WATCH: Colbert Cold Open on Farmers Goes from Mildly Amusing to Seriously Dark in Just Seconds


On CNN all day Wednesday and Thursday, the various shows and hosts talked about and interviewed American farmers suffering personal losses and facing ruin over tariffs imposed in Trump’s trade war. It was a hot topic on Fox News Channel and MSNBC all day, too, right up through the 11pm hour. That’s the same hour The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs, and the cold open was on the same subject.

As is often the case in a Colbert cold open, this began with a clip from a real news network, in this case CNN. The clip included a farmer show said he would never vote for Trump again, which got a good reaction from the crowd.

It then cut to a cartoon, set to the tune of the nursery rhyme “The Farmer in the Dell.”

“Tariffs posed by Trump, put the farmers in a dump. Oh no, the derry-o, the farmer’s in a slump,” it begins. A decent enough premise, and it got some laughs from the crowd. Then things immediately turned.

“The farmer lost his wife. She wants a better life,” begins the next line. You can just make out some gasping reaction in the crowd, although the laughs continue. As does the dark rhyme. “She ran off with an ex-convict who rides a bitchin’ bike.”

Here’s the rest:

♪ The farmer needs a job.
♪ He’s stripping while he sobs.
♪ Hi-ho the stripper pole, they’re laughing at his knob.
♪ The farmer drinks a lot,
♪ His liver starts to rot.
♪ Chuggitiy-chug the winey-om time to start growing pot.

I mean it’s one thing to say Trump is hurting farmers. But it seems like an odd choice to express concern for farmers by painting them as shameless drunkards who lose their shallow wives to motorcycle riding criminals. Even unpacking it like that doesn’t really unpack it.

It’s not that the premise is hard to grasp, it’s just… dark. It’s oddly focused on stereotypes about farmers or laborers. After the wife leaving for a convict line, I was genuinely surprised they didn’t draw a gap in the cartoon farmer’s teeth.

One hardly has to use a vivid imagination to think of other groups of people about whom such a video would generate genuine and widespread outrage.

In any case, as a comedy bit, it was okay, but thin. The cold open is a hit-or-miss format. This was definitely a miss.

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