Series: Countdown with Keith Olbermann
A program on MSNBC
that ran from 2003-11, then on Current TV from 2011-12.
Introduced as Countdown:Iraq
, this hour-long show evolved into an opinionated political program
that saw itself as a left-wing foil to Bill O'Reilly
, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck
, et al. Stories were given in "countdown" order:
- "#5" was the night's lead story, invariably a major political story with fifteen minutes or more given to detail and commentary.
- "#4" was a slightly shorter political story.
- "Oddball": Short segments of weird news, first followed by "Best Persons" (originally called "Top 3 Newsmakers", segment scrapped in 2009), then preceded by the Tweet of the Day (he gave in and joined). Now referred to as "Time Marches On."
- "#3" similar in scope to #4. Often, but not always, an under-reported story.
- "#2", the night's "Worst Persons in the World", a listing of three people/groups who've done or said something that Olbermann found rather ugly or reprehensible. Briefly suspended a couple of times, once in response to the Jon Stewart "Rally to Restore Sanity" (brought back after a fan poll, with a new "Not Really" graphic) and once in the wake of the Tucson shootings (the show ended on MSNBC shortly afterwards, and Worst Persons was revived on Current). When a Guest Host fills in for Olbermann, there is a short political story instead.
- Finally, "#1", usually entertainment news or some other fluff piece. Sometimes this is replaced with a "Special Comment", a rather long diatribe reserved for when someone in (or seeking) a seat of power does or says something Olbermann considered egregiously bad. During the final weeks of the 2008 Presidential Campaign, this became a more regular segment called "Campaign Comment". 2010 introduced "Quick Comments", which were shorter and more frequent and which evolved into "Tea Time". Friday shows sometimes have "Thurber Fridays", a reading of a James Thurber story (sometimes relevant to the week's news, sometimes not).
Not to be confused with Countdown
, a long-running British Scrabble
-esque Game Show
on Channel Four
that largely concerns itself with bad puns and inoffensive anecdotes.
Keith used to work on SportsCenter
and was the inspiration for at least one
of the anchors on Sports Night
In early November 2010, Olbermann came under fire at MSNBC for donating $7,200 to political campaigns without first getting permission from the network. He was suspended indefinitely at first, but following intense controversy the subsequent weekend it was announced that he would be reinstated after only two broadcasts.
Suddenly, and without warning, Countdown
was canned on January 21, 2011 and Olbermann left the network. He then joined Current Media, and Countdown
relaunched on Current TV
on June 20th.
On March 30, 2012, Olbermann was fired from Current TV. Legal action happened, and was settled just before Current was bought by Al Jazeerra to launch Al Jazeerra America.
On July 17, 2013, Olbermann re-joined ESPN and launched a new late-night sports-based show titled Olbermann
on August 26 on ESPN 2
Please use the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement
when adding examples to this page.
This show provides examples of:
- Arch-Enemy: Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The list of "Muslim Countries Obama Continues To Refuse To Bomb (So Far)" in the parody of Obama Muslim conspiracy theories:
- Actually Pretty Funny : He reportedly enjoyed Jon Stewart's parody of him.
- Also he was simultaneously amused and bemused by the Saturday Night Live parody of him done by Ben Affleck, and was reportedly actually sad that Affleck avoided interacting with him when invited to appear on Rachel Maddow's show. Apparently Affleck was afraid Olbermann would be upset, but he actually wanted to offer some friendly constructive criticism and advice to Affleck for any future parodies of Countdown.
"I don't even own a cat."
- Backhanded Apology: He did this in his statement on Twitter about his firing from Current TV:
"I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV."
- Berserk Button: Hard to pick just one. Keith is infamous for his bad temper and perfectionism, which has cost him a lot of friendships. He gets worked up about pretty much everything, from bad plays in a baseball game to horrible political scandals, which sometimes makes it difficult to take all of his anger seriously.
- Big Bad: To Keith, George W. Bush above all.
