Colbert report

The Colbert Report
Genre Comedy, Satire,
News parody
Format Late night talk show
Created by Stephen Colbert
Ben Karlin
Jon Stewart
Joe Antonetti
Directed by Jim Hoskinson
Presented by Stephen Colbert
Starring Stephen Colbert
Theme music composer "Baby Mumbles" by Cheap Trick
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 1233 (As of 18 August 2013) (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Jon Stewart
Tom Purcell
Stephen Colbert
Producer(s) Emily Gasperak
Running time 22 minutes
Production companies Spartina Productions
Busboy Productions
Comedy Partners
Original channel Comedy Central
Picture format 480i (SDTV) (2005–2009)
1080i (HDTV) (2010–present)
Original run October 17, 2005 (2005-10-17) – present
Related shows The Daily Show
External links

The Colbert Report (/klˈbɛr rəˈpɔr/ ) is an American satirical late night television program that airs Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central. It stars political humorist Stephen Colbert, a former correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Colbert Report is a spin-off from and counterpart to The Daily Show that comments on politics and the media in a similar way. 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 seven Primetime Emmy Awards each in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, two Television Critics Association Awards Awards, and two Satellite Awards. In 2013, it won two Emmys (Outstanding Variety Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series). It has been presented as non-satirical journalism in several instances, including by the Tom DeLay Legal Defense Trust and by Robert Wexler following his interview on the program. The Report received considerable media coverage following its debut on October 17, 2005, for Colbert's coining of the term "truthiness", which dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster named its 2006 Word of the Year.[5]

The Report has had cultural influence in a number of ways. In 2006, Colbert won an online poll to name a bridge in Hungary, although after a visit from the Hungarian Ambassador it was announced that the bridge would not be named after him.[6] Colbert has mobilized viewers to participate in numerous other such polls, including the Time 100 online poll, a contest to name an International Space Station module (which Colbert did not ultimately win but received an honorable mention in the form of a treadmill) and attempting to pressure Sweden’s tourism bureau into giving Colbert access to the Twitter account @Sweden.[7] The show’s "Better Know a District" segment also received attention after Democratic Party leaders including Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel warned freshmen Representatives from appearing on the show, a moratorium lasting until Pelosi took back her statement in exchange for Colbert’s support of the DISCLOSE Act.[8]


In 2005, The Daily Show won Primetime Emmy Awards, and Comedy Central wanted to expand the franchise.[9] 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 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.[10]

The Colbert Report first appeared in the form of four 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.[11] In 2007, co-head writer Allison Silverman became an executive producer of the show.[12]

Program format

Typically, Colbert starts an episode with teasers regarding the show's topics and guest; each headline is structured to be a deliberate pun. The series of puns are followed by a verbal metaphor that promotes the show and is almost always finished with, "This is the Colbert Report." The show's original opening title sequence began with an eagle diving past the host, following by images of Americana, stock footage of Colbert, and words describing Colbert flying by (some of which have been used as The Wørd). The first word used was "Grippy", and has changed to include, among others, "Megamerican", "Lincolnish", "Superstantial", "Flagaphile", and "Factose Intolerant". The May 4 episode in 2009 featured "346x" as a hint planted by J. J. Abrams about when and where Colbert would be in the Persian Gulf, and "Farewellison" for the final episode of former producer Allison Silverman. The sequence ends with a computer-generated shrieking eagle swooping toward the foreground and exposing a live shot of the set. On January 4, 2010, a new opening debuted. The opening begins and ends with an eagle as before, but features new background renderings, new shots of Stephen Colbert, and is now colored in an American, red white and blue motif. Both openings feature "Baby Mumbles" by Cheap Trick as theme music.[13]

Following the opening sequence, Colbert most often proceeds with a run-through of recent headlines in a manner parodying traditional news broadcasts; this is similar to The Daily Show but with a faux-right-wing spin. The program typically continues with Colbert addressing a specific topic. That topic will often lead into a "The Wørd" segment, which juxtaposes Colbert's commentary with satirical bullet points on-screen, a parody of The O'Reilly Factor's "Talking Points Memo".[14] 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; "The Sport Report" with the "t" in both Sport and Report silent, a sports segment; and "The ThreatDown", in which Colbert lists the five greatest threats to America, and others. His newest segment, "Thought for Food" deals with the consumption of specific foods across the world.

