The Colbert Report

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The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report logo
Genre Comedy
News parody
Format Late night talk show
Created by Stephen Colbert
Ben Karlin
Jon Stewart
Directed by Jim Hoskinson
Starring Stephen Colbert
Theme music composer Cheap Trick
Country of origin U.S.
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 531 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Jon Stewart
Ben Karlin
Stephen Colbert
Running time 22 minutes
Original channel Comedy Central
Original run October 17, 2005 – present
Related shows The Daily Show
External links
Official website
US late night TV
ABC Jimmy Kimmel Live!
CBS Late Show with David Letterman
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
Talkshow with Spike Feresten
NBC The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Last Call with Carson Daly
Saturday Night Live
Comedy Central The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report (/koʊlˈbɛɹ ɹəˈpɔɹ/—the t is silent in both "Colbert" and "Report") is a Peabody Award- and Emmy Award-winning American satirical television program that airs from 11:30 p.m. to 12:00 midnight Eastern Time Zone (North America) each Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central in the United States and on both The Comedy Network and CTV in Canada. In the United Kingdom it airs at 11.00 p.m on FX each Tuesday through Friday. It stars political humorist Stephen Colbert, a former correspondent for The Daily Show.

The Colbert Report is a spin-off of and counterpart to The Daily Show that, like The Daily Show, critiques politics and the media. It satirizes conservative personality-driven political pundit programs, particularly Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.[1][2] The show focuses on a fictional anchorman character named Stephen Colbert, played by his real-life namesake. The character, described by Colbert as a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot," is a caricature of televised political pundits.[3][4]

The Colbert Report has been nominated for four Emmys each in 2006, 2007 and 2008, two Television Critics Association Awards, and two Satellite Awards. It has been presented as non-satirical journalism in several instances, by the Tom DeLay Legal Defense Trust, and following Robert Wexler's interview on the program. The Report received considerable media coverage following its debut on October 17, 2005, for Colbert's popularizing of the term "truthiness," which dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster named its 2006 Word of the Year.[5] The Report has also coined other neologisms, such as "freem."

The Report has had cultural influence in a number of ways. In 2006, after Colbert encouraged viewers to vote online to name a Hungarian bridge after him, he won the first round of voting with 17,231,724 votes.[6] The Ambassador of Hungary presented Mr. Colbert with a declaration certifying him as the winner of the second and final round of voting, though it was later announced that the bridge would be named the Megyeri Bridge. In 2007, the Democratic Caucus chair, Rahm Emanuel, instructed freshmen Representatives not to appear on the show's 'Better Know a District' segment.[7]


[edit] Production

Colbert on "The Colbert Gang"

In 2005, The Daily Show had won Emmy Awards, and Comedy Central wanted to expand the franchise.[8] Producers were also looking for a way to hold on to Colbert, Daily Show correspondent and co-writer for six seasons, after the show's other breakout star, Steve Carell, left the program to pursue a successful career in film and network television. Jon Stewart and Ben Karlin (The Daily Show's executive producer) supposedly came up with the idea for The Colbert Report after watching coverage of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Bill O'Reilly. Jon Stewart's production company, Busboy Productions, developed The Report. Colbert, Stewart, and Karlin pitched the idea of the show (reportedly with one phrase: "our version of The O'Reilly Factor with Stephen Colbert") to Comedy Central chief Doug Herzog, who agreed to run the show for eight weeks without creating a pilot.[9]

The Colbert Report first appeared in the form of three television commercials for itself which aired several times on The Daily Show, although the themes that form the basis for The Report can be seen in the reports of Colbert's correspondent character on The Daily Show. The show debuted October 17, 2005, with an initial contract for an eight-week run. On November 2, 2005 based on the strong ratings for the show's first two weeks, Comedy Central and Colbert announced they had signed for an additional year, through the end of 2006.[10]

[edit] Program format

Typically, Colbert starts each episode with teasers regarding the show's topics and guest, each headline structured to be a deliberate pun, followed by a verbal metaphor that promotes the show—for example, "Go out ten yards and button-hook to the left. I'm going to hit you with a perfect spiral of the truth. This is The Colbert Report." The show's opening title sequence begins with images of flag waving, eagles, Colbert striking poses and words describing Colbert flying by, some of which that have been used as The Wørd. Originally, the last word was Grippy, but it has changed to, among others, "Megamerican," "Lincolnish," "Superstantial," "Freem," "Eneagled," "Flagaphile," "Warrior-Poet," "Good," "Gutly," "President Bush, Have A Hot Dog With Me," "Self-Evident," "Multi-Grain," "Factose Intolerant," "Colmes-Free Since 2009," and most recently in February 9, 2009, "Juice It!." The sequence ends with a computer-generated shrieking eagle swooping toward the foreground.

Following the opening sequence, Colbert proceeds a run-through of the day's headlines, similar to that of The Daily Show but with a pseudo-right-wing spin. The program proper then begins with Colbert addressing a specific topic. That topic will usually lead into a "The Wørd" segment, which juxtaposes Colbert's commentary with satirical bullet points on-screen, a parody on The O'Reilly Factor's "Talking Points Memo";[11] though on occasion he will conduct a short interview with someone having to do with the topic. The format of the middle segment varies, but it is normally a visual presentation or skit. Often, these skits are parts of recurring segments, which may include "Better Know a District," in which Colbert interviews a U.S. Representative from a certain district of the United States; "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger," in which Colbert voices his approval or disapproval of prominent people and news items; "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A.," a health segment; and "The ThreatDown," in which Colbert lists the five greatest threats to America, and others.

