From Johnny Carson to Stephen Colbert

The descent from Johnny Carson to Stephen Colbert is just one example of how America has lost her greatness.

By Dennis Prager Published on May 9, 2017

In a monologue considered witty by teenagers, teenagers in adult bodies and those who hate President Trump, CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert said about President Trump, “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c*** holster,” and “You’re turning into a real p****-tator.”


Not to many of us.

And not just not witty but obscene, which is particularly disturbing because it was broadcast on network television, not cable television.

But more than anything, it exemplified a trend in American life that one could identify without any exaggeration as the unraveling of civil society. To anyone — liberal or conservative — who grew up watching Johnny Carson on late-night TV, the descent from Carson to Colbert is as breathtaking as it is heartbreaking.

Along with virtually every other American, I never knew Johnny Carson’s politics. I would not have been surprised if he was a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican. In his 30 years as host of The Tonight Show on NBC, he never so much as hinted as to how he identified politically. He poked fun at whoever was in power.

To anyone — liberal or conservative — who grew up watching Johnny Carson on late-night TV, the descent from Carson to Colbert is as breathtaking as it is heartbreaking.

The reason he didn’t let on where he stood politically is he believed that he had a much greater responsibility: to offer Americans of all political persuasions an island of good-natured fun, a place where all Americans could laugh together every night.

And, of course, it is inconceivable that he would have used the language Colbert used. Kids could watch The Tonight Show because he — and we — lived in a pre-left age, when grown-ups thought they had a responsibility to be good models to young people — in other words, a responsibility to be adults. But the left has never been comfortable with growing up.

What Many Mean by “Make America Great Again”

Those who mock the Trump motto, “Make America Great Again,” who claim they don’t understand how anyone could think America was ever great, might begin to understand what many of us mean, in at least this one way: Prior to the Age of the Left, during which we have lived since the mid-1960s, there were places in America where Americans could enjoy life and one another without politics intruding, not to mention hate-filled politics like Colbert’s.

Americans could watch sports events without athletes showing contempt for the American flag and the national anthem; without sportscasters and sports writers labeling as racist anyone who used the team name “Redskins”; without sports shows injecting politics into their programming, as ESPN does now so often that many sports fans no longer watch it.

It was an America where elementary teachers referred to their students as “boys and girls.” Today, teachers in more and more states are directed not to use those terms, as some 6-year-old may not identify as a boy or a girl.

Prior to the Age of the Left, during which we have lived since the mid-1960s, there were places in America where Americans could enjoy life and one another without politics intruding, not to mention hate-filled politics like Colbert’s.

It was an America where kids were proud of the American flag. Today, in the Age of the Left, students on a growing number of American campuses vote to have the flag removed from their campus because in their view, it symbolizes not freedom and sacrifice but slavery, oppression and imperialism — ideas put into their heads by leftist high school teachers and college professors.

And it was an America in which Superman’s self-proclaimed mission was “truth, justice and the American way.” A few years ago, however, Superman announced that he was renouncing his American citizenship to become a “world citizen.”

One could list a hundred ways America was indeed great (without ever ignoring serious moral flaws). Now, one can list a hundred ways in which America has lost that greatness. The descent from Johnny Carson to Stephen Colbert is just one example.

But it is a powerful one.

And it is but one more result of perhaps the most important rule of life of the past 100 years in America and around the world: Whatever the left touches, it ruins.

The universities, the news media, the entertainment media, the fine arts, the courts, the high schools and the elementary schools (and soon, the preschools — once they’re government-funded and universal) — all ruined wherever leftism has achieved dominance.

Now it is the turn of late-night TV as embodied by Stephen Colbert. Or, as he himself put it on election night on Showtime, “I’m your host, Stephen f****** Colbert.”


Dennis Prager’s latest book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code, was published by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of


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  • Autrey Windle

    Mr. Prager, I think you haven’t listened to Johnny Carson lately. I used to think the same thing you wrote about. I got mad at Comcast and closed my account and bought an antenna. It’s remarkable how one can trace the genesis of the current liberal domination of the entertainment industry when seeing it in hindsight through classic TV. Carson was biting and partisan to the max in his monologues particularly through the Reagan and Bush years. The sitcoms were heavily secular and sexual. There were true winds of change between the Father Knows Best years and the Maude/ Three’s Company years. The enemy is a liar and deceiver…Just sayin’

    • Wayne Cook

      You gave me a chuckle, Autrey. My kids were rather worried when I told them I thought we should do the same with ATT. After examining what they actually watched, they hadn’t viewed a single on air or cable program in a year. It was ll Youtube. We turned off all our connections except the internet. I’ve noticed how they both enjoy reruns of Bonanza 🙂

      The enemy is destructive too.

  • Gary

    Colbert is on TV because people watch him. If nobody watched, the network would replace him with someone they hope people would watch. Unless the network was willing to lose money in order to give Colbert a platform for what he says. That might be true, but I doubt they would if they were losing a lot of money. The question is, why do people watch Colbert? The obvious answer is that he says things they agree with. America is a very liberal country now.