Sometimes, there is a "Colbert Report Special Repor-t" (the final 't' pronounced with special emphasis), or even a "Colbert Report, Sport Report, Special Repor-t", 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.[15] 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 seated guest awaits. At times, Colbert will give high fives to the front row of his audience as they stand and clap. This is presumably meant to parody traditional talk show formats in which the guest enters to applause and joins the already-seated host. The third segment of the show is on occasion a musical guest. Prominent musical guests have included Paul McCartney, Rush, Green Day, Paul Simon, Crosby Stills & Nash, Pavement, Cat Stevens, Yo-Yo Ma, Radiohead and Black Star (group). Afterwards, Colbert ends the show by giving some parting words to the audience or, if short for time, a simple "that's it for the report everybody, good night".


The Colbert Report taping studio, at 52nd Street.

The set for The Colbert Report is called "The Eagle's Nest" and reflects and facilitates Colbert's self-aggrandizing style.[16] 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 serifed C, standing for Colbert. On one wall, there is an artificial fireplace with the engraving "Videri Quam Esse," meaning, "to seem to be rather than to be"; it is a play off of the traditional Latin phrase "esse quam videri," or, "to be, rather than to seem to be," reflecting Colbert's mock right-wing personality. Above this 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[17] and currently hangs in the Sticky Fingers restaurant in Colbert's native Charleston, S.C.[18] 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.

On January 16, 2008, the "three-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.[19] 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 stressed that it was 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 three-deep portrait was officially donated to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's American Treasures exhibit. In September 2009, the portrait was retired to the Smithsonian's collection. At the end of that show, a new 5-deep portrait was unveiled, with the newest Colbert holding his newly won Primetime Emmy Award with another Primetime Emmy Award and a Peabody by the mantle.

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.[20] 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".[16] 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 on television police procedurals.

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 was the first time the program has been taped outside its regular New York City studios.[21]

In an interview with Lisa Rose for published on October 26, 2009, Colbert mentioned that a new set was being built and would premiere sometime in January, 2010.[22] The new set was introduced on the show on January 4, 2010, along with a new opening graphic for the show's transition to HD broadcasting.

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.[23] 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, pronouncing both of the formerly elided final "t"s (/ˈkoʊlbərt rəpɔrt/); 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.[24] 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 vanden Heuvel and Naomi Klein.[25] 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.[26]


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][10] Colbert's character, a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot", is right-wing, egomaniacal, fact-averse ("factose intolerant"), God-fearing, and hyper-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?"[27]

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.[28]

Colbert's character holds a recurring grudge against everything related to France and the French language. Ironically, he pronounces both his Irish[29] last name "Colbert" and the word "Report" in "The Colbert Report" with an elided "t" in accordance with French pronunciation. 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".[9] On the interview segment of the show, Colbert frequently attempts to nail his guest by using various rhetorical devices and fallacies to prove them wrong.[30] Despite his bluster, Colbert's character suffers from "arctophobia", the fear of bears, which he refers to as "giant, marauding, godless killing machines".[31] This bear phobia was inspired by Colbert's real-life fear of bears as a child.[30] Colbert refers to Bill O'Reilly as "Papa Bear", a title with a double meaning, considering Colbert's fear of bears.[32] 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.[33] 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.[33] Colbert was one of the first public figures to receive a pre-production iPad, which he used in a joke at the 2010 Grammys.

Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando

Main article: USO trip to Iraq

From June 7–9, 2009, Colbert filmed a series of four episodes for the troops in Baghdad, Iraq. He had a suit tailored for him in the Army Combat Uniform pattern and went through an abbreviated version of the Army's basic training regimen. On the first of the four episodes, Colbert had his head shaved on stage by General Ray Odierno who was jokingly "ordered" to do so by President Barack Obama, who appeared on the episode via a pre-recorded segment from the White House.


