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About (Late) Last Night: Stephen Colbert bids farewell to Keith Olbermann [video]

January 25, 2011 |  8:55 am
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Stephen Rejects Keith Olbermann's Power
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On Friday night, "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann shocked his fans by abruptly announcing his immediate departure from MSNBC. Since the surprise disclosure, speculation over his resignation has run amok. Was Olbermann booted in order to smooth NBC Universal's upcoming merger with Comcast? Or were his corporate overlords still smarting over the host's defiant response to his brief suspension this past fall? 

Whatever the case may be -- and, rest assured, we'll hear lots more about it over the coming weeks -- Olbermann's swan song has provided some premium fodder for his talk-show peers, especially Stephen Colbert. Monday night on "The Colbert Report," the faux-pundit bid his own ironic farewell to the bombastic Olbermann. 

"After eight years, Keith is hanging up his thesaurus," Colbert began. "Now the worst persons in the world will include whoever made Cheetos so delicious."  

He feigned surprise over the news, joked that "I just never imagined there were ramifications for publicly crapping on your employer," and claimed that he'd always been complimentary to his boss, Viacom honcho Sumner Redstone. Cue the montage of Colbert telling Redstone to "suck it, old man."  

Now that Olbermann is off the air, Colbert explained, it's his obligation to absorb the pundit's essence. A few lightning bolts later, and there was Colbert, wearing a thick gray wig and a pair of designer lenses. He launched into a "special comment," full of the GRE words that Olbermann delights in tossing around:  

"The storied notion that power corrupts or absolute power corrupts absolutely seems never to have occurred to this Cosa Nostra we're calling our Congress, who are willing to defy their constituents and genuflect to their corporate masters no matter what the deleterious effects."

The transplant appeared to be successful. But it was not to be.

"I can't do it," screamed Colbert, throwing his wig and glasses to the floor. "My body is rejecting Keith like a pompous kidney."  

Olbermann's essence was deflected elsewhere -- into Colbert's coffee mug -- and just like that, "Keith Olbermug" was born.

It was a sublimely funny segment, showcasing Colbert at what he does best: pointing out the vanity and self-importance innate to talk-show hosts of all political stripes, without ever taking himself too seriously in the process. (Watch his segment with Charlie Rose, also from Monday night's episode, for further evidence of this.)

I confess that in the great Colbert-versus-Jon Stewart debate (a false dichotomy, but a persistent one nevertheless) I've always been on Team Colbert. He's both a nimble comic performer and a whip-smart interviewer, able to play a character while steering the conversation in a substantive direction.

Stephen Colbert, I raise my Keith Olbermug full of bourbon to you.

What did you think? Was this a fitting sendoff for MSNBC's biggest star?

-- Meredith Blake