- Big Good: To Keith, he may have at one point seen Barack Obama this way, but Obama turned out to be too centrist on economic matters for Keith. Better examples of people he would see as a Big Good would be Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, and Elizabeth Warren.
- He railed at Obama too in Special Comments, mostly about his kowtowing to the right re his handling of health care and the budget crisis.
- Camera Abuse: Throwing paper at it Once an Episode. He usually misses, but it smashes anyway.
- Catch Phrase: So many. In order of appearance in the show;
- "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?"
- And now the update on the President's fifty ongoing scandals...Buuuuusssshhhed!
- In 2009, it became "And now, because they're not going away any time soon, the update on the previous President's fifty running scandals...Stilll mmmmmBusssshhhhed!" Now retired.
- Let's play Oddball! (a takeoff on Chris Matthews' "Let's play Hardball", followed by a recording of Matthews' distinctive laugh)
- (Phweeeee...) No, it's not your water coming to a boil; it's time for our nightly checkup on the something for nothing crowd...it's Tea Time!
- "That woman... is an IDIOT!" (in reference to Sarah Palin)
- Get out your pitchforks and torches, it's time for...
- Tonight's... Worst... Person... In The Worrrrrrllllllllld!
- On the ESPN show: "First, the miscreants, losers, and riff-raff, the unwashed and the unloved...don't take it completely seriously, I don't mean it completely literally...we just call them...tonight's Worst Persons in the Sports World."
- And at the end of the segment: "(worst person) (some final pithy comment) tonight's Worst Person(s) in the Sports World!" (paper toss)
- Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment...
- How dare you, sir!
- You're WRONG!
- Resign, Sir!
- And that's Countdown for tonight, the xxxxth day since President Bush declared Mission Accomplished in Iraq. Good night and good luck. ("...the previous President declared..." since January 20, 2009)
- And that's Countdown for tonight, the xxxxth day since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. MR. BOEHNER, WHERE ARE THE JOBS?
- Give yourself a round of applause for getting through another day of this crap.
- I've done all the damage I can do here.
- Good Night, and Good Luck. note
- Never get into a war of words with people who buy ink by the barrelnote
- Go forth and spread beauty and light. note
- Channel Hop: MSNBC to Current TV.
- Clip Show: A couple were done, mostly when his father was in the hospital, and at least one hour-long episode of his Special Comments. Also, the obligatory "Best of the Year" reels for the holidays.
- Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: There were times that someone thought they were the "Worst Person in the World" when they just got bronze or silver. One example that stands out would be Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who he named bronze, who proceeded to boast that he named her "the worst person in the world", so guess what? He put her on the list as bronze again. The bronze is sometimes reserved for minor offenses such as amusing typos and translation mistakes; Olbermann gave himself the bronze before, usually when he got something wrong or said something hypocritical. Most people finding themselves publicly displayed on a list of "worst persons", however, tend not to appreciate the joke.
- Crosses the Line Twice: In his new ESPN show, Olbermann did a piece on swearing in sports, which he unabashedly used as an excuse to play not just one, but two Cluster F-Bomb-laden (albeit censored because it's on TV) recordings. Several times.
- Deadpan Snarker: Newsweek editor Richard Wolffe, who showed up just so Olbermann could set him up to snark on the GOP.
- Keith himself, in many of the "Worst Person" segments and some of the lighter Special Comments, particularly the Campaign Comments. Certainly his "Thanks, Dick" and Rocket-powered Rollerskates lines qualified as snark, as was the reaction to Doug Feith's Pre-war consequences memo.
- This attitude also leads to nicknames for the Fox News Channel and his right-wing rivals (see "Detractor Nickname" below) and the occasional indulgence in a mocking/sarcastic Evil Laugh when the right wing accuses the left one of something particularly supervillain-ish.
- Depth Deception: In Real Life. The reason Keith doesn't drive is that he hit his head on a subway door, and now has no depth perception when moving over 15 mph.
- Detractor Nickname: Too many, created and used by him, and often adopted by his fans.
- Bill O'Reilly: Billo, Bill Orally, Bill O RLY, Billo The Clown, Ted Baxter, The Big Giant Head, The Frank Burns of News, Phineas T. Bluster.
