Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart
Screenshot: The Late Show

With Stephen Colbert still on his extended Thanksgiving break, Late Show viewers yet got an unexpected gift on Tuesday. In a pre-recorded introduction to an episode made up of flip-flopped interviews with Late Show guests like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Kerry Washington, and others doing the interviewing, Colbert explained that he hoped viewers would enjoy watching him being the one in the guest chair for a change, while he sits at home eating an entire pumpkin pie and spraying canned whipped cream into one of the holes in his face. “God, I hope it’s my mouth!,” the vacationing host exclaimed, before introducing his first guest (himself) and first guest host (old boss and pal Jon Stewart).

Stewart, popping up from behind the Late Show desk, greeted the uproarious applause gratefully in some casual duds he claimed were all he had left after they took back his Daily Show wardrobe and greeted guest Colbert with the unscripted first question, “Who the fuck do you think you are?” After getting that out of the way, the pair compared notes on the satirical news game, with Colbert restating his old assessment that the late-night fake news game is that of “turd-miners.” Stewart, noting that his time at The Daily Show sifting through the leavings of powerful assholes was akin to “toiling in the turd mines,” lamented that, as soon as he left three years ago, “a giant turd asteroid” in the form of the Trump administration was spotted hurtling toward the planet. But, as to whether he was planning an Armageddon-style turd-mining rescue mission by getting back into the game to drill down into (and explode) the man he once more termed Fuckface Von Clownstick, Stewart told Colbert resolutely, “I’m out of the turd business.”

In the extended interview, the pair did talk shop, with Stewart praising his friend’s improv skills in maintaining his Colbert Report right-wing bloward persona for so long, a feat Stewart described as “rendering that character in real time like a supercomputer.” He also was effusive in his admiration for Colbert’s at-first rocky transition from “Stephen Colbert” to just plain Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, a sometimes painfully vulnerable process that, nonetheless, was a lot less physically painful, since Colbert revealed that, before each Colbert Report taping, he would slap himself twice in the face (“hard enough to regret having done it”) and command, “Don’t drop the mask.”

In addition, the pair went on to talk some religion, with guest Colbert wowing host Stewart with a recitation from Archibald MacLeish’s verse play J.B. where the beleaguered Job yet refuses to curse the God that has allowed his unimaginable suffering. Summing up by circling back, poetically, to the turd mines, Colbert told his fellow beleaguered toiler the message is about “the gratitude you have to have no matter what dungheap you lie on.”

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