01/20/2012 03:12 EST | Updated 03/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Comedian Colbert, also-ran Cain join forces on eve of South Carolina primary

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Political mischief-maker Stephen Colbert set out Friday to raise a different sort of Cain — this one Herman, the former pizza magnate whose presidential aspirations were derailed by allegations of sexual harassment.

On the eve of the all-important South Carolina primary, Colbert and Cain joined forces in the comic's hometown to preach decidedly different messages to hundreds of appreciative college students.

The late-night comedian and "Colbert Report" host, whose shtick is making fun of America's right-wing punditocracy, urged his "supporters" to vote for Cain, even though the one-time front-runner is no longer in the race.

Doing so, he insisted, would send a strong message that people want Colbert's name on the ballot so that he has a chance of becoming "president of the United States of South Carolina."

As Cain himself pointed out, looking dapper in a sharp suit and his trademark wide-brimmed hat: "Mr. Colbert could not get on the ballot; I could not get off the ballot."

The rally was an exercise in giddy excess typical of Colbert's brand of humour, with a marching band, cheerleaders and an African American choir. Cain took issue with those who questioned why he'd participate in such a stunt.

"America needs to learn how to lighten up," he said to cheers.

Nonetheless Cain did have a serious message, urging the young crowd at the College of Charleston — mostly left-leaning, judging by how often they cheered Colbert's sarcastic support of corporations and "innocent money" — not to cast their ballots for him because it would amount to a wasted vote.

Cain's suggestion that they join the Tea Party, however, was greeted with near silence and a smattering of groans.

One student held up a sign that read: "Will you have an open relationship with me, Herman Cain?" in reference to sordid allegations levelled by one of Newt Gingrich's ex-wives.

Cain had no reply to the offer, but urged the crowd to stay informed, apparently paying no mind to the fact that Colbert, just moments earlier, had made fun of his infamous "Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan" comments when he was running for president.

In October of last year, Cain was asked if he was ready for the expected "gotcha" questions, such as being asked to name the president of Uzbekistan.

"I'm ready for the 'gotcha' questions and they're already starting to come," he replied. "And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I'm going to say, 'You know, I don't know. Do you know?'"

Nonetheless it was Colbert, not Cain, who had Friday's more pointed message, delivered under the guise of satire to his young fans on the elegant 19th century campus as they gathered beneath massive oaks draped with drifts of Spanish moss.

Colbert ridiculed American election laws that allow huge corporations to finance political campaigns, suggesting that money was corrupting politics.

"Corporations are people," he gleefully repeated, echoing Mitt Romney's famous declaration on the campaign trail last summer.

The gospel choir behind him on the stage then sang, "Corporations are people" at Colbert's command.

"As Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg: 'Give me some money!'" Colbert said to roars of laughter.

He also evoked Martin Luther King Jr., noting that he didn't like when people compared him to the civil rights hero — he'd rather do it himself.

"The fight goes on, the dream endures — we must stand for our corporate brothers and sisters," he crowed.