All the convention’s a stage, and speakers are merely players. At this week’s Republican National Convention, one former entertainer and political farceur has already pushed to the center in a winking game that alternates between seriousness and an old television persona: Stephen Colbert.
Over the weekend, he and his Late Show team filmed a sketch at the convention that involved Colbert—in character as a Hunger Games-inspired political reporter—hijacking the microphone on the convention stage. He was quickly ushered away as Republicans continued preparations for Donald Trump’s week-long coronation ball, but not before reminding viewers that if he wasn’t supposed to be on stage, “neither is Donald Trump.” His point was clear: the unreal and the absurd have suddenly come true.
Colbert and Trump may seem diametrically opposed, but they are also nemeses who complement each other and the peculiarity of this particular convention. Both managed to finesse careers in entertainment into roles at the center of American politics, despite the wishes of some in serious political media. Trump was always as much of an entertainer and charismatic guy playing a real-estate tycoon as he was an authentic real-estate tycoon. His career as a wrestler and reality-show boss seemed destined to confine him to the realm of unseriousness, until he wasn’t. Colbert also graduated from a man playing a comic role into a legitimate, trusted news source during his time on The Colbert Report.