Entertaining the Troops

This September The Colbert Report devoted two shows to soldiers and veterans, marking the end of combat in Iraq as announced by President Obama (H06). Vice President Joe Biden served hot dogs to the audience of soldiers, and more troops watched by satellite from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Now remember, Iraqi troopers, you’re not fighting a war anymore, you’re ‘non-combating’ peace,” Colbert declared. Just to be clear, he added, the soldiers in Afghanistan were still combat troops. “And if you can tell the difference, you’re the president of the United States.”

Parodying right-wing conservative pundits requires Colbert to be America’s über-patriot. When it comes to the troops, however, “sometimes my character and I agree,” he told the Associated Press.

The Report went to Iraq for a week of programs last year, becoming the first TV show in United Service Organizations history entirely produced in a combat zone. As part of the project, the Report invited viewers to help, an online charity where donors support public school projects. Viewers ultimately raised $167,708 specifically for classrooms with children of soldiers and veterans. The show also donated iTunes proceeds for the Iraq programs to the USO.

That same week, Colbert guest-edited Newsweek, requiring the magazine to focus on Iraq. “I know what you’re thinking: ‘Isn’t the Iraq war over?’ ” Colbert wrote. “That’s what I thought, too. I hadn’t seen it in the media for a while, and when I don’t see something, I assume it’s vanished forever, like in that terrifying game peekaboo.” 

Colbert has raised more than $200,000 for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which helps injured service members and their families, by selling WristStrong bracelets since breaking his wrist in a 2007 fall as he ran around the set. The Yellow Ribbon Fund also received all proceeds from merchandise sold for Colbert’s Oct. 30 “March to Keep Fear Alive.” — C.P.