This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW, and seeing double last Thursday, when Stephen Colbert paid a visit to Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, then welcomed Bill O'Reilly to his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report.
Who knows why O'Reilly agreed to this, other than to prove he's man enough to share the stage with his comic tormenter--and to plug his book.
Meanwhile, here was Colbert The Phony Pundit sucking up to his oft-declared hero, even as Colbert The Gifted Humorist went one-on-one with the real-life inspiration for his foolish alter ego -- at last able to poke fun at O'Reilly to his face.
"You know what I hate about people who criticize you?" Colbert told O'Reilly, as if to defend him. "They criticize what you say, but they never give you credit for how loud you say it."
Colbert marveled that, while his own show airs just 30 minutes four times a week, O'Reilly churns out a full hour every weeknight, plus a daily radio show.
"What keeps you going?" Colbert asked, to which O'Reilly shot back, "You need material. The more I'm on, the more successful you will be."
That's a pretty funny line, especially from O'Reilly, who after years of middling success in TV news struck gold a decade ago as a humorless talk-show demagogue.
O'Reilly's blustery persona simply cried out for spoofing. So Colbert heeded the call, first as Senior Correspondent Stephen Colbert on the fake newscast The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, then, 15 months ago, when he began the Report, a dead-on parody of the Factor.
On it, Colbert liberally -- oops, let's make that "heartily" -- mocks the foibles of conservatives and, for that matter, everybody else. It's all in the guise of a right-wing blowhard who, like O'Reilly, is looking out for you if you agree with him, and who seldom lets the facts get in the way of the truth he dispenses to his flock.
No wonder on their back-and-forth appearances last week, O'Reilly seemed to chafe at Colbert's satiric artifice, as if he itched to challenge Colbert to cut the crap and come clean as the scoundrel O'Reilly knows him to be: a smear merchant tearing down not just O'Reilly but America, family and Christmas while worshipping the New York Times. In short, a Secular Progressive.
"I'm not a Secular Progressive, sir," Colbert told O'Reilly, laying it on thick: "I'm a deeply religious man who will do anything you say."
He wasn't gonna step outside his role. In fact, it was O'Reilly who briefly broke character when asked if he could take his Fox News colleague Sean Hannity in a fight.
No, said the famously combative O'Reilly, whose latest best-seller is titled Culture Warrior. On the contrary, he said, managing a joke, "I'm effete. I'm not a tough guy. This is all an act."
"If you're an act," said Colbert, looking startled, "then, what am I?"
Well, having pierced the veil of broadcast pundits, he's a guy who puts on an act that he freely admits is a put-on. And this, despite the clowning, makes Colbert (in my mind) a straight shooter. The real deal.
Now, is Bill O'Reilly, who preaches that he's looking out for us from his No-Spin Zone, nearly that transparent? Like Colbert, O'Reilly is an entertainer most of all, and, even paired with Colbert last week, his act is a good one. And it's all about spin.
But how could he ever admit it?
Watching televisionfor KCRW, I'm Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.