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Stephen Colbert‘s Catholic faith is well-known, so it’s not surprising that the Late Show host devoted a special episode to Pope Francis‘ visit to the U.S.
On Thursday, Colbert aired a special pope episode — or “pope-isode,” as the host called it — the same day Pope Francis arrived in New York on the second stop of his three-city U.S. tour.
The Late Show host talked about the pope with a panel of celebrity Catholics — Andrew Sullivan, Jim Gaffigan and Maria Shriver — and interviewed Miami Archibishop Thomas Wenski.
The show also featured a performance from the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus and Colbert’s band, which he renamed the “St. Jean Baptiste Choir” for the occasion.
Sadly the one person who didn’t stop by, in what would have been quite a coup for the newest broadcast late-night program, was the pope himself. But that didn’t stop Colbert from doing all he could to welcome the pontiff.
Colbert brought out the ultra-humble folding chair, with a spray-painted “pope” sign, that his show had made for Pope Francis. And he did a segment about the history of the papacy and Catholicism, which he called “The Dope on the Pope”; another on the merchandise bonanza around Pope Francis’ visit; and a third in which he sang a version of “You’ve Got a Friend” about the pope, insisting he would be a true companion for him.
Colbert also indicated that the Colbert Report‘s habit of giving special shows over-the-top titles wouldn’t stop now that he’s abandoned his Colbert Report character and moved to the Late Show, revealing that his team planned to call Thursday night’s show, “Tour de Francis: A New Pope: I Heart NY-Holy See Humblefest 2016!” a title they unveiled with images of fireworks and a dramatic reading.
But then he realized that they need something a little “less flashy” in keeping with Pope Francis’ humble nature. So Colbert pulled out a piece of cardboard, on which he wrote, “Welcome Frank!” which the host trotted out at the beginning of each segment.
After he took viewers unfamiliar with Catholicism (“Enjoy eternity in limbo,” he said) through the history of the church and the papacy, Colbert recapped Pope Francis’ U.S. trip. He poked fun at Congress applauding after Pope Francis only repeated the first part of the Golden Rule, “do unto others,” during Thursday’s address and noted that the big event is the pope’s Mass at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s going to be unforgettable when his holiness dunks off a trampoline,” Colbert joked. “He could be the first pope to ever pull off a 360 tomahawk baptism.”
Colbert also highlighted some of the merchandise being sold to commemorate the pope’s U.S. trip, including Pope Francis cologne, “because what’s more forbidden than smelling like a 78-year-old celibate man,” and a life-size Pope Francis standee, which he posed with, adding, “If you’re not able to attend one of the events over the next two days, just put this in your bedroom and terrify your children.”
He also joked about how a set of three 50-cent pieces with Pope Francis stickers on them are going for $24.99.
“You only need 17 of these to buy one of them,” Colbert calculated.
Later in the show, after pointing out that Pope Francis said in a radio interview that he recently felt he had been used by a number of “so-called friends,” Colbert offered his true friendship.
“Your holiness, I could be that friend for you. I get you. We have so much in common. Like you I was recently elevated to an influential position by an all-seeing power,” he said as a picture of the CBS eye logo popped up on screen. “You and I can be real friends. I’m fluent in Latin, both ancient and ig-pay.”
He then sang a special version of “You’ve Got a Friend,” aimed at Pope Francis, with lyrics like, “When you visit New York City/ and a pizza rat steals your hat/ and Cardinal Dolan’s just not around./ Just chant out my name/ and unless the traffic is bad/ I’ll come running, Frank baby/ and we will transcend.”
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