Satirists can say things that would get others into the type of trouble they couldn't begin to imagine.
For example, when Gen. Ray Odierno, then the commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, came on "The Colbert Report" during the show's 2009 visit to Baghdad, the host began the interview by saying, "I gotta say I'm a little intimidated. Not because you're a general, but because I feel like I'm interviewing Shrek."
Odierno laughed off the line – he'd heard it before, in rehearsal – and would have his revenge minutes later, when President Obama, via video, ordered the general to shave off the host's hair.
The shearing became one of the show's signature moments, and the barber, now serving as the Army's chief of staff, had kind words for his comedy partner before the final "Report" airs tonight on Comedy Central.
"Stephen Colbert has been a tremendous supporter of our military over the years," Odierno said in a statement to Army Times. "He has always shown a genuine concern for our Soldiers and their families, and we consider him part of our Army family. I wish him nothing but the best as he prepares for his new job with CBS late night!"
One of Colbert's high-profile pro-military outreach efforts came after the 2012 election, during which the comedian set up a working super PAC and accepted donations as a way to highlight some of the absurdities of American campaign finance. When the group disbanded, Colbert donated $125,000 of its war chest to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which benefits injured service members. He also recently raffled off his set, raising more than $310,000, with half the proceeds earmarked for the YRF. Colbert prepares to bid Comedy Central adieuRELATED: Colbert prepares to bid Comedy Central adieu
Colbert will take over CBS's "Late Show" in September, replacing David Letterman, who plans to retire in May. The former "Daily Show" correspondent won't take his reality-impaired pundit character with him, though, and ominous rumors are flying thanks to the only announced guest for the Thursday finale: Grimmy, the Grim Reaper.
Odierno again appeared on the show about a year after the head-shaving, marking the declared end of the combat mission in Iraq in front of a crowd of uniformed service members. There was little time for serious discussion: Odierno entered to the theme from "The A-Team," and Colbert offered his assistance in earning a fifth star before standing on his desk and placing a wig on the general's bald head, completing a makeshift hairstyle exchange program.
"You look fantastic," Colbert said.
In December 2011, Odierno again stopped by to mark an Iraq War milestone – the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the nation:
"With all due respect," the satirist told the general, "You can go to hell."