Sometimes, there is a "Colbert Report Special Repor-t" (final "t" pronounced with special emphasis), in which Colbert devotes a section of an episode, and sometimes the entire episode to a special subject. The third segment is almost always an interview with a celebrity guest, often an author or government official.[12] The interview is, unlike The Daily Show, conducted at a different table on the set. Viewers applaud as Colbert hammily jogs from his desk to the interview area, where his guest awaits. At times, Colbert will give high fives to the front row of his audience as they stand and clap. This is different from the traditional format, in which the guest enters to applause and joins the already seated host. Afterwards, Colbert ends the show by giving some parting words to the audience.

[edit] Set

Colbert on the set of The Colbert Report. Note the three instances of the show's title.

The studio in which The Colbert Report is taped, located in New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, was used for The Daily Show until July 2005. NEP Studio 54 on 54th Street is owned by NEP Broadcasting which is New York City's largest production facility and also owns the Daily Show set at NEP Studio 52 two blocks south on 52nd Street.

The set for The Colbert Report is called "The Eagle's Nest" and reflects and facilitates Colbert's self-aggrandizing style.[13] The set has two main areas: the desk, from which Colbert hosts most of the show, and the guest interview area to camera right, where his guest for the evening is interviewed. Colbert's desk is in the shape of seriffed C, standing for Colbert. On one wall, above an artificial fireplace, is a portrait of Colbert; it originally showed Colbert standing in front of the same mantel with another portrait of himself. On the show's first anniversary, the portrait was replaced by one of Colbert standing in front of the mantel with the first portrait above it; the original was auctioned off at a charity event[14] and currently hangs in the Sticky Fingers restaurant in Colbert's native Charleston, S.C.[15] Colbert stated that the portrait will be changed every year to add another level of depth. On October 17, 2007, the portrait was removed and replaced with a new one that followed an identical pattern, but changed Colbert's placement in the foreground.

The Colbert portrait hanging on display near the bathrooms of the National Portrait Gallery.

On January 16, 2008, the "3-deep" Colbert portrait was placed on display "right between the bathrooms near the 'America's Presidents' exhibit" at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.[16] After first being rejected by the National Museum of American History, Colbert petitioned the Smithsonian to display his portrait, who agreed to "go along with the joke", though they stress that it is only temporary. Colbert said "I don't mean to brag, but as it contains three portraits, my portrait has more portraits than any other portrait in the National Portrait Gallery!" The portrait was then put on display at the Smithsonian until April 13. On October 16, 2008, the 3-deep portrait was officially donated to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's American Treasures exhibit. At the end of that show, a new 5-deep portrait was unveiled, with the newest Colbert holding his newly-won Emmy with another Emmy and a Peabody by the mantle.

Outside the studio

The graphics used throughout the show and the studio itself are saturated with American flags, bald eagles, Captain America's shield, and other patriotic imagery.[17] The set contains many references to Colbert, and on the show's first episode he pointed out several examples: his name, initials and the name of the show appear on the desk's plasma screen, on the rafters above the desk, and the desk itself is shaped like a giant "C".[13] In an interview with The A.V. Club, Colbert explained that much of the design for the set was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. "All the architecture of that room points at Jesus' head, the entire room is a halo", Colbert said. "On the set, I'd like the lines of the set to converge on my head. And so if you look at the design, it all does, it all points at my head...there's a sort of sun-god burst quality about the set around me."[2] On the floor to the front stage right of his desk there is an Eagle's nest, and a tape outline of where he injured his wrist, akin to those seen at murder scenes.

For the week of April 14 through April 17, 2008, the program was taped at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Pennsylvania campus, in advance of the Democratic Party primary in that state on April 22. This is the first time the program has been taped outside its regular New York City studios.[18]

[edit] Writers' strike

Production of new episodes was suspended on November 5, 2007 due to the Writers Guild of America strike, although a live untaped performance called The Colbert Report - On Strike! took place on December 3, 2007, with proceeds going towards show staffers.[19] The show returned on January 7, 2008, without the writing staff. Upon the show's return, Colbert modified the pronunciation of the show's name, using hard 't's (/koʊlbɵɹt ɹəpɔɹt/); a similar move was made by The Daily Show which returned to air as A Daily Show. On February 13, in honor of the end of the strike, the original names of both shows were restored.

During the strike, Colbert stopped performing the customary "table of contents" that usually precedes the opening titles, as well as other regular written segments such as The Wørd. As a member of the Writers Guild of America, Colbert was barred from writing any material for the show himself which his writers would ordinarily write.[20] As a result, Colbert conducted more guest interviews, although several people turned down invitations to cross the picket line to appear on the show, including Katrina van den Heuvel and Naomi Klein.[21] At one stage, pitched as an effort to fill time on the show, Colbert lashed out at fellow late night host Conan O'Brien, who had also recently returned to air without his writers, for claiming to have elevated the popularity—or "made"—presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, which Colbert's character had frequently claimed credit for in the past. In response, Jon Stewart, Colbert's former Daily Show colleague, claimed that he had introduced O'Brien to the public on MTV's The Jon Stewart Show, and thus, by his logic, Stewart was responsible for Huckabee's success. This sparked a briefly recurring mock feud between Colbert, O'Brien, and Stewart—during which they appeared on each other's shows—which culminated in a three-way brawl on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on February 4, 2008.[22]

[edit] Stephen Colbert (character)