    • Chris Fritz

      I don’t watch him and I don’t know anyone who will admit to it. LA and NY may be liberal and love Colbert, but they are not the country.

      • larblond

        Just the most advanced and educated part of the country. LOL!!

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Yeah, the media is simply the cultures mirror reflecting an image it spent the better part of the morning vainly perfecting.
    Narcissism will not obscure the brutal reality of what is being viewed in the reflection staring back at the observer.
    Like the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, the mirror will not lie. The fairest of them all is not the image of the one who
    is vainly gloating over their appearance. Rather it is the one who like “Beauty” is seemingly lying in a trance like state
    awaiting the sweet kiss of her lover to break the spell of slumber & awaken out of a season of dormancy. Kind of a like
    the condition of the church, in some measure where our culture has been concerned. Truth is we have already been “kissed”
    by the Lover of our souls. It’s just that too many of us for too long have been slow to awaken from that lengthy snooze & provide a fairer image for that mirror to reflect. Perhaps, when likening the media to the witch in that iconic tale, who when asking the mirror that fairest of them all question, they not liking the answer are hell bent to keep the true beauty
    from reflecting her image in cultures mirror. In doing so they reveal their relative unattractiveness & we all know they can’t allow that to happen …

    • Autrey Windle

      Sometimes you really surprise me and you never fail to make me smile.

  • Christian Cowboy

    America has spiraled into the pit.

  • jgmusgrove

    Unfortunately Colbert continues the Left’s tantrum over not getting to crown queen Hillary. And yes, it does appear practically everything the Left touches makes it worse off.

  • azsxdcf1

    After reading this article, I am very glad to NEVER have watched Colbert. It is actually embarrassing to read such filth.

    • larblond

      Like Trump bragging about grabbing women by their genitals?? THAT filth??

  • blackfeather

    and this is how far down into the sewer the liberal left has taken this form of “entertainment”

    • larblond

      The sewer now runs from the Oval Office. The stench of the Rethuglicans is overwhelming.

  • Chris Fritz

    America’s greatness has to do with rejecting the media narrative about Trump and making up their own minds. Trump may be a flawed man, but it is clear he loves this country. If he sees something great in us and worthy of love, maybe we would do well to reject how the media paints him and us, and realize we are a nation worth fighting for.

  • Robb Wexler

    Yes, the left has ruined everything it touches including this device on which both of us are communicating.
    Oh wait, that one doesn’t count because…um…well…uh…..anyway….

    It’s is fuc… is FREAKING amazing that people on the right want to hold comedians to a higher standard
    than their leaders. #sad

    All “progress” comes with its downside. To quote Spencer Tracy in “Inherit the Wind”

    “Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, “Alright, you can have a telephone, but you lose privacy and the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote, but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder-puff or your petticoat. Mr., you may conquer the air, but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.”

    The progressive liberal thought process has indeed brought us more of what you may call “obscenity” but it also brings us any of new medical, scientific and technological ideas and breakthroughs.

    Progress has a price. The difference is most liberals are willing to pay it. Most conservatives are not.

    • timamac

      What does politics have to do with meducal, technoligical, and scientific ideas? It’s Western civilization that has created most of that.

    • Jan Masleid

      I’m a Progressive Liberal.. and I appreciate what you’re trying to say.. but we don’t actually own all of these scientific breakthroughs, do we? Social issues and the advancement of human rights are a different matter, perhaps?
      I believe in the Freedom of Speech and yet, I wish civil discourse and debate could stay on a higher road.

    • Most of the progress we have enjoyed, along with the costs attendant thereto, is not politicized of course.

      The general coarsening of society is an issue that is also not political in my mind. I think it bothers conservatives more, but that may be a function of religion, or age, or just a sense of modesty that is increasingly rare today.

      This stuff is usually on a bit of a pendulum though, so the next generation could be seen as a bunch of prudes in comparison to the Millennials of today.

  • Robb Wexler

    P.S. How long until you start yelling….”GET OFF MY LAWN” ?

  • James Matichuk

    Here is a Carson quote about how he kept his politics off the show, ” “In my living room I would argue for liberalization of abortion laws, divorce laws, and there are times when I would like to express a view on the air. I would love to have taken on Billy Graham. But I’m on TV five nights a week; I have nothing to gain by it and everything to lose.” He certainly played all this close to the vest while on air.

    I take issue with this statement in your article, “Whatever the left touches, it ruins.” Really? Such a broad brush blanket statement. Especially because you and I can both point to Right Wing talk show hosts that cast much more shade than light. Life is more than a Right/Left political binary.

    • timamac

      No, the left DOES ruin everything it touches!

      • James Matichuk

        Oh right. Um thanks for clearing that up.