Bears commonly appear in Colbert's ThreatDown segment. Colbert refers to them as soulless, godless, rampaging killing machines.


Main article: Truthiness

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."[34] 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.[35]

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.[36] 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.[37] In December of the same year, Merriam-Webster announced that "truthiness" had been voted by visitors to its website to be the No. 1 Word of the Year for 2006.[38] 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.[39][40] It was used in The New York Times crossword puzzle in June 2008,[41] which Colbert himself mentioned during an exchange with Jon Stewart on an episode of The Daily Show.[42]

Relation to The O'Reilly Factor

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.[43] 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'.[44][45] 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".[46] O'Reilly and Colbert each appeared as a guest on the other's show on January 18, 2007. 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.

Green Screen Challenge

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.[47] 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.[48] 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 own entry.[17]

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.[49] 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 five 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-elect 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.[50] 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.

Wrist violence and fictional addiction

On June 21, 2007, Colbert broke his left wrist while performing his warm-up for the show.[51] 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".[52] On August 8, Colbert debuted the "Wriststrong" wrist band, based on Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" wrist band, in a hope to increase wrist awareness.[53] The wristbands were made available for purchase online and Colbert encouraged 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 Couric 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.[54] On January 23, 2008, Colbert interviewed the Yellow Ribbon Fund's director of communications, 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.[55]

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 the 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,[56] 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.[57] 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.[58]

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.[59]

Colbert Bump

The boost in popularity many of Colbert's guests receive after appearing on the show has been nicknamed the "Colbert Bump". The first major instance of the "Bump" was after Colbert's 2007 interview with Congressman Ron Paul, who climbed two percentage points in Republican Party Primary polls after his appearance on the show.[60] The show's audience hits a highly valuable demographic both for politicians and advertisers, and Colbert has been able to get the "Colbert Nation" behind many different intitiatives, including the charity effort at[61] According to the American Political Science Association, contributions to Democratic politicians rose 40% for 30 days after an appearance on the show.[62]

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), Jay the intern (played by staff writer Jay Katsir), 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.

Early in the show's run, Stephen occasionally encountered Russ Lieber, a liberal media personality character portrayed by David Cross. Tim Meadows has also appeared on the show as P.K. Winsome, a black Republican and hucksterish entrepreneur.

An inanimate character was created in response to Supreme Court ruling to lift the Washington, D.C. gun ban. Sweetness is a black Colt Detective Special that Colbert can hear talk to him. He will often converse with Sweetness by holding her up to his ear and then relaying what she has said to the audience.

Colbert has also voiced Wilford Brimley in false phone conversations. Gorlock, Colbert's alien financial adviser, is another recurring character mentioned on the show. During June 2009, Jeff Goldblum frequently appeared to make supposedly spontaneous speeches that would inevitably finish with him promoting Law & Order: Criminal Intent.[63][64][65][66]

Additionally, R.E.M. lead vocalist Michael Stipe appears on the show periodically, sitting on a shelf as part of Stephen's permanent installation of memorabilia, calling "Hey-o!" (in emulation of Ed McMahon) or nodding at odd times.


The Colbert Report currently scores favorable reviews, with 65/100 on Metacritic (first season), while its viewers ranking on the site is higher at 8.7/10.[67]

The Colbert Report drew an unusual amount of media attention prior to its premiere. 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.[68] 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".[69]

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,[70] and 98 percent of the viewership of The Daily Show, which has Comedy Central's second-largest viewership.[71] 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.[72]

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.

Presented as non-satirical journalism

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."[73] The video featured Colbert asking questions such as, "Who hates America more, you or Michael Moore?"[74] 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.

Robert Wexler

On July 25, 2006,[75] 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."[76] Colbert criticized the major networks' morning news shows that featured the interview in a misleading and a negative light, by showing clips from many of the "fluff" pieces they favored instead of "real" news. Colbert subsequently told his viewers to "vote Wexler, the man's got a sense of humor, unlike, evidently, journalists."


