Stephencolbert_colbertreport_240_1 Jon Stewart and his band of pranksters have set the bar pretty high, so they can only blame themselves for the fact that for its first 50 minutes, the joint Stewart/Colbert "Indecision 2006 Election Night — Midterm Midtacular" was pretty subpar.

Stewart, taking the first half of the live show (which wasn’t actually so live for those of us on the West Coast), over-relied on so-so computer graphics and the same repeated jokes about Republican corruption and under-age pages that suggest that liberals learned nothing from Conservatives beating the same dead horse about Bill Clinton’s libido for the past 15 years (of course, what Clinton did wasn’t, you know, illegal, but still…).

A taped bit with the Daily Show reporters attempting to do entrance polling (as opposed, you see, to exit interviews) wasn’t worth the trouble, nor was Dan Rather, whose was on hand just to lampoon his own appreciation for folksy wit.

But things got better when Colbert took over. Stewart’s wing-man has become the more consistent source for laughs all year and his "Better Know a District" segments changed the electoral landscape so swiftly that they became instantly obsolete. Colbert paid tribute to himself, by re-interviewing "BKAD" vets Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Robert Wexler, but he didn’t kick into high gear until with five minutes left he looked at a color-coded graph of the House and had to admit defeat.

"The people have spoken and apparently they’re tired of freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry," he declared. "I’m just disappointed. I thought this country would last longer than 230 years. That’s it, folks. America’s over."

After blaming the Republicans for running away from the President, Colbert unleashed a rant that went a little something like this:

"Don’t think you’re off the hook, voters. You’re the ones who made this bed. Now you’re the ones who are gonna have to move over so a gay couple can sleep in it. Tomorrow you’re all gonna to wake up in a brave new world, a world where the Constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones created in a stem-cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags, where tax-and-spend Democrats take all your hard earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio and teach evolution to illegal immigrants… Oh and everybody’s high!"

With that, Colbert quit, stormed off the set and into his limo, where his driver, Uncle Sam, urged him to get back to work, saying that the Democrats had had a free ride for too long. He returned to the studio in triumph.

That last five minutes is Colbert’s Emmy reel and I’d like to see Manilow steal another one.

A few other decent lines:

Jonstewart_emmys03_240 "Can Karl Rove’s tactical genius once again overcome — let’s say — reality. Let’s say, can they overcome the Iraq War, Republican corruption and the seeming cognitive dissonance of a party against gay marriage while being somewhat pro-page sodomy? Or will the Democrats prevail with their cunning strategy of slowly backing out of the room while their brother gets yelled at for burning down the garage?" – Stewart setting the stage before making the same jokes over-and-over.

"The e-voting revolution has been a bit of a nightmare. We’ve had reports of fraud, inaccuracy and accounting malfunctions coming in from at least 87 states." – Correspondent Samantha Bee reporting from "New Jersey."

"It was a real eye-opener for me. I realized pretty early on that I was just a four-dollar gopher in a two-dollar pelt." – Poor Dan Rather, who brought this upon himself, I guess.

"Nation, my candidates have swept back into power with an overwhelming mandate and now it’s time for them to repay my tit with their ample tat. I’m not asking for anything big folks, just the one thing the Nation desperately needs… A $315 million bridge to connect my desk to the interview table." – Colbert celebrating the success of his "Better Know a District" candidates.

"I was in the movie Shampoo." – Odd special phone-in guest star Warren Beatty trying to prove both his identity and the show’s liveness, an odd way to spend three minutes.

What did you think of the Comedy Central election coverage? Was it funnier than CNN’s? And less realistic and the coverage on Fox News?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg