Stephen Colbert celebrated Election Day eve with a live episode of The Late Show that featured some familiar beats: pointed jokes told at Donald Trump’s expense, a bewildered response to the turns this election cycle has taken, and an extended comedy bit with his old Daily Show pal Jon Stewart.
Though Colbert teased an appearance from Stewart on Twitter a few hours before the show began, it wasn’t clear what Stewart’s appearance would entail until 10 minutes in, when Colbert and an adorable girl in sooty “ragamuffin” cosplay started singing a jaunty tune about how important it is to vote.
Enter Stewart, blearily wandering out from backstage in a top hat, tails, spats, and an indecipherable old-timey accent to tell the girl she doesn’t have to vote, “democracy is optional.” The scene was slightly confusing — according to Colbert, Stewart was playing “the Mayor of Candytown himself” — until Colbert decided to snap Stewart out of the persona he’d apparently slipped into since his retirement from daily political commentating.
“Jon, do you remember who’s running this year?!” Colbert asked as Stewart made a show of drinking a giant gulp of water.
And the very second Colbert uttered “Donald Trump,” Stewart did a glorious spit take right in his face. “That angry tax and draft-dodging little orange groundhog is running for president?!” Stewart sputtered.
Still: It took another (badly botched) spit take for Stewart to believe it.
“He’s running against Hillary Clinton,” the ragamuffin girl piped up in disgust. “Ugh, I can’t tell which is worse.”
On this point, Stewart and Colbert snapped to attention, in immediate agreement: “He’s worse.”
From there, the skit only got more bizarre and elaborate, with the girl singing a passionate rant against “civil oligarchy” and Stewart snarking that this “contrarian think piece” of a song-and-dance routine would make her a great fit to write at Slate.
But the (literal) mic drop came when new Hamilton star Javier Muñoz burst onstage to remind everyone that “staying home isn’t a statement” and that — to quote the musical — “history has its eyes on you.”
Colbert and Stewart were clearly having fun being back onstage together, but at that moment, their silliness gave way to a serious emphasis on the enormous stakes at play in this election.
Of course, Stewart couldn’t resist getting in one last dig at Trump, even if only in song:
You know, he acts real tough but he’s a wussy. He’d probably fill the court with Gary Busey, and then he’d grab your mother’s —
And that’s the point where both I and Colbert cut him off, because we’re pretty sure you know where he was headed.
Stephen Colbert will host a live election special November 8 at 11 pm on Showtime.