The Stephen Colbert character is a fictional character portrayed by comedian and actor Stephen Colbert. The character is a caricature of news pundits such as Stone Phillips, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Geraldo Rivera, whose shows focus on "bluster and personality".[4][9] Colbert's character, a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot", is right-wing, egomaniacal, fact-averse ("factose intolerant"), God-fearing, and super-patriotic. He claims to be an independent who is often mistaken for a Republican, but uniformly despises liberals and generally agrees with the actions and decisions of George W. Bush and the Republican Party. This is evidenced by one of the questions that he asks of many of his guests: "George W. Bush: great President, or the greatest President?"[23]

The character's self-aggrandizing style includes frequent promotion of an extensive range of fictional merchandising and products, including perfumes, sci-fi novels, medications, his own "man seed", and other products, all of which are either produced or endorsed by Colbert. He has also convinced his viewers, whom he addresses as "the Colbert Nation", to vote for him in various public naming polls: the mascot of the Saginaw Spirit, an Ontario Hockey League team has been named after him.[24]

Colbert's character also holds a recurring grudge against everything French, including their language. Ironically, he repeatedly pronounces the "Report" in "The Colbert Report" with a silent T in the traditional French accent. This faux-French way of pronouncing "Report" has started a trend amongst other American journalists, such as Bobby Dunbar, of The Colorado Rap Report. In an interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" Colbert acknowledged the pronunciation of report referring to the word "rapport": A close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well.

Colbert's character has been described as a "caustic right-wing bully".[8] On the interview segment of the show, Colbert frequently attempts to nail his guest by using various rhetorical devices, and often logical fallacies, to prove them wrong.[25] Despite his bluster, Colbert's character suffers from arctophobia, the fear of bears, which he refers to as "giant, marauding, godless killing machines".[26] This bear phobia was inspired by Colbert's real-life fear of bears as a child.[25] Colbert refers to Bill O'Reilly as "Papa Bear", a title with a double meaning, considering Colbert's fear of bears.[27] Colbert displays fear and suspicion of nearly any animal and is quick to declare they are "training" to attack humanity. He is also highly distrustful of technology, particularly robots.[28] Over the months of May and June in 2007, Colbert begged Apple to give him a free iPhone, and finally received one in July. Once he received it, however, he claimed the phone knew so much about him that he had become virtually dependent on it, and that the iPhone itself was a threat.[28] Colbert also despises the liberal media, The New York Times in particular, but applauds conservative media such as Fox News on a regular basis.[29]

[edit] Recurring themes

The Colbert Report presents various recurring themes that help define the show.

[edit] Truthiness

Stephen Colbert announces that "The Wørd" of the night is truthiness, during the premiere episode of The Colbert Report.

In "The Wørd" segment of the first episode of the Report, Colbert featured the term truthiness, defined as "the quality by which one purports to know something emotionally or instinctively, without regard to evidence or intellectual examination". Colbert said that, "I don't trust books, they're all fact, no heart. And that's exactly what's pulling our country apart today. Let's face it folks, we are a divided nation…between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart."[30] In December 2005, The New York Times selected truthiness as one of nine words that captured the zeitgeist of the year, and in January 2006, the American Dialect Society announced that truthiness was selected as its 2005 Word of the Year.[31]

Colbert has made frequent reference to the spread of the word truthiness since he introduced it, while carping on media accounts of truthiness that neglect to identify him as its source.[29] Truthiness has since been discussed, sometimes repeatedly, in The New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, MSNBC, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, Editor & Publisher, Salon, The Huffington Post, ABC NewsRadio's Word Watch with Kel Richards and Chicago Reader, and on ABC's Nightline, CBS's 60 Minutes, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. In January 2006, truthiness was featured as a Word of the Week by the website of the Macmillan English Dictionary.[32] In December of the same year, Merriam-Webster announced that "truthiness" had been voted by visitors to its website to be the #1 Word of the Year for 2006.[33] On August 27, 2006, the Global Language Monitor named truthiness and wikiality—both coined by Colbert on The Colbert Report—as the top television buzzwords of 2006.[34][dead link][35] It was used in The New York Times crossword puzzle in June 2008,[36] which Colbert himself mentioned during an exchange with Jon Stewart on an episode of The Daily Show.[37]

[edit] Relation to The O'Reilly Factor

Stephen Colbert appears as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor. January 18, 2007.

The Stephen Colbert character and The Colbert Report are generally parodies of Bill O'Reilly and The O'Reilly Factor respectively. New episodes of The Colbert Report are scheduled in the same time slot as rebroadcasts of The O'Reilly Factor, while Colbert rebroadcasts are scheduled during new O'Reilly shows.[38] When O'Reilly appeared on The Daily Show before the second episode of The Colbert Report aired, he commented, "Before we get started, somebody told me walking in here, you got some French guy on after you making fun of me?", and made several references in the following interview to 'the French Guy'.[39][40] In a subsequent Newsweek interview, O'Reilly said that he "feels it's a compliment" to have Colbert parody him because Colbert "isn't mean-spirited" and does not "use [his] platform to injure people". Later, Colbert replied on-air, "I like you too. In fact, if it wasn't for you, this show wouldn't exist."[4]

The Colbert Report features a commentary segment called "The Wørd", similar to O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo". Like the Memo, The Wørd features the commentator asserting a political point of view with a text screen graphic next to him. However, while O'Reilly's text serves to emphasize his points, Colbert's text generally serves as an ironic counterpoint to his character's position. Other segments that can be juxtaposed with The O'Reilly Factor are The Colbert Report's Inbox (compared to O'Reilly's "Factor Mail"); Stephen Colbert's Balls for Kidz which, unlike The Factor's "Children at Risk", tends to portray messages and lessons typically considered unsuitable for children; and That's The Craziest F#?king Thing I've Ever Heard, which is comparable to O'Reilly's "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day". Additionally, Colbert parodies O'Reilly's references to his program as the "no spin zone" by inviting viewers of his show to "take a spin in the no fact zone".[41] O'Reilly and Colbert each appeared as a guest on the other's show on January 18, 2007. O'Reilly seemed to regret this "crossover" before his time on The Colbert Report was through, stating as the audience reacted badly to him that it was "a huge mistake, me coming on here".[26] (As a souvenir, Colbert "stole" a microwave from the O'Reilly green room—in fact, he informed O'Reilly of his intention to take the microwave beforehand—later displaying it on his own show. He later sent over a replacement microwave, emblazoned with The Colbert Report logo.)

