Speed Reads

Crime and punishment

Stephen Colbert jokes his way through a very serious case against the death penalty

Comedy Central

The phrase "gallows humor" comes to mind: In this segment from Wednesday night's Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert cracks jokes and the audience laughs, but it's not really very funny. The topic is capital punishment, specifically the great lengths states are going through to find non-cruel-and-unusual drugs for lethal injections (with questionable success) — and, at least in the case of Tennessee, legally hiding all information about the executions from a public that, broadly speaking, supports the death penalty but isn't comfortable putting actual humans to death. If you are leery of capital punishment, Colbert is a sneakily persuasive advocate for at least suspending the practice. --Peter Weber