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Stephen Colbert and Chris Cuomo get sweaty in their pursuit of the truth on The Late Show

Stephen Colbert, Chris Cuomo
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

For inveterate news watchers and processors like Stephen Colbert and his Thursday guest CNN’s Chris Cuomo, sometimes dealing with the daily grind of Trump-ian mendacity means blowing off a little steam. In an interview whose tenor appeared informed by the brash (and, as Colbert repeatedly notes, jacked) Cuomo’s on-air combativeness when dealing with flacks, hacks, and other political types looking to obfuscate, the pair engaged in a bout of chummy one-upmanship. Testosterone was in the air right from the jump, as Cuomo swept the Late Night host aloft in his arms in lieu of the traditional handshake greeting. Asked how much he benches, Cuomo only answered “I bench Colbert.”

Lightly mocking his guest’s “go after it” catchphrase when it comes to interviewing those whose agendas are, let’s call it, truth-averse, Colbert asked Cuomo how he approaches guests on Cuomo Prime Time who are simply there to disseminate carefully prepared bullshit. (Looking your way, everyone in the Trump White House.) Saying it’s “no longer time to sit and listen” when it comes to covering politics, Cuomo told Colbert, again in bluff, tough guy sports-speak, “you can’t let people flood the zone” with manipulative non-answers. And while he himself repeatedly dodged Colbert’s bench press query, Cuomo said that getting people to reject the idea that harboring the lowest expectations when it comes to public service and discourse is key, should Americans want to come back from its current, entrenched political and social brink. The son of one New York governor and younger brother of another, Cuomo said he didn’t have to look far outside his own family for political role models, claiming that the “erosion of what people expect from public service” lies at the root of Donald Trump’s seemingly all-forgiving (of corruption, lies, obstruction, abusiveness, adultery, perhaps a little treason) base.

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Still, Colbert couldn’t let his guest off the hook, teasing Cuomo with a shirtless (and hairless) pic of the CNN host before challenging Cuomo to “get after it” in the form of an oh-so-manly push-up contest. Colbert feigned fear as Cuomo went as far as taking off his tie in preparation, but the 54-year-old Late Night host actually acquitted himself quite well, starting out with a fast pace before finally dropping to the stage at around the 40-rep mark. Cuomo, it should be said, looked like he was toying with his competitor just a little, but gave Colbert an admiring peck on the sweaty cheek for his efforts.

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Dennis Perkins

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