[edit] Green Screen challenges

On the August 10, 2006 episode, Stephen Colbert was shown wielding a lightsaber in front of a green screen, a parody of the Star Wars Kid internet phenomenon.[42] This was done as part of the "Better Know A District" segment, when Colbert visited California's 6th congressional district, the home of Star Wars creator George Lucas. The greenscreen footage was subsequently edited by fans and their results were posted on the Internet, primarily the website YouTube.[43] Colbert featured some of these clips on the August 21 episode and issued the "Green Screen Challenge" to the public—a contest to create the best video from footage shown in the August 10 episode. Lucas himself made an appearance on the October 11 episode to showcase his entry.[14]

When indie rock band The Decemberists shot a music video for their single "O Valencia!" in front of a green screen and asked fans to complete the video, Colbert accused them of copying his idea, and started his second green screen challenge, which called for fans to edit Stephen Colbert into The Decemberists unfinished music video. In response, The Decemberists challenged Colbert to a guitar solo challenge.[44] For a few weeks, the upcoming contest, which Colbert titled "Rock and Awe: Countdown to Guitarmageddon" ("The I-Rock War: Cut and Strum" and "The Axeman Cometh: Mourning Becomes Electric" were announced as alternate titles; Colbert added that he would find and fire the English major on his staff who created the latter title), became a focus of the show. On December 20, 2006, Chris Funk, lead guitarist for The Decemberists, came on the show for the guitar solo challenge. Once Funk finished playing, Colbert arrived on stage with a five-necked guitar belonging to Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. Colbert played two notes, pretended to cut his hand, and insisted that he could no longer play, so Peter Frampton played a solo in Colbert's place. A panel of three judges, then New York governor Eliot Spitzer, Rock critic Anthony DeCurtis, and chairman of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at New York University, Jim Anderson, voted to determine the best solo. DeCurtis voted for the Colbert/Frampton team, Anderson voted for Funk, and Spitzer withdrew himself from judging as Colbert tried to bribe him during the commercial break. The deciding vote was given to Henry Kissinger, who had briefly appeared earlier in the show. Kissinger said that the American people had won, at which point Colbert declared himself the winner.[45] As a prize, Colbert received The Crane Wife, The Decemberists' new album, saying "The Crane Wife by the Decemberists? I love the Decemberists, they rock. In your face, Funk!"

On June 12, 2008, Stephen announced his third green screen challenge, "Stephen Colbert's Make McCain Exciting Challenge!", in which he invited viewers to replace the green screen behind John McCain during one of his speeches with something more exciting. The show would display entries on a semi-regular basis for the next two months.

On September 5, 2008, Colbert issued a follow up McCain green screen challenge. He challenged his viewers to alter the footage of McCain's acceptance speech, while Colbert himself took a one week hiatus.

[edit] Wrist violence and fictional addiction

On July 26, 2007, Colbert broke his left wrist while performing his warm-up for the show.[46] Following the accident Colbert launched a new section of the show entitled "Wrist Watch", featuring news stories about wrists during which the character attacks what he sees as Hollywood's glamorization of "wrist violence".[47] On August 8, Colbert debuted the "Wriststrong" wrist band, based on Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" wrist band, in a hope to increase wrist awareness.[48] The wristbands were made available for purchase online and Colbert ordered those wearing the bracelets to give them to anyone they meet who is more famous than themselves. Colbert has subsequently attempted to pass on bracelets to well-known media figures including Katie Couric (Stephen gave a Wriststrong bracelet to Katie and she said that she would wear it on air, but didn't), Brian Williams and Matt Lauer. All proceeds raised by the sales of the wrist bands are given to the Yellow Ribbon Fund.[49] On January 23, 2008, Colbert interviewed the head of the Yellow Ribbon Fund, Marie Wood, and presented her a check for the money raised by WristStrong bracelet sales to date, totaling US$171,525, the profits of over 30,000 bracelet sales.[50]

Colbert had a number of well-known figures autograph his cast, including Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City; CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric; Bill O'Reilly, host of FOX's The O'Reilly Factor; Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives; Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet The Press; Tony Snow, former White House Press Secretary; and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. On August 23 the cast was removed on air,[51] and it was announced that Colbert would auction off his cast for the Yellow Ribbon Fund on eBay. The auction began after that evening's show.[52] Within minutes of the auction's start, bidding quickly rose to over US$71,000. However, many bids were canceled because bidders failed to get pre-approved by the seller (which was required in the auction). It was sold for US$17,200.[53]

While Colbert's wrist was in the cast, the character began taking (and subsequently became addicted to) painkillers to deal with his injury, frequently taking absurd doses and displaying exaggerated withdrawal symptoms of irritability and hallucinations when they were denied. The cast was removed on television, after which The Report went on a brief hiatus, and following its return on September 10, Colbert claimed that, with help from a court order and rehab over the break, he had kicked his addiction.[54]

[edit] Recurring characters

While the show is largely dominated by Colbert, there are a number of recurring characters who appear periodically. Colbert will frequently address the show's director, Jimmy -- a reference to real-life Colbert Report director Jim Hoskinson -- and will sometimes converse with him. On the rare occasions Jimmy has appeared on screen, he has been portrayed by staff writer Peter Gwinn. Building manager Tad, portrayed by Paul Dinello, has appeared on the show multiple times to host special segments. Other recurring members of Colbert's fictional staff have included Meg the intern (played by Meg DeFrancesco), Bobby the stage manager (played by Eric Drysdale) and Killer (uncredited). Colbert himself has portrayed his character's Cuban alter ego, Esteban Colberto; and his Chinese alter ego, Ching Chong Ding Dong.

