Last month in Pasadena, Stephen Colbert was asked in the scrum following the TCA session for Our Cartoon President if he had given any thought to making fun of US vice-president Mike Pense.
Colbert paused for a split second and said, “How does one mock a manila envelope?”
For Colbert and others in late night, Trump will be a hard act to follow. He is the comedy gift that keeps on giving — so much so that Colbert and others have created entire comedy series around The Donald.
Our Cartoon President, which premieres Sunday on Showtime and CraveTV, would have been impossible during the Nixon White House. It takes nine months to write, record and animate one episode of The Simpsons. Real time animation has sped things up dramatically, and still it will take up to three months to produce one of Colbert’s Trump ‘toons (although the “cold opening” and other elements can be assembled quickly).
Colbert, one of the executive producers of the series, feels it is all worth it. He thinks Trump is already a cartoon and rendering him this way shows just the right amount of disrespect.
“Here’s the thing,” he told reporters. “I love my country more than I love a good joke.”
He hopes the cartoon series will keep reminding audiences that “this behavior is really not what you want in the White House.”
Here are a few other musings from Colbert in the scrum after the session. Among other things, he was asked what he considered the 45th president’s worst offense so far.
“I think one of the most dangerous thing he’s done is to try to rough the umpire to this degree,” said Colbert, referring to Trump’s efforts to de-legitimizing the free press. “We’ll see what happens with the tax cut, but that might be the most damaging thing he’s done.”
What’s the status on your old character from The Colbert Report? Are there any legal hurdles in performing as him on The Late Show?
I don’t know. It would be great to have somebody go into count and say, “You can not go on stage as someone with your own name! That would be illegal!
What cartoons made you laugh as a kid?
Rocky and Bullwinkle for sure, classic Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny. I liked Chilly Willy for some strange reason. Remember Chilly Willy the penguin?
How did you enjoy your recent trip to Russia. Did you pick up any insights for this series?
I think Poutin will be a character but the trip to Russia was fascinating. I’d never been. What I was struck by when I was there was how much the Russian people are marketed to by governments and corporations the same way we are. In some ways, I felt the most at home watching a fast food commercial when they tried to get me to cry to remember all the times this father had French fries with his daughter before he gives her away at the wedding.
There was a different world view that I couldn’t quite identify. Russia feels like the uncanny valley of the west. The way a robot looks uncanny like a human — where you recoil.
Russia is so close to being western that its unnerving at times when you’re having a casual conversation with someone and they start making disparaging comments about Jews or gay people. This is not on the same path of modernization of progress that the west is.
Was anything off limits while you were in Russia?
In Red Square we were told, “Please don’t say Putin’s name, please just don’t say his name.” We were followed everywhere we went by Putin’s people and by Trump’s people, it was a lot of fun.
Are you fearful or hopeful of getting a cease and desist order on this series?
From the president? It is an honour to gain the attention of the president of the United States for any reason.
Read more about Our Cartoon President here in this story I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.