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In Colbert interview, a new look at Prokhorov ... warts, ninja stars and all

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Stephen Colbert spend much of a day last week with Mikhail Prokhorov, producing a feature on “how to be a Russia oligarch” for his “Russia Week” series. And here it is...

Just like the “60 Minutes” profile seven years ago, this one enthralled the interviewer and probably the view, too.

It included all the endearing if strange aspects of Prokhorov’s personality, from his initial stone-faced refusal to go along with Colbert’s description his team as the “Brooklyn Nyets” to his claim that his only quirk was “watching re-runs of the “The Good Wife” to an eye-popping tour of his personal gym for the development of his Tibetan martial arts (“tescao”) skills. The two threw ninja stars and axes at a wall, which no doubt has been nicked up in frustration over the years.

There was the Prokhorov wit, but also a warts-and-all introduction that included the French police investigation of him on prostitution charges (he was never charged) to his relationship with Vladimir Putin who Colbert described as his “friend” (but whose security police raided his offices three times last year.) And Colbert repeatedly suggested that Prokhorov’s lifestyle reminded him of a teen-aged boy, which earned barely a shrug, no confirmation, from the Nets owner.

There was only one mention of the Nets —the one about the “Nyets” —although Colbert and he spent much of the segment in Nets warm-up gear. Nor was there talk of the investigation of President Trump’s relationship with Russia. It was mostly a humanizing look at an oligarch ... which isn’t a bad thing when you’re the owner of the most high-profile Russian investment in the U.S. at a time when news about rich Russians is universally bad.

Indeed, Prokhorov’s relationship with the Putin regime is a complicated one. He ran against him in the 2012 presidential election, garnering eight percent of the vote ... but being seen as nothing more than liberal prop for Putin, not a serious candidate. Then, when he tried to form a political party after the defeat that didn’t sit well with the Kremlin. His RBC television network was the last independent outlet to look into Putin’s finances, which many believe earned Prokhorov those raids ... but that journalism ultimately ended with a change in editorial leadership and a sale to a more Putin-friendly owner.

The “60 Minutes” profile back in May 2010 was an introduction to oligarch-as-sportsman. There was no dark side. US-Russian relations were so good on the day Prokhorov agreed to buy the team that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced it to President Obama at a UN reception for heads of state.

The “Stephen Colbert” profile was more about restoration of his image, removing him from the daily grind of Russia hacking stories and worse. Both segments were 12 minutes long and contained some of the same points —yes, he has a yacht but he doesn’t know it is, and here take a look at my AK-47. But because the times have changed, they are quite different, have to be. It was still funny, though.