Stephen Colbert Pays Tribute to Antonin Scalia's "Great Sense of Humor"

Courtesy of CBS
'The Late Show'

The left-leaning host shared a surprising story about the conservative Justice's welcome laughter after Colbert bombed at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner.

Stephen Colbert made a small gesture of peace across the deep ideological divide of the country when he paid a surprisingly warm tribute to arch-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday's Late Show.

"Before we get started, I just want to say a few words about the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia," Colbert began. "He was universally acknowledged to be an intellectual giant who left his mark not only on the court but on how to interpret the Constitution. And whether or not you agreed with him — or made a lot of jokes about him like I did — one thing you have to admit is that he had a great sense of humor."

Colbert pointed out that Scalia's notable sense of humor was a matter of record, noting, "People have broken down the transcripts of oral arguments and he told more jokes and got more laughs than any of the other justices."

He then recalled the one time he met Scalia in person — when he was hosting the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner and delivered joke after joke to a largely unamused crowd of journalists and politicians.

"Not a lot of people laughed in the front row," Colbert recalled of his performance to knowing laughs from the Late Show audience. "Some people laughed in the back of the room, but the important people in the front row and on the dais  — it was mostly silent while I was giving the speech. And while I had a good time giving the speech, when it was over, no one was even making eye contact with me.

"The one exception was Antonin Scalia," Colbert said as an image flashed of Scalia laughing heartily at the 2006 dinner. He explained that at the time, Scalia had just been caught making the gesture of aggressively flicking his chin at photographers. So Colbert directed some of his own unfriendly, made-up gestures at Scalia during his act.