Stephen Colbert kicked off his “Russia Week” in a fitting place: on the set of Evening Urgant, the country’s most popular (and only) late-night show.
All this week, Colbert’s Late Show will air segments that were filmed during the host’s trip to Russia a few weeks ago, including interviews with both dissidents of Vladimir Putin and a blinged-out oligarch. And he kicked off Monday’s episode with his appearance on Evening Urgant, where his intentions were to get a sense of what Russians find funny, preemptively announce his interest in a 2020 presidential run before Russian hackers could scoop him on the joke (at least I think it’s a joke) — and gauge just how far he could push his barbed political humor on a show that’s only on the air because Putin’s state TV allows it.
“I am so honored to be here right now,” Colbert told host Ivan Urgant after settling into the Evening Urgant guest chair. “You’re the No. 1 show here, and this is the state TV, so you’re officially an employee of the state ... and we — what’s the word for it? — colluded that I would be on your show, so I look forward to going back to America and testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about colluding with Russians. Thank you for the opportunity.”
As a gesture of goodwill, Urgant brought out a “Russian Russian roulette” game, which centers on a spinning wheel and always ends in a joking toast and a shot of vodka chased with a pickle (i.e., the only game of Russian roulette I’d ever be thrilled to play).
“To the beautiful and friendly Russian people,” Colbert began his first toast, “I don’t understand why no members of the Trump administration can remember meeting you.”
After a huge round of laughter and applause from Urgant’s studio audience, Urgant offered a toast of his own: “I’d like to toast the wonderful country of the United States, which invented the internet,” he said, “thanks to which we can influence the outcome of the presidential elections in the US.”
But the most (accidentally) revealing part of the segment might have come even before Colbert stepped onstage, as he and Urgant talked backstage about how they approach their respective shows. When Colbert asked whether Urgant is comfortable covering politics, the Russian host shrugged that unlike Colbert’s Late Show, the state-sanctioned Evening Urgant only tackles politics “from time to time.” In the end, Urgant said, “we’re more close to Fallon.”
You can watch Colbert’s full appearance on Evening Urgant in the clip embedded above. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert will air a new pretaped segment from the host’s trip to Russia every night this week.