      • larblond

        You meant Drumpf and the so called “Freedom” Caucus!! They are trying to destroy our nation.

    • diana harrell

      NOT- not any more. There has been no time in my 73 years that any President was ever abused the way this country of liberals have abused not just Donald Trump, but his whole family. Never in 73 years have I seen this much hate from the left. The liberals of today are not like the liberal of Johnny Carson days. Today they are hate filled, they even hate OUR Country, Our Flag and our History and ANYONE that is not just like them. So take issue all you want…because whatever the far left decides they don’t like they do their best to destroy it and everyone that disagrees with them.

      • James Matichuk

        No doubt there are some on the Left that hate the Right, and traditional values. But the broad brush approach is unfair. I mean you just said the entire left today is hate-filled and wrote them off (for broad brushing you and writing you off). People are more than their political ideology. They are human beings. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where political discourse is us pointing at the other side and chanting about how bad they are. What happened to conversation and civility? And if you just blame the Left you’re part of the problem.

      • Diana Marley

        Just an overall response of the extreme hate afforded by the right towards Obamacare, I guess the left just learned from the best.

      • larblond

        LOL!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for my laugh of the morning!! YOU support that thing that disgraces our Oval Office?? Shame on you!!

  • AZJim

    Colbert is a sniveling moonbat, that’s why sniveling moonbats love him.

  • donney149

    I always watch my local CBS station news in the evening. I always wait until 10:30 so I can turn the TV off when Colbert comes on. The guy is really a no-talent dimwit.

  • alogar

    Everything the Left touches turns to garbage – look at the last presidential 8 years, objectively. The Left can’t leave time-honored societal standards – even toilets – as in case of the LGBTQIA travesty – which undoubtedly will affect out military standards in, morale, elan, discipline and unit cohesion and general war-fighting ability of the US armed forces. And now , Colbert et al, prove even humor has been perverted, warped, corrupted and debased to the level of raw sewage. The Left thus poses a manifest, existential threat to America.

    • larblond

      Unlike however the man disgracing the White House with his foul mouth who spoke glowingly of grabbing women by their genitals. A narcissist and a pathological liar who with the far right wants to destroy health care in this country. Oh “yes!” The Left is a THREAT to this nation??? LOL!!!!!!!!!!

  • MickeyFreakinDougal

    It wasn’t Trump who originally brought corrupt Corrine Brown to answer for her crimes, but i still see it as a first step toward draining the swamp. Can we hope to see more swamp-things flushed down the drain? Maybe our country is in such bad shape because we have allowed corruption at the highest levels of our government.

    I live in Brown’s former district. It gives me no pleasure seeing a senior citizen going to prison, but I will certainly not shed a single tear for this shameless, unrepentant criminal. And The rest of Congress, Democrat and Republican, had better take notice. We the People will no longer sit idly by while they run our nation into the ground.

  • Diana Marley

    Oh yes, I loved the 50’s and 60’s, when if you were black, depending on where you lived, blacks could be lynched without fanfare, could not buy a house in good communities regardless of how much money they made, could not freely use common areas to eat or drink. Women were the victims of sexual abuse, which would never be discussed or prosecuted, sexual abuse was more often than not excused or approved of. People with disabilities were hidden away. Oh yes, the good old days.

    • No one wants to go back in time, nor can we. But check your facts on lynchings. By the 1950s they were thankfully pretty rare. The fact is, at every point in our history there has been both good and bad. The 1960s were a very revolutionary decade so a lot of what you wrote is just plain wrong. And yes, we have improved a lot in succeeding decades especially in disability rights and women’s rights. But remember, the pill came out in 1961 or so which has led to many cataclysmic changes in family dynamics, many of them good, but certainly not all. And if you do any research at all, it was in the post-war decades that blacks actually began to make great strides into the middle class, which accelerated in many ways in the 1960s, too. However, for all the hoopla over Johnson’s Great Society legislation, there is no doubt that the increasing welfare state has had deleterious effects on black progress and created an almost fatherless underclass.

      • Diana Marley

        In the south, harsh predudice was common, as well as supported by so called ‘Christian’s. I absolutely loved the dogs and fire hoses unleashed at peaceful protesters. As well as my city who would not allow blacks in our city after sundown, and there was a silent agreement not to allow minorities to buy houses. Yes we made great strides towards equality in the mid-later 60’s, but I doubt that is the ‘ make America Great’ era the average Trump supporter is thinking of. I would rather be guilty of allowing freedom than not, such is the blessing and mess our system affords. It’s worth it.


        • Diana Marley

          And my city was in the upper north.

  • Rustyangel

    Americas descent…more like falling off a cliff. Big difference is Mr Carson had class. That generation was grateful.

  • larblond

    How totally hypocritical to complain of Colbert when we have the most foul mouth President in my memory. A narcissist, a misogynist, a pathological liar; he brings such vile crudeness to the Oval Office. To call Trump a pig insults swine everywhere.

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