How Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart Helped Elect Trump

How Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart Helped Elect Trump

Yakkity Yaks

It was Anthony Weiner and the FBI.

No, it was the Russians.

Wait. It was Huma Abedin, Jen Palmieri, Robby Mook and the other ineffective mooks advising the candidate and running the campaign.

Then it was FBI Director James Comey again.

And The Daily Beast’s Michael Daly makes a forceful case that old goat Bill Clinton might be more than a convenient scapegoat.

Related: Clinton Lawyer Blasts FBI After Email Search Warrant Release

Who then should really take the rap for Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss of the presidency, despite blowing through hundreds of millions of dollars on the way to a blow-out victory in the popular vote?

Probably all of the above to one degree or another, plus she of the uber-caution, the not-so-great instincts, the tired rhetoric and the comparatively low energy.

But for those suffering from PTTD (post-traumatic Trump disorder) -- still snapping awake in a fury every morning, wild-eyed and hungry to assign blame -- there are two comics cowering in the wings and looking sheepish who shouldn’t be allowed to get away scot-free.

Yes, we’re talking about you, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

Like the rest of liberal-lefty America – at least those who didn’t have the good sense to back Bernie – Colbert and Stewart no doubt expected the coronation-that-wasn’t.

Related: Clinton Aide Abedin Seeks to Review Clinton Emails Search Warrant

That made it safe in the late summer of 2015 for Stewart to pack up his skewer (presumably after wiping off the right-wing blood) and head to his farm, where he shelters abused animals (but not abused conservatives), leaving The Daily Show in the hands of the unmemorable Trevor Noah.

That also made it convenient a month later for Colbert to wrap The Colbert Report, the insanely addictive parody of the Republican Right, and go sort-of-serious as the replacement for late-night Letterman on CBS.

So just as Donald Trump began to emerge as a serious contender for the Republican nomination, one of the voices that could have eviscerated him four nights a week went silent and the other went mainstream.

Sure, there were roastings on Saturday Night Live, but Alec Baldwin as the fake Trump didn’t debut until late in the campaign, and Lorne Michael allowed the Real Donald to host the show in November 2015, showing him to be a good sport and further legitimizing his candidacy.

Related: Most Forecasters Predict a Win for Clinton, Except for Two

(No one, of course, did more to portray Trump as a guy who can be playful and engaging than the sycophantic Jimmy Fallon, who was permitted to tussle The Hair.)

O.K., there was Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, but the Bee never learned to float like a butterfly and knows only how to sting. That gets old fast.

There is a certain stridency to Oliver, too, plus both are once a week, and Last Week Tonight is on HBO, which not everyone pays for.

That is not to say that either Stewart or Colbert had massive audiences on Comedy Central: When Stewart repaired to his barn, he had about 1.5 million nightly viewers and Colbert had even fewer.

Still, you could expect them both to be relentless, savaging Trump and the Republicans in takedowns gone viral; you can picture Stewart luring in the attention-addicted Trump for a vicious sit-down; you can even dream about either Colbert or Stewart getting in a Twitter war with the Commander-in-Chief-to-be.

Related: How a Surprising Twist in the Latino Vote Gave Florida to Trump

In fact, you don’t have to dream about it: Trump and Stewart once went tweet-to-tweet, as Stewart related in a hysterical benefit performance on November 1. In that exchange, Trump first tweeted in April 2013: “I promise you I am much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz – I mean Jon Stewart @TheDailyShow. Who, by the way, is totally overrated.”

That was followed by more Trump tweets about Stewart changing his name and not cherishing his heritage.

“So I start to think to myself,” Stewart says in his stand-up, “‘I think this guy is trying to let people know I’m a Jew.’ And I think to myself, ‘Doesn’t my face do that?’”

Finally, Stewart tweets back: “Many people don’t know this, but Donald Trump’s real name is F**kface Von Clownstick. I wish you would embrace the Von Clownstick heritage.”

(“You remember, by the way,” Stewart says in an aside, “Lincoln used to get into this sh** all the time with people.”)

The Twittersphere picks up on the duel and soon Trump tweets: “What’s funny about the name F**kface Von Clownstick – it was not coined by Jon Leibowitz – he stole it from some moron on twitter.”

Stewart tweets back: “We seem to have hit a F**kface Von Nervestick.” After four days of radio silence, Trump tweets back at 1:30 am: “Little Jon Stewart(?) is a p***y, he would be hopeless in a debate with me!”

Clearly, debates were on his mind years before he declared himself a candidate in 2015.

Given how easy it is to get under Trump’s thin skin, it’s not hard to imagine months of battles like that enraging and consuming the then-GOP nominee. His mind would be off the campaign as he worried into the wee hours about being a laughingstock on Twitter.

And America might not be preparing to inaugurate President Von Clownstick.