You become ugly, nasty and mean.
Colbert was funny when he made his "Daily Show" debut in 1997. It was funny when his news correspondent character morphed over the following eight years into a caricature of a right-wing commentator. It was even funny when he remained in character for the nine years he hosted his own parody news program on Comedy Central. It was less funny when he remained in character in 2010 when he testified before Congress, but everyone's allowed a mulligan.
The cable funnyman made the jump to network television in 2014 to replace longtime "Late Show" host David Letterman, and it has all been downhill since then.
Colbert broke character for CBS, revealing that he is actually angrier and pettier than his nearly 20-year-old Comedy Central alter ego. His jokes have become increasingly bitter and partisan, and his style of humor uncomfortably personal. Get him near politics and watch him froth.
The worst to-date example of Colbert's smallness came Monday evening when he responded angrily to President Donald Trump's gruff treatment of John Dickerson of CBS News' "Face the Nation."
"Donald Trump, John Dickerson is a fair-minded journalist and one of the most competent people who will ever walk into your office, and you treat him like that?" Colbert said in his Monday monologue.
The late-night host then launched into a series of insults aimed at getting even with Trump for his treatment of Dickerson.
"Mr. President, I love your presidency, I call it 'Disgrace The Nation,'" he said at the beginning of his supposed takedown.
"You're not the POTUS, you're the 'gloat-us.' You're the glutton with the button. You're a regular 'Gorge Washington.' You're the 'presi-dunce' but you're turning into a real 'prick-tator,'" he continued. "Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign-language gorilla that got hit in the head."
Colbert then ended with this bit of unpleasantness: "In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's c—k holster."
At least when he was on Comedy Central, he was playing a character. Who knows what's going on with this version of Colbert.
In better times, his "holster" joke would have been a fireable offense. To be clear, this isn't to say CBS should fire Colbert or that the network should be boycotted. Rather, it's meant only to say that it is sad to see how low standards have fallen that this sort of trash actually made it past CBS' producers.
Perhaps the worst offense of all, worse even than Colbert's obscene kicker, is that the jokes are not funny. "Prick-tator"? "Gorge Washington"? Come on now. These lines would depress even Andy Borowitz, the official unfunniest person on the Internet.
It's sad watching Colbert attempt to match the ugly coming out of the White House, especially considering it wasn't too long ago that he bemoaned the loss of civility in the nation's political discourse.
"Both sides are terrified of the other side," the 52-year-old host said on Nov. 8, the night that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump. "How did our politics get so poisonous? I think it's because we overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison."
"Politics is everywhere and that takes up precious brain space we could be using to remember all the things we actually have in common," he added. "So whether your side won or lost, we don't have to do this sh-t for a while."
Was Colbert playing one of his characters when he said this in November?
Does even he know anymore?
#FireColbert Twitter campaign gains steam after Stephen Colbert's profane Donald Trump takedown
#FireColbert is on fire.
Talk show host Stephen Colbert is taking serious heat on social media for a vulgar joke he made about President Donald Trump that many fans are calling "homophobic."
The "Late Show" star sounded off on Trump during his opening monologue Monday night, criticizing Trump for abruptly ending an interview with CBS News' "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson.
"Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine," Colbert said during his profranity-laced rant, which was bleeped during the telecast. "You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's c--k holster."
Fans immediately took issue with Colbert's final joke, with some calling the comedian homophobic, and demanding CBS fire him.
A rep for CBS and "Late Show" did not immediately return Fox News' request for comment.
This isn't the first time viewers have gone on social media demanding Colbert's ouster. In 2014, a #CancelColbert hashtag was started after the host (on Comedy Central with "The Colbert Report" at that point) joked "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever," in a sketch about Washington Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder's pro-Native American charity.
The hashtag campaign began when the show's Twitter account posted the joke without the context.
Colbert has seen a ratings resurgence since he started regularly roasting the president. After languishing in second place since he took over "The Late Show" for David Letterman, his show has been the No. 1 talk show on late night TV for 13 weeks running.
Stephen Colbert lambasted for 'homophobic' attack on Trump
US comedian Stephen Colbert has come under fire for an anti-Trump monologue which some people have said included a "homophobic" slur.
Speaking on his CBS show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Mr Colbert suggested US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin engaged in homosexual activity together.
Addressing the president, he added: "Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign-language gorilla that got hit in the head."
He made the comments following an interview in which Mr Trump told another CBS programme host, John Dickerson, that his show was "fake news".
The strong wording used in the verbal attack on the president prompted social media calls for CBS to #FireColbert, although others defended him.
An outspoken supporter of the president who took part in #GaysForTrump was among many who labelled Colbert's rant as "homophobic" and "disgusting".
"It's truly amazing. Liberals scream about homophobia every single day but when Colbert goes on a homophobic rant...crickets," another added.
Some were more bothered by the attack on the president himself, calling for a boycott of CBS advertisers.
Early in April there was an exodus of advertisers from Fox News' most popular show, The O'Reilly Factor, because of sexual harassment claims against presenter Bill O'Reilly. He was subsequently dropped.
One Twitter user who came to Mr Colbert's defence said: "Sad truth of #FireColbert is that these Conservatives actually think an off-color joke is the same as O'Reilly's serial sexual harassment."
And user @bourgeoisalien added that Republicans were "offended" by things like Colbert's "joke" and "women's rights", but weren't bothered about "kids losing healthcare" or the "poor going hungry".
Some referenced Mr Trump's obscene comments about women, which he made in a video that emerged prior to the US election.
"Literally every Conservative that is tweeting #FireColbert tweeted about how freedom of speech is under attack like five days ago," @emilyorl wrote.
Last week a free-speech row erupted after a talk by US conservative commentator Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley, was cancelled.