(NOTE: couple of spoilers below)
Stephen Colbert is gone.
Long live Stephen Colbert.
Last night, Stephen, with graceful 3-point shot after 3-point short from way beyond the arc, closed a 9-year-long chapter in his own life.
A simple sign off. A 30-minutes swan song. A musical number with Jon Stewart, Gloria Steinem, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Mandy Patinkin, Bryan Cranston, Willie Nelson, Patrick Stewart, Bill Clinton and Big Bird (and a LOT of other people).
An indelible stamp on the face of American culture.
All good things must end someday, said Chad and Jeremy in 1964, and 50 years later, the best thing on TV signed off. But make no mistake. What the Colbert Report did for this country was far greater than the sum of 1,447 30-minute episodes on a cable comedy network.
What Colbert gave us was a voice in the darkness. A wildly irrational and always completely rational perspective on this country and the world. He earned our trust in an era where so many of our trusted had betrayed it so many times.
It’s not right to expect The Report to have gone on forever (even though Colbert murdered Death and achieved immortality on his final episode) because underneath his brilliant cloak of satire beat the heart of a mere mortal. He gave us a gift that lasted nine years, and we should be grateful for that.
But the void he leaves behind is incalculable. Yes, we still have Jon Stewart — thank God — and John Oliver on HBO has added a witty British accent to the music. But the shredding frontman of the band hung it up. Without Kurt Cobain, there could be no Nirvana.
It’s hard to really convey just how troubled I am with the end of this remarkable era. Through a perfect comedy lens, the Colbert Report helped us remain sane in the face of so much insanity. It gave us a more objective, honest take on the day’s key events around the globe than any of our sacred “news” networks.
We know this Stephen Colbert was just a character. The alter-ego of a man who, by all accounts, is as kind and generous as he is brilliant. A gentle genius. And as he walks away from the super hero he created, I searched for a way to describe how it made me feel.
The best I could come up with is a comparison to the moment when another man made a similar choice — to change his own course and do something else. Something he wanted to do for himself. It was that scene in Superman II, when Superman decides to give up his powers to be with the woman he loves.
I was 7 years old when I saw that scene, and the heartbreak I felt when Superman hung up his cape was nearly untenable. I was destroyed. Our hero was done being our hero.
And I can’t help feeling that way today.
The upside in that movie is Superman found his way back to us when we needed him the most. When the world faced seemingly insurmountable odds in the form of the three evil super-powered Kryptonians bent on dominating the planet, Superman rose once again.
And the message Colbert sent through the course of the episode — from the moment he struck down death to the moment he soared away in Santa’s sleigh with Abraham Lincoln and Alex Trebek — was that this door wasn’t sealed. That someday, he may decide to find his way back to his C-shaped desk and bring more truthiness into our living rooms again. So there’s at least a small, shimmering glimmer of hope that this voice isn’t forever silenced.
I guess that’ll have to be enough.