- Sean Hannity: The Walrus, The Manatee (this one was actually coined by John Cleese and adopted by Keith).
- Rush Limbaugh: Comedian Rush Limbaugh, Boss Limbaugh, Orly Taitz Limbaugh, Tokyo Rose Limbaugh.
- Ann Coulter: Coultergeist, Pirate Annie.
- Glenn Beck: Televangelist Glenn Beck, Harold Hill, Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes Beck, "Becky", "This Yutz".
- Sarah Palin: Sister Sarah, The Half-Term Governor of Alaska, The Half Governor, The Human Oil Slick, Saranoia, "That woman is an idiot", The Quitter, Bendy-Straws.
- "Sarah Palin, Today's Worst, and, by worst, I mean the gift that keeps on giving and I'd be lost without her, person in the world!"
- John Boehner: John of Orange.
- L. Brent Bozell III (head of the right-leaning Media Research Center, a frequent Olbermann critic): Humorist Brent Bozell, Redbeard the Pirate, Bozell the Clown.
- The Republican Party: The Party of No, The GO"BP".
- Fox News Channel: Fox Noise, Fixed News, Fixed Noise, the Fox Nothing Channel, Cluster Fox, Faux News, The Political Whorehouse That Is Fox News.
- The Fox Business Channel, which started off badly and lost a lot of money very quickly: The Fox Going Out of Business Channel
- "Michele I Know What You Did Last Summer Bachmann" (from the October 6, 2009 "Worst Persons," in response to some unusually violent statements the Minnesota Congresswoman had made in September and October 2009, which included the words "bludgeon" and "slit our wrists.")
- His right-wing critics often refer to Keith himself as Bathtub Boy (circa John Gibson) and Keith Overbite (circa Mark Levin).
- According to MSNBC's John Gibson, Olbermann did not want to cover the Monica Lewinsky scandal, saying it was not news. Gibson had to do the show for him, while Keith stayed home and took a bath.
- Olbermann began referring to Rupert Murdoch as Palpatine. Promptly apologized when somebody using the name @EmperorPalpatine tweeted a claim to be offended by the comparison. He continues to "mistakenly" mix the two up, then apologize to the Emperor.
- Drinking Game: Take one shot every time he calls someone a "racist" during a show, and you'll end up quite drunk.
- Dueling Shows: To The O'Reilly Factor. Almost literally!
- Enemy Mine: Keith sprang to Billo's defence when it was rumored that Rupert Murdoch had muzzled him. "Solidarity, Brother Bill! Free yourself from your corporate shackles! SOLIDARITY!!"
- Also, unlike Rachel Maddow, who likes the sport, he shares frequent enemy Glenn Beck's hatred of soccer.
- Actually, Olbermann's attitude regarding soccer is a great big "meh".
- When Keith was suspended in November 2010 for not clearing campaign contributions with the network, right-wing pundits Jonah Goldberg and William Kristol and recently fired CNN newsman Rick Sanchez, all of whom Olbermann has had on his Worst Persons list, actually defended Olbermann and attacked MSNBC for the policy.
- Every Episode Ending: "I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck."
- X Days Since
- During the Current version of the show, he also added "Congratulations for getting through another day of this crap." During the earlier days of the MSNBC version, it was "That's Countdown, thanks for being a part of it."
- Executive Meddling: The deal between MSNBC and FOX. Every person involved seems to have a different story about exactly what happened there, but whatever it was, it's over now!
- Fan Nickname: Fans use Keith's and invent their own.
- Fascinating Eyebrow
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: "Dear viewer, this is our new logo."
- Game of Nerds: Keith is a huge baseball fan and historian.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Literally, in a hurricane of euphemisms when interviewing the ShitMyDadSays guy.
- Ever since Jon Stewart's epic Go *** Yourselves choir song Keith substitutes "What Jon Stewart said!" whenever he needs a Cluster F-Bomb of his own.