An inanimate character was created in response to Supreme Court ruling to lift the Washington, D.C. gun ban. Sweetness is a black pistol that Colbert claims he can hear talking to him. He will often converse with Sweetness by holding the gun up to his ear and then relaying what it has supposedly said.

Colbert has also voiced Wilford Brimley in false phone conversations. Gorlock, Colbert's alien financial adviser, is another recurring character mentioned on the show.

[edit] Reception

The Colbert Report drew an unusual amount of media attention prior to its premiere. According to Nielsen Television Ratings, 'The Colbert Report' is solely responsible for rebounding The Daily Show's ratings, beginning with its premier in October 2005. It was featured in articles in The New Yorker, NPR's All Things Considered and Fresh Air, CNN, and The Washington Post. The New York Times alone ran three articles on the Report before its debut, and has made repeated references to The Colbert Report since then.[55] Maureen Dowd, for instance, referred to Colbert's "Dead To Me" board as a metaphor in her column, saying that Oprah Winfrey "should take a page from Stephen Colbert and put the slippery James Frey on her 'Dead to me' list".[56]

The Colbert Report drew 1.13 million viewers for its premiere episode, 47 percent greater than the average for that time slot over the previous four weeks, and 98 percent of the viewership of The Daily Show, which has Comedy Central's second-largest viewership.[57] Averaged over its opening week, The Report had 1.2 million viewers per episode, more than double the average for the same time the previous year, when the time slot was occupied by Too Late with Adam Carolla. The premiere week of The Colbert Report also coincided with the second-highest-rated week of The Daily Show, behind the week leading up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election.[58]

The Colbert Report rapidly became an internet phenomenon, with a vast number of clips from the show being posted onto YouTube by fans. Subsequently references to YouTube were made in jokes on the show, which also launched the first "green screen challenge". On October 27, 2006, however, Comedy Central asserted its copyright over The Colbert Report clips, and YouTube removed all clips over 5 minutes in length. In February 2007, at Viacom's request, they removed all remaining Colbert Report clips. Clips of every episode of the show can now be found at Colbert[59]

[edit] Presented as non-satirical journalism

[edit] Tom DeLay Legal Defense Trust

In May 2006, the Tom DeLay Legal Defense Trust posted a video of The Colbert Report on its website and sent out a mass email urging DeLay supporters to watch how "Hollywood liberal" Robert Greenwald "crashed and burned . . . when promoting his new attack on Tom DeLay."[60] The video featured Colbert asking questions such as, "Who hates America more, you or Michael Moore?"[61] The Trust's email describes its content as "the truth behind Liberal Hollywood's" film about DeLay, and characterizes the Colbert Report clip with the headline, "Colbert Cracks the Story on Real Motivations Behind the Movie." On June 8, 2006, Colbert responded by conducting an "Exclusive Fake Interview" on his show with DeLay. Three different interviews with DeLay on different networks were spliced for humorous effect, and Colbert ended the "interview" by saying "I do hope you enjoyed my manipulation of your words." DeLay has since appeared as a guest on the program.

[edit] Robert Wexler

On July 25, 2006, Colbert responded to television networks—specifically Fox News, NBC's The Today Show and ABC's Good Morning America—which took comments made by Florida Congressman Robert Wexler on The Colbert Report out of context (e.g.: "I enjoy cocaine and the company of prostitutes because they are a fun thing to do."). Wexler, who ran unopposed in the then-upcoming election, made the comments in response to urging by Colbert that he "say some things that would really lose the election for [Wexler] if [Wexler] were contested."[62]

[edit] Awards

In 2006, The Colbert Report was nominated for four Emmys, one more than its parent, The Daily Show.[63] However, The Colbert Report lost two of its Emmy opportunities to The Daily Show—Colbert received one as a then-member of The Daily Show's writing staff. Colbert also lost Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program to Barry Manilow, who was nominated for a one-time PBS special, as Colbert jokingly noted while presenting an Emmy later that night. Manilow later appeared on the show to sign a peace treaty with Colbert, in which they agreed to joint custody of the award. The two then sang a duet of Manilow's song "I Write the Songs".

The show was nominated for:

  • Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Program, Episode #110
  • Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program, Stephen Colbert
  • Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Program

Additionally, the show was nominated for two Television Critics Association Awards:[64] Outstanding Individual Achievement in Comedy (Stephen Colbert), and Outstanding New Program of the Year. The Colbert Report was also nominated for Satellite Awards in two categories in 2005 and 2006:[64] Actor in a Series, Comedy or Musical (Stephen Colbert), and Television Series, Comedy or Musical. It was also given a Special Recognition award at the 2007 GLAAD Media Awards.[65]

In 2007, The Colbert Report was nominated for four Emmys for the second consecutive year, in the same categories as in 2006.[66] Not only did none of the nominations result in an award for the second straight year, that year's winner for Outstanding Individual Performance was another singer, Tony Bennett.[67] Likewise, Bennett eventually sang with Colbert on the program. In 2008, The Colbert Report won the Producers Guild of America Award for "Best Live Entertainment/Competition Show".[68]

