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LA Congressman Tony Cardenas survives 'Colbert Report'

Stephen Colbert interviews Congressman Tony Cardenas on
Stephen Colbert interviews Congressman Tony Cardenas on "The Colbert Report."
screengrab from Comedy Central
Stephen Colbert interviews Congressman Tony Cardenas on
L.A. Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-Pacoima) made a game appearance on "The Colbert Report."
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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It can be risky business for a politician, appearing on Stephen Colbert’s hot seat segment in which he interviews members of Congress about their district. But L.A. Democrat Tony Cardenas says his kids are big fans of the “wicked funny” comedian and he was willing to take his chances. The segment aired Tuesday night.

Colbert described the “Fighting" 29th — that's how he refers to every Congressional district —  as “nestled” in the San Fernando Valley, a place where the median age is 32.6, but tells casting directors it "just turned 26.3." It’s the place where Spanish explorers were drawn by the promise of sunshine, warm weather and "easy access to the 405 freeway." Colbert said some of the explorers "are still stuck in traffic to this day."

Colbert quizzed Cardenas about why people who crossed the border illegally shouldn’t be called illegal immigrants. Cardenas stuck to the “undocumented” label. He says he didn’t mind debating the topic with a man who had testified before Congress on behalf of immigrant laborers. “You could tell he cares,” says the freshman lawmaker.

Cardenas says he and his staff prepared by watching earlier segments of “Better Know a District” and they thought about what topics might come up so Cardenas wouldn't “look like a fool.”

An earlier segment with Cardenas' San Fernando Valley Congressional neighbor, Brad Sherman, included discussion of the porn industry that straddles their districts. Sure enough, the topic came up and Colbert used a delivery of a take-out burrito to illustrate the fact.

Cardenas says the best advice he received before going on the show was, “Don’t go toe-to-toe with a comedian,” which is why Cardenas played it straight. In fact, he says the hardest part was trying “hard as heck” not to laugh on camera – and worrying about which snippet of the hour-long conversation would be pulled for the most comic effect. Cardenas says Colbert did a “pretty honest job.”

Reaction from voters has been positive, he says, including a senior citizen from Tennessee who called this morning to suggest he run for higher office. More important, Cardenas says his toughest critics, his kids, laughed hysterically.

Cardenas says he’ll put his civic hat on when he calls to thank the Colbert crew: he plans to pitch the new host of the CBS late show on the advantages of moving the program to Los Angeles. L.A. lost NBC’s “Tonight Show” to New York when Jimmy Fallon took over. L.A. Mayor Garcetti has also been lobbying CBS to move the show west.