How about all the people with the same background who don’t commit those crimes?

      • I think you’re missing my point a little. Of course comedians are capable of being funny while using clean language, but when the subject is a potty-mouthed asshole, I imagine that it is more than a little challenging to come up with appropriate material.

        • Would Bob Hope have had trouble? Will Rogers? Johnny? Oscar Levant? Al Capp? Tom Lehrer? Laugh In? The Smothers Brothers? Even SNL has been able to do pretty effective–if one sided and repetitious—satire without stooping to this level. Jon Stewart was using “fuck” like “and” and “the” long before Trump was a factor. Bill Maher was calling Republican women cunts and twats years 8 years ago. Is Trump to blame for that?

          • I’m not blaming Trump for anything — other than making late night comedians’ jobs harder I guess. And no, there is no way the comedians could have dealt with Trump — because the things that Trump says already are absurd. Where’s the joke?

        • Oh, come on. Unless the joke is specifically about Trump’s language, I can’t imagine a reason you would have to use the same language. You don’t need to quote someone to make a joke about them in general.

          And if the joke *was* specifically about Trump’s language, I suspect it would be funnier if you refused to use the same. Everyone is more than familiar with it.

          So I’m not buying this for a second.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.