AFTER THE SEGMENT…. It was a very special episode of Glenn Beck’s Fox News show, when he pretended to douse a colleague in gasoline while talking about setting himself on fire, but what I found especially interesting is what happened immediately afterwards.

You may have seen this clip already. After learning that President Obama might eventually embrace an immigration-reform legislation along the lines of the proposal touted by George W. Bush and John McCain (in at least one of McCain’s various personas), Beck said, “President Obama, why don’t you just set us on fire?”

From there, Beck had a fairly predictable tantrum — he’s apparently upset about France, bowing, Guantanamo, Cuba, etc. — before concluding that we might “lose the Republic.” To drive his point home, Beck took a gasoline container, and pretended to pour gas over Fox News’ Bill Schulz.

This was so completely insane, it was probably the first time I genuinely started to wonder if Beck’s derangement is an elaborate act. A guy this crazy, in real life, might try to eat his shoes while arguing with mailboxes. Getting dressed and making it to a television studio every day would be difficult.

But that’s not really the interesting part. Alex Koppelman added, “Unfortunately, not captured in the video is what happened next, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry came on and Beck asked, ‘Governor, you’re regretting being on this program at this point, are you not, sir?’ Perry responded, ‘Not at all, Glenn Beck. I’m proud to be with you.’”

And that, in a nutshell, helps explain what’s gone terribly wrong with conservative Republicans of late. Beck appears to be in desperate need of medication, and the chief executive of one of the nation’s largest states is “proud” to appear on the show, just moments after Beck pretended to set a colleague on fire.

Credible, serious public officials would ordinarily want to avoid making eye contact with a deranged figure, but Gov. Perry was delighted to chat with the Fox News lunatic. Maybe it’s because Perry actually finds Beck’s madness compelling; maybe it’s because Perry has a big Republican primary coming up and wants to curry favor with Beck’s followers.

Either way, it’s a problem for the party and the conservative movement. Conservative blogger Rick Moran said yesterday, “Beck worries me. Conservatives worry me. I worry about myself. I feel trapped in a huge ball of cotton, trying gamely to make my way out but don’t know which direction to start pushing. I am losing contact with those conservatives who find Beck anything more than a clown — and an irrational one at that.”

If the GOP wants to pick itself up off the mat, this would be a good place to start.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.