Keith Olbermann is back. Hallelujah! We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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When someone you love goes away for a day, it feels like a month. When Keith Olbermann is out of your life for a month, it feels like the blink of an eye.

After an absence of many weeks, before and after the death of his father, Olbermann returned to the anchor chair at “Countdown” on Monday night.

Let’s get to Monday’s show, however, because Olbermann was in fine form. For much of the show, he seemed to be channeling Andy Bernard, the unjustifiably pompous Cornell grad and mid-level paper salesman on “The Office” (“I went to Cornell, ever heard of it? I graduated in four years, never studied once. I was drunk the whole time.”). Did you know that Olbermann also went to Cornell? You do now: He mentioned the school no fewer than 11 times on Monday’s show.

Highlights: “I got a flashback of Professor Martin at Cornell in 1978, hitting me … in the head with the book when I got something wrong. … Health-care reform passed and Cornell went to college basketball‘s Sweet 16, on the same day. The odds of them happening in the same millennium! … I mean, look, Cornell doesn’t even have its own ball. They practice with rolled up tape. Not really, but it might as well be true. The last Cornell alum to retire from the National Basketball Association did so in 1951. The last Cornell victory in March Madness before this one, the NCAA tournament, was never.”

This gives me an idea of a small change I can make to ensure Olbermann reads this column. This may be hard to get used to at first, but let’s give it a try. I’m going to replace every noun and verb in this column with the word “Cornell”:

When Cornell Cornelled from Cornell, it was Cornell for his Cornell to Cornell Cornell. Cornell Cornelled the Cornell by Cornelling her Cornell! What an outrageous Cornell! Can you even Cornell it?!

Well, I’ll have to keep workshopping that.

Anyway, to be fair to Olbermann, it was a slow news day. It had been almost 24 hours since the House passed the most sweeping social legislation that the United States has seen in decades. What better time to wax on about one’s favorite college basketball team?

The rest of the show, Olbermann spent pontificating about racism in the Tea Party and chatting with regular guests as the founder of DailyKos. Way to come out of the gate with some new material, Keith. When Jay Leno returned to TV after a similarly long absence recently, he at least mixed it up a little. And why doesn’t Olbermann ever get any guests that haven’t already been on the show dozens of times? Or is the problem that he can’t?

Showing a little of his old spunk, Olbermann rounded out the night with a Special Comment about the imminent destruction of the Republican Party — again, really fresh. Eventually he called for the resignation of California Congressman Devin Nunes, citing Nunes’s words: “When you use totalitarian tactics, people, you know, begin to act crazy. And I think, you know, there‘s people that have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone, they can do it.”

Well, Olbermann won’t stand for such language. “Congressman Nunes, you should resign,” he spluttered. Then he really got going: “And if you shouldn’t resign for your endorsement, your encouragement, of the most vile, the most reprehensible, and the most outdated spewings of the lizard-brain part of this country, you should resign because of your total disconnect from reality. There have been no ‘totalitarian tactics,’ congressman.”

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Keith Olbermann would never stoop to using a hyperbolic reference to totalitarianism to make a point!

Then, like a phantom, Olbermann was gone, taking off the rest of the week without explanation. “Countdown” plodded along with Lawrence O’Donnell — Olbermann Lite — in the anchor chair. On Tuesday, he psychoanalyzed John McCain. On Wednesday, he psychoanalyzed Glenn Beck. On Thursday, he interviewed an 11-year old, and it was excruciating.

But my favorite moment on Thursday came when GE played a long, sentimental ad for “The Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration” right in the middle of the show. As it turns out, GE, which owns MSNBC, is the “presiding sponsor” of a two-year celebration of Reagan’s birth. The ad points us to a website with glowing remembrances of the former president from Pat Buchanan, Rudy Giuliani and NBC types including Tom Brokaw. Meanwhile, over on “Countdown,” in a corner where no one’s paying attention to him, Lawrence O’Donnell called Reagan “one of the gods of Fox News” as recently as Wednesday.

In conclusion, we Cornell you, Cornell. Cornell back soon.

Previous columns:

We miss you Keith Olbermann, Dylan Ratigan makes no sense

Keith Olbermann, look out! Dylan Ratigan is on your tail

Keith Olbermann is not the worst person in the world

Keith Olbermann dislikes Dick Cheney

Keith Olbermann is a funny, funny man

Keith Olbermann is a serious journalist

Keith Olbermann understands important things

Keith Olbermann is incredibly smart