- Keith once used footage from CSPAN with cursing senators as justification for showing the footage uncensored — since they can't exactly go after him for showing live footage of the United States Senate, even if they're cussing left and right.
- He expressed sheer joy that the new British government included a guy called Ed Balls and mentioned his name as often as possible that segment.
- Olbermann no doubt greatly regrets that he was on vacation when the Tea Party first came to national prominence, and missed out on participating in the initial MSNBC barrage of "teabagging" jokes.
- At Current, Keith is a bit more unbridled and has taken to saying "God damn" a lot.
- Godwin's Law: Is no stranger to comparing certain people he disagrees with to Nazis and Fascists, in fact he does uses this quite a lot, once calling President Bush a 'Fascist' after he commuted Scooter Libby's sentence during a Special Comment, and he's done this to a lot of people he's criticized.
You're a FASCIST! Get them to print you a t-shirt with FASCIST on it!
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: "If there isn't a band called Crossing the Sex Line by next week, someone is asleep at the switch." — June 30, 2009, on a quote by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
- Gray Eyes: "gray, hint of blue - but gray"
- Guest Host: Several. Both he and Rachel Maddow started out this way before getting their own shows.
- He Who Must Not Be Named: Keith. "It's like a Voldemort thing, it's gotta be":
Bill O'Reilly: I have never mentioned the man's name in my life and will never mention it.
- The Unpronounceable: The real reason Bill won't say Keith's name.
- This came to its logical conclusion when Bill did a whole segment with Bernie Goldberg on Keith getting fired, without once using his name.
- Homage: Keith uses Edward R. Murrow's sign-off in homage; also, the theme is a remix of Beethoven's 9th, 2nd movement, which was the theme of The Huntley-Brinkley Report (precursor to NBC Nightly News). He also reads a story from James Thurber to end the week after his late father and Thurber's daughter asked him to.
- The "Worst Person in the World" concept was lifted from an old Bob & Ray routine of the same name, originally aimed at a critic who had given their stage show a vicious review, along with George Carlin's joke about how, through a process of ranking, there has to be a worst doctor in the world, and, what's even more frightening, "someone has an appointment to see him tomorrow!"
- I Always Wanted to Say That: On one Oddball segment about the birth of a baby elephant, he says "I always wanted to do this" and then shows the footage of the elephant walking with its mother while playing Baby Elephant Walk.
- Informed Ability: Any clip on YouTube titled "Keith Olbermann DESTROYS [insert Fox News commentator here]!!!" is usually too short and petty to be all that devastating.
- Insult to Rocks: When O'Reilly did a panel for Newsmax, claimed by him to be a de facto Ponzi scheme, Olbermann said that this was beneath even him; two days later, he named himself third-worst person in the world... for insulting Newsmax, following legal threats over his use of the actual phrase "pyramid scheme."
- Large Ham: Olbermann, sometimes intentional and sometimes not. Probably comes from being a sportscaster.
- Mood Whiplash: Some of the segues from Oddball/Time Marches On back to news content before the commercial break can be pretty jarring.
- The Nicknamer
- Not So Different: Got rather annoyed when the "Rally to Restore Sanity" equated his furor to Fox News. He still toned down the vitriol by removing the "Worst Person In the World" segment temporarily.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Complete with Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, for "Worst Person in the World". Dropped when Olbermann felt the day's Worst was really egregious.
- Sometimes substituted with other music that he considers thematically appropriate to whatever offense the "winner" committed. This is a recent trend for "Worst Persons" that Olbermann considers to have done something genuinely bad, but not egregious enough to forgo comedy altogether. For example, when Rupert Murdoch is the day's Worst Person (not an uncommon occurrence), he plays the Imperial March. (See Detractor Nickname section above for the context.)
- One of Us: If September 19 is on a weekday, he will give a Shout-Out that it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
- Parenthetical Swearing: Keith can make the word 'sir' sound unprintable.
