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Stephen Colbert and Paul Giamatti bring the saga of the presidential wax figure to a happy conclusion

Stephen Colbert, Paul Giamatti, Paul Giamatti
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

On Wednesday’s Late Show to promote the return of his Showtime series Billions, Paul Giamatti sandwiched in the requisite promotional chat between some simpatico silliness with host Stephen Colbert. Reminiscing about when the two of them got in trouble with their publicists at a Television Critics Association presser for taking too much time geeking out over their favorite science fiction authors, the pair picked right up where they left off in the amiable time-wasting department. Colbert, expressing gratitude over Giamatti’s gift at those same TCAs of 1952's Robots Have No Tails by “Lewis Padgett” (actually married sci-fi authors C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner) and Avram Davidson’s 1969 novel The Phoenix And The Mirror, surprised his clearly touched guest with some equally rare sci-fi in return. (Keith Laumer’s Bolo and Kuttner’s Mutant, just for nerd completist’s sake.)

And then, sure, they talked about Billions (which returns on Sunday, March 25), but the duo were clearly much more interested in swapping gifts and sci-fi favorites. “There’s people here, actually,” joked Giamatti at one point, with Colbert waving away his audience in mock contempt. After a rundown of what’s coming for the legal-financial drama series (and Giamatti’s confession that he learns only exactly the terminology he needs to for his U.S. attorney character before heading back to his trailer to read some delightfully smelly old sci-fi paperbacks), Colbert continued the gift giving. Noting that, as is their wont, people on the internet have gotten a bee in their collective bonnet over the fact that Giamatti doesn’t have his own Madame Tussauds wax likeness, Colbert ceremoniously wheeled out his prized (if slightly cockeyed) Zachary Taylor statue. Perhaps still healing from his savage beatdown at the hands of John Oliver’s Warren G. Harding wax figure (bought from the same defunct Gettysburg attraction), the repurposed Taylor, now sporting an unnervingly intense Paul Giamatti paper mask, was unveiled, to Giamatti’s tickled delight. And sure, it’s not Madame Tussauds, but at least its new home in the lobby of Colbert’s Ed Sullivan Theater home will be a reverentially silly shrine to, as Colbert put it, “the guy who was good in that thing you really liked.”


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.