In April 2008 The Colbert Report received a George F. Peabody Award recognizing its excellence in news and entertainment.[69]

In 2008, The Colbert Report was again nominated for four Emmys for the third consecutive year, and for the same four categories as listed above and won for Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music, Or Comedy.[70]

[edit] Other honors

Colbert has received several other honors and distinctions. Colbert announced on his March 28, 2006 show that he had been contacted by San Francisco Zoo officials seeking his permission to name an unhatched bald eagle after him.[71] The eagle, affectionately dubbed Stephen Jr. on The Report, was bred to be reintroduced into the wild, as a part of the zoo's California Bald Eagle Breeding Program. Colbert celebrated the chick's birth on the April 17, 2006, program, and has since given updates on the bird's development. He has criticized the bird for migrating to Canada, and has attempted to lure him back to the U.S. On December 24, 2008, Stephen Jr. (tag A-46) was photographed at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the California/Oregon border.[72]

Colbert received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Knox College, Illinois on June 3, 2006;[73] his credit as producer has been listed since that time as "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A."[74]

On September 30, 2006, the Saginaw Spirit, an OHL hockey team in Saginaw, Michigan, named its co-mascot Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle in honor of Colbert, despite the fact that it was spotted holding a Canadian flag during the anthem.[75] Before the introduction of the mascot, the team record was 0-3-0-1, but once the Steagle was introduced, the team improved their record to 44-21-0-3 by the season's end,[76] before losing in the first round of the playoffs.[77] On January 27, 2007, Oshawa, Ontario declared March 20 of that year (John Gray's birthday) Stephen Colbert Day after mayor John Gray bet Colbert that the Oshawa Generals would beat the Spirit, and Saginaw won 5-4.[78]

In 2007, the ice cream company Ben and Jerry's announced a new flavor of ice cream, Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream (available only in the United States). The flavor is described as "a decadent melting pot of vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a caramel swirl."[79] The company's founders appeared on the show on March 5, 2007 to discuss the ice cream and to plug their "grassroots education and advocacy project", TrueMajority.

On March 12, 2007, the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, Joe Quesada, awarded Stephen Colbert the shield of the recently deceased superhero Captain America.[80] The letter to Colbert accompanying the shield stated that "the Star-Spangled Avenger has bequeathed... his indestructible shield to the only man he believed to have the red, white, and blue balls to carry the mantle." Colbert promised to use the shield "only to fight for justice…and to impress girls." It was, in fact, one of only two full-sized prop shields which had previously been kept in the Marvel offices.[81] In the latter part of March 2007, Drexel University named a leatherback turtle in honor of Colbert in their Great Turtle Race.[82] "Stephanie Colburtle the Leatherback Turtle" came in second place, losing to a turtle named Billie.[83]

On August 22, 2007, Richard Branson, who was being interviewed as a guest, announced that one of his Virgin America aeroplanes would be named Air Colbert. Colbert announced on April 2, 2008, during a ThreatDown segment, that the plane had been grounded after one of its engines was damaged by a bird strike.

On June 24, 2008, Dr. Jason Bond, an associate professor with the Department of Biology at East Carolina University, appeared on the show because he agreed to name a trapdoor spider after Stephen Colbert. They negotiated over what kind of spider would be named after Stephen, and Colbert told the professor that they would "settle this in the next couple of weeks". During the interview, the visual approximation of Bond changed between different pictures depicting Spider-Man, including Tobey Maguire (the actor who played Spider-Man in the films) and costumed people/animals. The spider was officially announced on August 6 as the Aptostichus stephencolberti.[84]

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named it one of the Top 10 Returning Series of 2007, ranking it at #7.[85]

Colbert has appeared on the covers of several major magazines, including Wired, Rolling Stone and Esquire.

On January 29, 2008, Marvel Comics president Joe Quesada announced that Colbert's fictional campaign for the presidency was still active in the Marvel universe, references to which have appeared in Marvel comics since. Colbert appears on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #573.

On October 17, 2008 it was announced that the portrait of Stephen from his second year of The Colbert Report was accepted into the national portrait collection at the National Museum of American History for its November reopening.

On October 21, during the appearance of Patrick Henry College chancellor, Michael Farris, Stephen was presented with the honorary title of Arbiter of American Morality and Defender of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. The presentation of the plaque and title may have been a small satirical reference on the part of the school's Student Senate to the perceived pattern the school has of presenting honorary Doctorate degrees to those who speak at its graduation ceremonies.

At the end of 2008, The Colbert Report was named the number one television series of that year by Entertainment Weekly.

[edit] Cultural impact

[edit] Hungarian bridge campaign

Colbert refers to Miklós Zrínyi in promoting the bridge contest.

In 2006, the Ministry of Transport of Hungary launched an online call for public suggestions to name a future motorway bridge over the Danube, just north of Budapest. Ministry officials said the Hungarian Geographical Name Committee would choose from among the three submitted candidates with the most votes, guided by suggestions submitted by "local governments, cartographers, linguists, and other experts".[86] Users offered hundreds of suggestions, among them the "'You Can Go To Bratislava But Not Over This Bridge' Bridge" and the "Chuck Norris Bridge", which led in votes for some time.[87] Colbert noted the effort in his "Tip of the hat, wag of the finger" segment on August 9,[88] and in the following weeks, he continued to ask viewers to vote for him. On August 22, Hungarian news sites reported Colbert had won the first round of voting with 17,231,724 votes,[6] which is 7 million more people than there are in all of Hungary. Hungary changed the voting rules after the members of the Colbert Nation Forums developed a bot to stuff the ballot box, requiring registration to vote in the second phase. That night, Colbert asked his viewers to cease their efforts,[89] and offered apologies,[89] spending a segment honoring Hungary, its history and its contributions to the world.[90]