- Pet the Dog: Despite his despise of Republicans, he seems sometimes to have a relative soft spot for his ex, Laura Ingraham, despite her being O'Reilly's replacement host. He once compared her favorably to Glenn Beck and Brian Kilmeade on a "worst persons" segment they shared together saying, among other things, she wasn't an idiot. They still attack each other, but he sometimes doesn't seem to despise her as much as most of most of his political opposites, and he also condemned Ed Schultz on Twitter for calling her a "right-wing talk slut". Note that this did not once stop him from saying she "hated the troops".
- Real Song Theme Tune: An orchestra sting from Beethoven's Symphony No.9.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: While at MSNBC, he was the Red Oni to Rachel Maddow's Blue Oni.
- The Rival: O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh, Murdoch, Bush, Cheney, Palin, Bachmann, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Levin, Gibson, and Coulter are the biggest. Sometimes it seems reciprocated, sometimes not; O'Reilly acts aloof and tries not to give him the time of day, Beck, Levin, Gibson, and Coulter make fun of him frequently, and the others are somewhere in the middle on that.
- Scandalgate: Every story in the (now retired) "Bushed" and "Still Bushed" segments and several others outside it, often to the point of (intentional) ridiculousness.
- Screwed by the Network: He was presumably a little too left-wing for even MSNBC, although his problems with MSNBC president Phil Griffin are somewhat infamous.
- Self-Deprecation: When Bill O'Reilly circulated a petition to have him fired, Olbermann promptly signed the petition himself on-air, and got the hosts of all the other MSNBC shows to do the same.
- He's also named himself the Bronze in "Worst Person in the World" a couple of times after making a particularly bad on-air error.
- Having a Worst Person in the World every single episode seems to lampshade Olbermann's Large Ham tendencies, and on one occasion (after the Jon Stewart lampoon mentioned under Take That), he placed himself on that list, and has done so a few other times as well.
- In the aftermath of his November 2010 suspension, Keith was visibly sheepish during his return to the show, and started the first episode after his return with a remark to the effect of, "I'd have expected viewers' vocal support and cheering to be directed to other high profile figures, like Chilean miners!" in-effect claiming he didn't deserve to be cheered on so loudly (it also was only a week, if that long, after the successful rescue of the Chilean copper miners who had been trapped underground for 68 days).
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: His rants can get there.
- Shout-Out: 1.21.11 - Keith's been "future endeavored" by NBC.
- Smarmy Host: Olbermann's golf announcer Bob Slurm, smooth-talking, super-quiet, and smarmy as hell.
- Spoofed with Their Own Words: "The Worst Persons in the World" segment often featured this.
- Take That: The purpose of the "Worst Persons in the World" segment, which went temporarily defunct after Jon Stewart's rally made him realize the segment had become a platform for anger rather than satire as originally intended. Also the recipient of a pretty great one from Ben Affleck on an episode of Saturday Night Live. And about as good a one from Jon Stewart.
- Talk Like a Pirate: Whenever he quotes Rupert Murdoch. And when James Murdoch got his first Worst in 2010, he got the voice too.
- 10-Minute Retirement: His indefinite suspension for making political donations without asking permission ended up lasting a total of two days.
- Torches and Pitchforks: He would introduce "Worst Persons" with "Get out your pitchforks and torches", and the title of his recent book, a collection of special comments, worst persons, etc., is Pitchforks and Torches. Funnily enough, many of the people named in this segment are being criticized because he thinks they're using violent imagery in invective.
- Viewers Are Morons: Replacing "Worst Person in the World" with "Worst Person in the World (Not Really)," which was meant to become something less strong, as though all objections were from people taking the blatant hyperbole seriously.
- Weirdness Magnet: A much higher than average number of Oddball segments come from Florida or India. See also Widget Series below.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: Several times, but the August 2, 2010 Oddball segment had Keith catching a factual error in a story about a giant sandwich, causing him to mutter under his breath "That's not Latin America, who wrote this?"
- Widget Series: Olbermann's "weird news" segments includes something odd happening in Japan on a relatively frequent basis.
- You Make Me Sic: A significant portion of "batting practice" on Twitter was spent joking about typos in incoming tweets. (One won Tweet of the Day when a critic called him Ken.)