New York A hot dog vending cart was wheeled back and forth. Cocktail waitress hurried past with trays full of beer. Vice President Joe Biden led New York Yankees great Yogi Berra by the arm.
Such was the bizarre, red-white-and-blue circus backstage at comedian Stephen Colbert’s celebration of U.S. troops’ return from Iraq. The Comedy Central host pulled out all the stops Wednesday night for the first part of his two-episode special, “Been There: Won That: The Returnification of the American-Do Troopscape.”
It was a somewhat rare show of exultation to what President Barack Obama has called the end of combat operations in Iraq. Some 50,000 troops remain in the Middle East country, where local forces have a tenuous hold on security. Fighting in Afghanistan also continues.
Those truths were never far from “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday, but Colbert made the evening’s tone clear at the start.
“I’m not going to debate this war,” said Colbert, in mock pundit character. “It’s been seven years. Who can remember who invaded who?”
Instead he declared: “Tonight is for the troops.”
The show’s studio audience was packed with active troops and veterans, whom Colbert lavished with hot dogs, beer and ice cream. Biden played the part of hot dog vendor. Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. military commander in Iraq, donned a toupee of Colbert’s hair.
Odierno famously shaved Colbert’s head — on Obama’s orders — when the comedian broadcast four episodes of “The Report” from Baghdad last year.
Colbert may parody conservatives, but his support of the men and women in the military is unwavering. He has raised thousands of dollars for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, a charity that assists injured service members and their families, and he’s a board member of DonorsChoose.org.