There are few people alive capable of rendering Stephen Colbert speechless, but apparently Mandy Patinkin is one of them.
The famously intense actor, nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as CIA operative Saul Berenson on the Showtime drama “Homeland,” paid a visit to “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday night. After some chit-chat about Patinkin’s truly impressive Old Testament-style beard, Colbert got down to business, asking whether working on “Homeland” had made him more or less afraid of terrorism.
“I’m not frightened about terrorism,” Patinkin replied. “I’m frightened about the roots of what we call terrorism.”
It was exactly the kind of distinction that drives Colbert, the blowhard conservative character, mad. “Let’s blame America! Go ahead!” he said, rolling his eyes.
Patinkin said that he does blame America, but only to some extent. He explained that a show like “Homeland” does something that the most even-handed documentary can’t: “In the hands of good writers you have the opportunity to present both sides of an opinion equally and that you leave it to the audience to listen and then make up their own minds.”
“That is called propaganda, because if you give a moment’s humanity to your enemy, then he wins,” Colbert replied. He continued to push Patinkin, asking him whether he’d have gone to war against Saddam Hussein (no), or under any circumstances whatsoever (well, not exactly).
“I would go to war with words, not weapons. I would die talking before I lifted a weapon,” he explained. “I think that’s the answer to peace in the Middle East. Peace in the Middle East isn’t going to be created by another war or violent act on the other side. It’s going to be created by someone like yourself and someone like me, two individuals who have a belief and who can talk to another group of individuals and people start changing their minds. It’s not a magic trick.”
Colbert’s audience erupted in applause, but the host himself sat silently, apparently unable to come up with a quippy response – quite a rarity for someone with his lightning wit. Though surely Patinkin knew Colbert was in character, his responses were deeply, passionately heartfelt, and the contrast made for some riveting television.