The old Colbert Report parody of Bill O’Reilly made a brief appearance during Stephen Colbert’s short debate with Ricky Gervais on Wednesday’s Late Show. The subject? Religion, a topic Gervais — an outspoken “agnostic atheist” — has discussed at great length in his stand-up specials, scripted shows and many interviews. So of course Colbert, a practicing Roman Catholic, couldn’t resist the temptation to “debate the existence of God” with his guest for the final few minutes of the interview.
“Why is there something instead of nothing?” the host asked, to which Gervais replied: “That makes no sense at all. That’s not the two choices.” Channeling his inner O’Reilly, Colbert ordered his guest to “answer my question” since “something” and “nothing” were the two choices he decided to offer. “I am the host,” the former Daily Show correspondent exclaimed.
As heated as the nearly four-minute debate got, however, the exchange was clearly not as sudden as most audience members would suspect. Gervais and Colbert — the latter’s minor Colbert Report quirks notwithstanding — never demeaned each other unless they knew they could get a laugh out of the audience. And to the host’s credit, he let his non-believing guest get in the last Neil deGrasse Tyson-like laugh:
“If we take something like any fiction in any holy book, or any other fiction, and destroyed it, in a thousand years’ time that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if you took every science book and every fact, and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back. Because all the same tests would be the same result.”
“I don’t need faith in science,” Gervais concluded, adding that he especially didn’t need faith to know he’d die after jumping out of a window. At least the segment’s opening bit about getting a horse, a sword and the ability to randomly kill people per a British knighthood was much cheerier.