While some people continue to debate whether partying like it’s New Year’s Eve or the Super Bowl was an appropriate expression of satisfaction that justice finally found Osama bin Laden 10 years after 9/11, we can all agree that Stephen Colbert’s response on The Colbert Report was pitch-perfect for his character. After burying the lead behind mentions of Obama’s birth certificate, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, and Fast Five’s record-breaking opening weekend, he finally got to the real news: “Seth Meyers did a great job at the Correspondents’ Dinner, but I gotta say, this weekend Barack Obama really killed.” He then led his studio audience in a “USA! USA! USA!” chant.
“I am as giddy as a schoolgirl who just shot bin Laden in the eye. In the eye. Ka-boom! Hey, Osama, no 3-D movies for you in hell, which I’m pretty sure would be The Last Airbender,” he said. “Wow. I am just so happy. And I hope, I hope, I am never again this happy over someone’s death. And I know if I saw myself in a mirror, I would be appalled by the look on my face. [Looks into mirror.] Nope. I like this. That’s a good look. I want to stay this way forever.”
Colbert then threw his long-awaited “We got bin Laden” party, which involved dusty, shrunken balloons falling from the ceiling and unveiling the cake he’d had since 2002 (with bin Laden in Bjork’s swan dress and a Weakest Link joke written on it). I think Glenn Beck topped him.
Because he had to admit Obama was “the No. 1 most bin Laden-killing president in American history,” he agreed to lay off criticizing him — for the length of the show. (His egg timer went off at the very end.) After a montage of broadcasters confirming bin Laden’s death culminated with the Wizard of Oz‘s munchkin coroner — or George Stephanopoulos, who has a lovely voice, as Colbert said — he analyzed Obama’s recent behavior, including his hearty laugh at Meyers’ Saturday night joke about bin Laden hosting a show on C-SPAN. “It’s funny because I’m about to kill him.”
Praising the assault, Colbert quipped, “It’s like something out of 24, right down to the black president,” and noted that he isn’t the only one thrilled by its success. So are college kids and their “strangely old RA,” Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera. Cue the kid shouting about how he had two finals on Monday that he wasn’t studying for because we just killed bin Laden. “Bin Laden got us out of finals! That guy rules!” Colbert interpreted. Colbert broke character (but saved it before it could become Prince Charles Scandal level) when he referred to Rivera as “that 19th century circus ringmaster” who brought up a good point — a lot of these kids cheering in the street had no real recollection of what life was like before 9/11. You could carry an adult size bottle of shampoo without your scrotum being cupped and “instead of fearing Muslims, we ignored them like God intended,” Colbert said. He said he hoped with bin Laden gone, the kids could experience our pre-9/11 mentality, when our biggest fear in 2001 was the “summer of the shark.” We’d be okay as long as no one chummed the ocean. But wait. Bin Laden was buried at sea. With the radiation in the water, what if a mutant shark combined with his DNA? We could be facing the summer of Osama Fin Laden.
Colbert left it to his two guests to instill real fear in his viewers. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said bin Laden’s death won’t really change things because terrorism has been franchised. “So we got the original franchise — we got the main guy — but you still have thousands of golden arches of terrorism running around the world,” he said. (“I look forward to your lawsuit,” Colbert added.) Francis Fukuyama, author of The Origins of Political Order, answered the questions we, like Colbert, are asking ourselves: “How scared should I be, and of what should I most be scared?” Fukuyama’s answer: “Be afraid of the Chinese,” he said. “I mean, the Chinese shoot down satellites in space. They hack into Google’s computers. The Osama bin Laden people can’t make their underwear blow up.”
What did you think of Colbert’s take? Whose giddy approach did you prefer — Colbert’s, which was purposely heightened, or Jon Stewart’s, which was genuinely heightened?