On September 14, 2006 Colbert introduced his guest András Simonyi, Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary to the United States. The ambassador presented Mr. Colbert with a declaration certifying him as the winner of the second and final round of voting. The document bore the signatures of Hungarian government officials and the country's official seal.[91] Included in the text, as read by the ambassador, were two important conditions required for the name of the bridge to be made official. First, Colbert must be fluent in Hungarian. Colbert responded by pronouncing the Hungarian name Nicholas Zrinyi (incorrectly referring to Miklós Zrínyi) and híd (meaning 'bridge' in Hungarian); Simonyi quickly certified him as fluent.[92] The second requirement proved more onerous: in order to have the bridge named after him, Colbert would have to be deceased. Colbert protested, but the ambassador presented him with a Hungarian passport and 10,000 Hungarian Forint (HUF), noting that this would allow Colbert to enter Hungary at any time, without restriction. He also brought attention to the portrait of King St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary, on the 10,000 HUF bill. Finally Simonyi implied that the question of Colbert's ineligibility by virtue of being alive might be resolved if Colbert were to accept an invitation to visit the bridge site in Budapest; Colbert responded by trying to bribe the ambassador with the 10,000 HUF bill.[92] On September 28, 2006, it was announced that the bridge will be named "Megyeri Bridge", although the name did not make it to the second round. According to the Geographical Name Committee, the name was selected because the bridge connects Káposztásmegyer with Békásmegyer.[93]

[edit] Congressional response

In response to the 'Better Know a District' segment, Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Caucus chair, instructed incoming freshmen not to do appearances on the show.[7] Colbert responded by issuing an "Editing Challenge" on his March 26, 2007 broadcast. The challenge directs viewers to the Colbert Nation website to obtain an extended interview with Colbert, conducted by Gwen Ifill, which viewers may then edit to make him look as ridiculous as the representatives.[94] However, The Colbert Report has never followed through on the contest, with not one entry being aired and no further reference to the contest ever being made on the show.

[edit] Neologisms

The Colbert Report has created new words. Besides "truthiness", Colbert has coined other terms including "freem", which is "freedom without the do, because I do it all for you."[95] Other words include: "eneagled", a blend of "enabled" and "eagle", thus meaning "to be given the characteristics of an eagle" and "mantasy", meaning male fantasies, such as running away from the wife to become free, a word to which Colbert claims to hold a trademark. Recently, he coined the word "gayify" meaning "to gay it up." [96]

[edit] Wikipedia references

Wikiality featured as "The Wørd" on July 31, 2006

Colbert has made repeated references on the show to Wikipedia, which he refers to as his favorite website, generally in "The Wørd" segment. Colbert's first reference to Wikipedia was on the July 31, 2006 broadcast, when "The Wørd" was Wikiality, defined as the concept that "together we can create a reality that we all agree on—the reality we just agreed on."[97] The premise of wikiality is that reality is what the wiki says it is.[98] He explained that on Wikipedia "any user can change any entry, and if enough users agree with them, it becomes true." He also told his viewers to go onto Wikipedia, in the article elephants, and to edit it so that it would say: "Elephant population in Africa has tripled over the past six months." The suggestion resulted in numerous incorrect changes to Wikipedia articles related to elephants and Africa. Editing of the concerned articles was temporarily restricted to prevent further unhelpful edits.

Other "Wørds" invented relating to Wikipedia include "Wikilobbying", regarding which Colbert explained "when money determines Wikipedia entries, reality has become a commodity", alluding to a case in which Microsoft allegedly hired someone to tamper with Wikipedia,[99] and "Self-determination", where corporations are allowed to act out their fantasies online by editing their own Wikipedia entries. Colbert described Wikipedia as "Second Life for corporations", saying if a corporation wants to pretend to be someone else online, then that is their business.[100]

On May 24, 2007, the guest was Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia. Stephen Colbert called Wikipedia a "battlefield for information", a tool which "brings democracy to information" and moves away from the views of the "elite who study things and got to say what is or is not real". During the interview, Colbert showed a sentence on the screen: "Librarians are hiding something." Wales could not see it, with the implication that Wales could not stop a critical mass of individuals from editing a page according to the dictates of one influential individual. Wales responded that "the interesting thing about The Colbert Report is that Wikipedians watch it."[101]

On June 9, 2008, Colbert mentioned Warren G. Harding as being a "secret negro president", and said that for proof, "the G stands for Gangsta" which he changed on Wikipedia in order to be able to cite a source.[102] This resulted in various attempts at vandalism to support Colbert's claim.

[edit] Running for President in 2008

On October 16, 2007, Colbert announced on The Report that he would be running for president. He had chosen no vice-president, though he was considering choosing Vladimir Putin, Mike Huckabee, or himself as his running mate.[103] Also, he was only running in South Carolina, his home state. Another oddity of his campaign is the fact that he was contemplating running for both the Republican and Democratic parties as "a favorite son".[104][105] Colbert covered his story in the segment "The Hail to the Cheese Stephen Colbert NachoCheese Doritos 2008 Presidential Campaign Coverage", and promoted his campaign on his special election website, as under law he cannot use[106]

On October 21, 2007, Colbert appeared on NBC's Meet The Press where he was interviewed by the host, Tim Russert. The highlights included Colbert explaining why he changed the pronunciation of his name (from "Cole-Bert" to "Cole-Bear"), his demanding to know whether Russert believes that God supports our enemies in Iraq, and his revealing that he had no interest in winning the Presidency (he just wanted to run).

