Operation Iraqi Stephen: Colbert Goes Commando

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Stephen Colbert first tried to channel his inner Andy Williams with last year's special "A Colbert's Christmas," and now he's found a new midcentury star to emulate: Bob Hope.

BUZZ WORTHY: Colbert gets the military treatment during his USO visit to Iraq.
BUZZ WORTHY: Colbert gets the military treatment during his USO visit to Iraq. Credit: Steve Manuel
Last week, the faux-news pundit and blowhard took "The Colbert Report" on the road, taping his show in Baghdad. The USO -- the organization that depended on Hope's jokes and golf clubs for several decades -- helped arrange for 30 "Colbert Report" staffers to travel to Iraq so the Comedy Central show could become the first non-news program to tape and produce shows from a tour to entertain the troops.

His first appearance in front of the troops, Colbert carried out a golf club on his shoulder and unspooled a series of Hope-esque one-liners: "It's so hot here that when Saddam Hussein got to hell, he asked for a blanket." "Actually broadcasting from Saddam Hussein's Water Palace. It's called that because that's the only damn drink you can get around here. C'mon, really? No alcohol? If anyone deserves a beer, it's you people. And if you get one, hook me up." "Saddam had fantastic taste. I was checking out the palace, there's so much marble and gold paint, I though I was watching 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey.'"

Helping on the entertainment end with taped messages were past Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. John McCain, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and actor Tom Hanks. Even President Barack Obama was enlisted, happy to order Gen. Ray Odierno to cut off Colbert's hair into a military buzz cut.

For his first USO outing, though, Colbert managed to travel farther than Hope got on his first appearance, which was at March Field, Calif., May 6, 1941. But if Colbert is counting on truly besting Hope, he has a long road ahead. Hope's USO appearances lasted for six decades, during which he headlined about 60 tours.

Of course, now that Colbert has established his own tradition of broadcasting his shows in front of the troops, he can channel both Andy Williams and Bob Hope by staging "Stephen Colbert's Christmas Cheer from Afghanistan."

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