After the Obergefell v. Hodges decision over the summer, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia became a late night linchpin after transcripts of his dissenting opinion in the monumental case on same-sex marriage were made public. And who was in front of that particular line, ready to point a finger and laugh? None other than Late Show host Stephen Colbert, whose succession of the retired David Letterman still had a few months to go.
The comedian and former host of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report took flack for jokes at Scalia’s expense, but he maintained an admiration for the then-78-year-old justice’s intellectual rigor and sense of humor. Colbert even told shock jock Howard Stern about a brief interaction he had with Scalia after his infamous bit at the 2006 White House Correspondents Association dinner — a story he repeated during Monday’s episode of The Late Show.
After the performance, which Colbert did in character as his Colbert Report alter ego, the comedian noticed that practically everyone in the room was ignoring him. Everyone, of course, except for Scalia.
“When it was over, no one was even making eye contact with me. Now the one exception was Antonin Scalia. When I was making jokes about him… What had happened was, he had been caught by photographers doing this to photographers.”
Scalia, like President George W. Bush (who was there) and Vice President Dick Cheney (who wasn’t), had been a target of Colbert’s monologue. Even so, he alone approached the comedian after the dinner to commend his work.
“I did this to him while he was… I did my gestures to him, and after it was over — again, no one is talking to me in the whole damn room — and Antonin Scalia came up to me and said, ‘It’s great! Great! Did you give me one of these?'”
Colbert did give Scalia the joking gesture, and to close out his tribute to the deceased 79-year-old justice on Monday, he gave another one to the camera.