The late-night talk show format has a way of softening and humanizing politicians and public figures.
Not so for Vice President Kamala Harris, a woman whose only outstanding quality is that she’s unfailingly and extraordinarily unlikeable.
During a recent interview with Stephen Colbert on “Late Show,” Harris proved that once again with an anecdote that sounded suspiciously like a tired sitcom gag — and crashed and burned like a punctured spy balloon.
To understand how monumentally awful her story was, it’s important to note that these moments — which are meant to seem casual and unscripted — are first vetted in a pre-interview and approved as television-ready.
As “Scandal” actress Darby Stanchfield, writing for Slate in 2014, explained, a producer “calls you up a few days prior to going on the show, and you go over stories, anecdotes, current events, etc. that you might think to share.”
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That’s followed by a “pre-interview phoner” with the host, who decides with the producer “which stories are the best and create an order to how the conversation is going to go on air,” Stanchfield said.
She was speaking about her experience with “Jimmy Kimmel Live” but noted, “Most all of these live talk shows work this way, by the way.”
If Stanchfield was right, that means the story Harris told — with her usual delivery punctuated by her signature cackle — was the very best the person just a heartbeat away from the presidency could muster.
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During the segment Wednesday, Colbert began with the hard-hitting question of whether Harris was incredulous that she really is the vice president (I sure have trouble believing it every time she opens her mouth).
“I know you love ‘Veep,’” she responded, playfully pointing at the host.
“I do,” Colbert said. “I love ‘Veep.’ Is it accurate?” Colbert asked about the satirical portrayal of her office in the HBO comedy starring Julia Louis-Drefyus that ended in 2019.
This was apparently her cue to begin her inane anecdote.
“There are bits of it that are actually quite accurate,” she claimed.
“Last week, my team, we were having long days as usual, and a member of my team decided to do something really sweet for me,” Harris said.
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“I was out of my office in the West Wing. I was having a meeting across the street, and we’re walking back toward my office, and he said, ‘I need to tell you something,’” Harris recalled about her aide.
“The winter is almost over. It’s really cold today,” Harris continued, continuing the setup.
“We haven’t lit your fireplace. So I decided when you were in that meeting to light the fireplace,” she added, recounting this (likely fictional) conversation.
“But he forgot to open the flue,” Harris said for the punch line, her shoulders shaking as she went into her signature laugh.
“So Secret Service was like, ‘Ma’am, you cannot go back to your office,’ because there was smoke everywhere,” Harris said.
“But it was the sweetest gesture,” Harris added.
These little opening bits are supposed to make that night’s guest seem folksy and fun.
Instead, it was more proof that Harris is terrible at everything she does, even when telling a cutesy story.
The internet noticed, of course.
It’s hard to imagine that this situation even happened at all, but it’s even more difficult to fathom how it is that Harris can be so terrible at her job.
This kind of anecdote is supposed to be neutral, innocuous and funny.
Instead, it became yet another instance where Harris shows how painfully and humiliatingly incompetent she is at her job.
At the very least, politicians are deft at their choreographed and focus-grouped mannerisms.
Former President Bill Clinton’s signature thumb point was the perfect mix of firm but not intimidating. Former President George W. Bush had his little-boy grin and shrug that was disarming.
Yet Harris has none of the skills usually associated with her office, whether it’s handling important issues or just making a decent showing on television.
Every time the public gets a glimpse of Harris, it’s more proof that she’s nothing more than a number two pencil — able to check the appropriate intersectional boxes but otherwise dead wood.
Making her appear poised, competent and likable was admittedly a tall order for a late-night talk show host.
Instead of Colbert, perhaps she could find a modern-day Houdini to get that job done.
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