On November 1, 2007, the executive council of the South Carolina Democratic Party voted 13-3 to keep his name off the ballot, and refunded his US$2500 filing fee.[107] By November 5, 2007, Colbert had officially dropped his Presidential bid.[108]

[edit] Canton insults and apologies

On the July 21, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert made a comment about John McCain making a campaign stop in Canton, Ohio, and "not the crappy Canton in Georgia."[109] The comment resulted in a local uproar, with the Canton, Georgia mayor insisting Colbert had never visited the town along with an invitation for him to do so.[109]

On July 30, 2008, Colbert apologized for the story, insisting that he was incorrect and that the real crappy Canton was Canton, Kansas, after which he made several jokes including calling the town a "shit hole" at the Kansas town's expense.[110][111][112] Reaction from Mayor Brad Smiley and local residents was negative,[113] while Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius invited Colbert to spend a night in Canton's historic jail.[114]

On August 5, 2008, Colbert apologized to the citizens of Canton, Kansas, then directed his mock derision towards Canton, South Dakota, by calling it "North Dakota's dirty ashtray" and satirizing the town in song.[115][116]

On August 12, 2008 Colbert once again apologized to his latest comedic target, mentioning a line from the satirical song which said all the dogs in Canton, Kansas run away. Colbert said that not all the dogs run away, but "some stay and develop a drinking problem."[117] However, as with the previous apologies, he began a new tirade on another Canton. According to Colbert, Canton, Texas is nothing but an "incorporated outhouse" and "one steaming pile of longhorn dung." He then asked the audience if they'd seen the town's tourism video. A video then promptly followed showing a monkey humping another monkey with the words Canton, Texas placed in the corner and an arrow pointing from the name to the monkey on bottom.[118] This jab at the Texas town had been predicted by Governor Sebelius at the end of her July 31, 2008 remarks.[119] In response to Colbert's comments, a Canton, Texas city councilman joked that he wanted Colbert to come there so he could "mash his nose".[120]

On October 28, 2008, Colbert reacted to the news that Barack Obama was campaigning for president in Canton, Ohio — the original good Canton — by saying that he was forced to admit that Canton, Ohio was the real crappy Canton all along.[121]

[edit] The Colbert Bump

The "Colbert Bump" is defined, connotatively by the 'Report', as an increase in popularity of a person (author, musician, politician, etc.) or thing (website, etc.) as a result of appearing as a guest on, or being mentioned/related to, the Report itself. For example, if a politician appears on The Colbert Report, they may become more popular with certain voters and thus are more likely to be elected. According to the American Political Science Association, contributions to Democratic politicians rose 40% for 30 days after an appearance on the show.[122] The Mozilla Foundation also experienced a noticeable spike in the download rates of the Firefox browser right after the launch of Firefox 3 was mentioned in the program.[123]

[edit] NASA's Node 3

In March 2009, NASA ran an online contest to name the new node of the International Space Station. Colbert encouraged his viewers to write in his name. By the end, 230,539 "Colbert" votes were cast. This beat Serenity, the top NASA choice, by more than 40,000 votes.[124] As of April 7, 2009, NASA still hasn't made any official announcement about what Node 3 will be named.[125]

[edit] DVDs

A DVD of highlights from the first two seasons of The Colbert Report was released by Comedy Central on November 6, 2007. Entitled The Best of The Colbert Report, the three-hour disc contains two "The Wørd" segments (including "Truthiness" from the first episode and "Wikiality"), one "Threat Down", various "Better Know a District" segments (including Robert Wexler), and interviews with Bill O'Reilly, Willie Nelson, and Jane Fonda (also included is Fonda's appearance with Gloria Steinem in a segment called "Cooking with Feminists"), as well as the special segments "Green Screen Challenge", "Stephen Jr. - Flight of a Patriot", "Indecision 2006: Midterm Midtacular", and Colbert's "Meta-Free-Phor-All" with Sean Penn.[126][127][128]

Best Buy sold the DVD with a bonus disc containing several animated Tek Jansen adventures.[129]

The hour-long special A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! was released on DVD November 25, 2008.[130]

[edit] iTunes Music

Comedy Central released The Complete Soundtrack of "A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All" featuring songs by such performers as Feist, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Jon Stewart, Elvis Costello, and Colbert himself.

[edit] Syndication

Outside of the United States, The Colbert Report is shown on CTV and The Comedy Network in Canada, The Comedy Channel in Australia, FX in the United Kingdom, and on Maxxx in the Philippines. The show also has a strong following in Ireland.

Beginning June 3, 2008, The Colbert Report also aired on the Showcomedy channel of Showtime Arabia, a channel which broadcasts in the Middle East and North Africa.[131] The show is transmitted on a one-day delay from original transmission in the US.

Several international markets also air The Colbert Report Global Edition, which shows highlights from the previous week's shows and includes a special introduction by Stephen Colbert at the start of the program.

Starting in November 2008, many foreign markets have been blocked from accessing online content on

[edit] I Am America (And So Can You!)

A "pure extension" of the show in book form, titled I Am America (And So Can You!), was released on October 9, 2007. Written by Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report writers, the book covers Colbert's opinions on a wide array of topics that he has no time to address on the show. Red margin notes appear throughout the book, providing humorous reactions and counterpoints to Colbert's arguments in a style comparable to the Report's Wørd segment. The book draws some influence from the literary endeavors of the character's pundit models, such as Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor (2000) and Sean Hannity's Deliver Us From Evil (2004), which Colbert says he "forced" himself to read as a reference.[132]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

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