The Colbert Studio Audience v. Rick Santorum

11/20/2013 11:16 AM |

Stephen Colbert Rick Santorum

The Colbert Report announces on its website the upcoming week’s guests on Sunday at midnight, as it did this past weekend—except for Tuesday. Another site said it’d be Rick Santorum, but the official site stayed mum up until later in the week. Was it a glitch? Was Santorum a last-minute fill-in, like Al Roker on the old Conan? Or was it a secret, to keep away a certain type of New York fan who might not like what the former presidential candidate might have to say? Who knows. At the taping, to which I happened to have tickets, there was no mention of the guest, no admonishment from crew or hypeman to behave. But the audience for the mock-rightwing TV host surely leans liberal, no? And putting such an archconservative in front of them could be troublesome, right?

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Turns out, not so much. There was a lengthy break before he was brought out, Colbert at his desk, surrounded by his producers for longer than usual. Someone booed loudly when Santorum finally, quietly slid into his chair, and Colbert leaned out of the huddle and stuck his hands out toward the former senator and clapped with a stern look on his face, scolding us to be polite, essentially saying, “be nice to my guest.”

And people did! Even as Santorum promoted his dumb movie company and the dumb movies it makes (something about magic candles that’s meant to remind you what Christmas is all about) and stated his conservative views in as non-controversial language as he could muster. (On gay adoption: “Every child has the right to their natural mother and father.” On gay marriage: “Marriage has devolved just into a romantic relationship between two people, and that’s not what marriage is. Heterosexuals have lost the definition of marriage and so it’s not surprising that other people want to see—‘well, this is what marriage is today and so we should be involved in that.’”)

While he said such things, there was some scattered scoffing and derisive chuckling you don’t hear on the broadcast (embedded below), but mostly the audience—not so much progressives as Colbert disciples—was deferential to their idol, treating Santorum with respect, even applauding on their feet when they left the studio. That was too much for me; when I saw him duck into his SUV outside, I made sure to aim a middle finger at his tinted window. Someone who dedicates his life to disenfranchising others, cloaking his hatred in the sanctimony of unimpeachable religion, deserves not even a modicum of respect. Fuck him.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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