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It's Avenatti vs. The Mooch as the Trump sideshow hits The Late Show

Anthony Scaramucci, Michael Avenatti, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Wednesday’s Late Show featured a habitually lying loudmouth who was fired before even technically starting his job arguing with a porn star’s media-hogging attorney. So, you know, presidential stuff. Stephen Colbert started off the two-segment free-for-all that took up the bulk of the episode by asking guests Anthony Scaramucci and Michael Avenatti, not unreasonably, “What is this? And my followup is—why is this?” Naturally, Colbert had the pair—who have reportedly been shopping a “two fame-hungry Italian-American guys blurt things” talk show—on his show because their roles in the ongoing Trump administration parade of soul-sucking spectacle is irresistible ratings gold. But, perhaps recognizing the price of such tainted treasure, Colbert was quick to bust out the rosé during the interview, eventually announcing “I would just like the bottle and a straw please.”

Still, there was an undeniable fascination to watching Avenatti and The Mooch (which, one suspects, is what their inevitable show will be called) rehash their connections to the various scandals plaguing this most improbably ludicrous of presidencies. Colbert, to his credit, called his guests’ self-promotion out right at the start, brushing aside their opening salvos with an impatient, “I know you guys have got your schtick, but what is this?” What it turned out to be was pretty predictable, as Avenatti continued his campaign of crowd-pleasing insults against the likes of Trump (“one of the biggest narcissists you have ever seen in your entire life”), Rudy Giuliani (“an absolute walking disaster”), and his nemesis Michael Cohen (“a moron”). Scaramucci, on the other hand, appeared to be trying to position himself as the “can’t we all just get along?” voice of reason, a role for which the infamously brash and boorish former White House spokes-fibber was especially ill-suited. The Mooch seemed to shrink in his chair throughout, as Avenatti and Colbert both called bullshit on his ongoing and enduringly inept attempts at obfuscation and whataboutism an Colbert’s audience grumbled angrily at his transparent distraction tactics. (“That’s a straw man,” snapped an annoyed Colbert after Scaramucci desperately tried to avoid answering whether he is okay with Trump’s multiple, on-the-record lies.)

For Colbert’s part, the host acquitted himself as well as one might expect considering. He didn’t have that much wine, but, as the interview went on, Colbert went after Scaramucci more and more, trying (in vain, mostly) to get the slippery, now-unpaid Trump apologist to give one damned straight answer. To his eyes-averted waffling about that whole “meet with Russians at Trump tower to get dirt on Hillary Clinton” meeting that Trump’s kid greedily attended and Trump himself attempted to cover up, Colbert asserted, “You’re a lawyer. You know that failed collusion is still collusion.” Having two such loose-lipped, Trump-adjacent players in studio similarly loosened Colbert’s tongue, as he let loose a pair of comically heated profanities in the interview. At least the prospect of getting Scaramucci pal and soon-to-be-heavily-indicted Trump attorney Michael Cohen on The Mooch’s backstage cell phone was understandably worth Colbert’s bluff-calling bark to his stage hands, “Right fucking now—get his phone.” Alas, as ever, The Mooch was all talk.


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.