This just sounds too good to be true: Dan Rather's going to be an election pundit tonight....on the fake-news special on Comedy Central. No, really. (There's no mention if the whole hour is being sponsored by Kinko's Copies.) Gail Shister reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the CBS/Viacom offshoot is rolling out the red carpet for the disgraced CBS anchorman:
This is not a joke.
Dan Rather will analyze election results with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert tonight at 11 on Comedy Central's live, hour-long Indecision 2006 special.
"It's a risk, I guess, but what the hell," says Rather, who covered every national election since 1962 for CBS before being drop-kicked in June. Now he's global correspondent for Mark Cuban's HDNet.
"J. Stewart and company offered the chance, and I've taken it," Rather, 75, says. "I don't do comedy, I do politics, which sometimes is one and the same.
"Certainly, one can't cover politics and not have a sense of humor about it. Let's face it, politics is often a theater of the absurd."
Equally absurd are the corny "Ratherisms" he dragged out during many election-night marathons.
Among our faves: "If a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a handgun." And: "This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach."
Don't look for such classic nuggets on tonight's Midterm Midtacular, Rather says. (Color us disappointed.)
"Don't expect many Ratherisms, if any. If any occur to me, I may use it, but I intend to be myself, report a bit, and have them take it from there. I'm told I will be expected to 'play it straight,' and then they'll bounce off it. We'll see."
Rather has never been a guest of The Daily Show or Colbert Report, but he's grateful to them for giving him a platform from which to keep his 44-year string of election coverage going.
"I'm hoping this old wreck of an anchorman and political reporter may yet have some wee something to contribute," he says.
CBS Evening News boss Rome Hartman agrees.
"Between the three of them, at least they've got one real newsman now. I wish Dan nothing but the best. If this is what he thinks would be a fun way to spend Election Night, that's fine."
The pro-Rather spin gets a little furious, coming from the most overused television pundit in America:
Some viewers won't be able to tell the difference, according to Bob Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television.
"There were times during the last few elections I thought Rather was already doing Comedy Central. He won't have to change his act much.... For an awful lot of young viewers, this will be seen as a step up."
But seriously, if Stewart and Colbert utilize Rather's reporting experience instead of just ridiculing him to rubble, "it could actually be an interesting development," Thompson says.
"Let's face it, Rather's got a lot to say. You might hate him, but he's an experienced journalist."
Rather says he sees tonight's gig "as yet another new adventure. I'm into pioneering new territory now, and, well, this is pioneering of a sort, I guess."
Update 14:12 by Matthew Sheffield. It's good to see Rather finally giving up the hard charging reporter schtick. He's the perfect fit for the equally liberal and equally dishonest (for not admitting it) Stewart.