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Can We Really Call Stephen Colbert’s Recent Trump Joke ‘Homophobic’?

On last night’s episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the TV host made light of President Trump’s insult of Face the Nation‘s John Dickerson. Colbert shows the clip where Trump refers to the mainstream media yet again as “fake news,” then says Dickerson himself trafficks in it.

Colbert defends his CBS family member — noting that while Dickerson is too big of a man to return the insult, Colbert’s not. While defending Dickerson’s honor, Colbert indulges us with a full minute of Trump insults.

While most of the jokes are pretty clever — we particularly liked “you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine” — one joke has seemingly caused controversy: “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock-holster.”

A number of outlets jumped on this comment as homophobic — and, you know what, the pure text of it is. But we’d argue that’s the point of the joke. Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are both virulently homophobic. So what better way to get under their skin — and we know Trump, at least, watches a lot of TV — than hinting they’ve got something going on.

There’ve been a number of protests in this vein. Even aside from the Trump/Putin kissing murals, one New Yorker projected an MPREG image of Putin cradling a pregnant Trump’s belly:

stephen colbert homophobic

Vox author German Lopez argues that the joke only works by “demeaning gay people. The underlying implication here is that gay relationships are somehow extra funny — that Trump engaging in sexual acts with Putin is hilarious because it’s gay.”

We disagree — for us, the joke invokes a meta-level of humor. The humor isn’t that Trump and Putin are really gay. The joke, much like the constant riffs on Trump’s hand-size, is that such an accusation really bugs the target. Sure, it’s a classic bullying tactic — but Trump and Putin are both fundamentally bullies. It’s totally a good-for-the-goose situation.

Admittedly, the joke depends on who is telling the joke. If, for example, a comedian with a history of homophobic jokes like Larry the Cable Guy told the exact same joke, it’d give us pause. But Colbert’s repeatedly shown himself to be an ally to the queer community.

In response to Russia banning the “Putin in makeup” image — Colbert spread it around on national television. The Colbert character from The Colbert Report has repeatedly shown how foolish homophobia is. And, let’s not forget, he was half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo.

Was the original joke good? Ehhhh — we like the rhythm of the phrase “cock-holster,” but beyond that, it’s not super clever. Would it be better if he hadn’t made the joke? Y’know, sure — we’ll go along with that. But is it something to get, pardon the pun, het up about? Not really.