Arts honors

In 2006, The Colbert Report was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, one more than its parent, The Daily Show.[77] However, The Colbert Report lost two of its Primetime Emmy Award 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 a Primetime Emmy Award 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 Bruce Johnston's song "I Write the Songs". The show was nominated for:

  • Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, Stephen Colbert
  • Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program, Episode No. 110
  • Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program

Additionally, the show was nominated for two Television Critics Association Awards:[78] 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:[78] 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.[79]

In 2007, The Colbert Report was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards for the second consecutive year, in the same categories as in 2006.[80] 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.[81] 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".[82]

In April 2008, The Colbert Report received a George F. Peabody Award recognizing its excellence in news and entertainment.[83]

In 2008, The Colbert Report was again nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards 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 Program.[84]

In 2009, the Best Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program category was eliminated.

On August 21, 2010, it was announced that The Colbert Report won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program for its episodes broadcast from Iraq.[85]

In 2012, The Colbert Report won a second Peabody Award for its Super PAC-related coverage.[86]

In 2013, The Colbert Report won two Emmys, one for Outstanding Variety Series and one for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. The Colbert Report winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Series broke the longest winning streak in Emmy history, beating The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, which dominated the Best Variety Series competition from 2003 to 2012.[87]

Other honors

Colbert has received several other honors and distinctions.


Colbert received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Knox College, Illinois on June 3, 2006;[88] his credit as producer has been listed since that time as "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A."[89] (later changed in April 2009 to "Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A." after Colbert was knighted by Queen Noor of Jordan in exchange for his support of the Global Zero Campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons).[90]

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.[91]

Animals named for Stephen Colbert

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.[92] 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.[93]

On September 30, 2006, the

In the latter part of March 2007, Drexel University named a leatherback turtle in honor of Colbert in their Great Turtle Race.[98] "Stephanie Colburtle the Leatherback Turtle" came in second place, losing to a turtle named Billie.[99]

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.[100]

Colbert announced on February 5, 2009 that the UC Santa Cruz Marine Lab named an elephant seal in honor of him: Stelephant Colbert the Elephant Seal.

Places and Things Named for Stephen Colbert

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."[101] 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 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.

During the sweepstakes for naming the new wing on the International Space Station, Stephen Colbert announced on his show that there was a write-in section where you could write your own suggestion for a name in. He encouraged his fans to write in "Colbert". When the sweepstakes was over, NASA announced that "Colbert" had beaten the next-most-popular choice, "Serenity," by over 40,000 votes on March 11, 2009. "Colbert" received 230,539 votes out of nearly 1.2 million cast.[102]

On April 15, 2009, NASA announced that instead of the new module being named after him, a treadmill on board the space station would be called the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT).[103]

Honors Bestowed by Media Organizations

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named it one of the Top 10 Returning Series of 2007, ranking it at #7.[104]

Colbert has appeared on the covers of several major magazines, including Wired, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Sports Illustrated (as sponsor of the US Speedskating team) and Newsweek, in which he was the Guest Editor.

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.[105] 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.[106] On January 29, 2008, Quesada (now president of Marvel) returned to announce 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.

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

In 2010 Colbert won the Golden Tweet Award.


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 November 2, 2009, Colbert, representing the Colbert Nation, signed an on-air sponsorship agreement with U.S. speedskating executive director Robert Crowley.[107] Fundraising via The Colbert Report ultimately raised $300,000 for the US Winter Olympics speedskating team.[108] Coverage of the show's efforts also led to Colbert personally being invited to be the official ombudsman at the oval for the Olympics,[109] appointed as the official assistant sports psychologist for the US olympics speed skating team, and as such is now an official member of the team,[110][111] and invited by Dick Ebersol, to be part of NBC's 2010 Winter Olympics coverage team.[112]

Cultural impact

International distribution

Outside of the United States, The Colbert Report is shown in Canada on The Comedy Network. It airs on The Comedy Channel in Australia, Comedy Central in New Zealand, and on Maxxx in the Philippines. As of 2012, The Colbert Report has also been broadcast in Africa on DSTV's version of Comedy Central. It aired on FX in the United Kingdom until they decided not to renew their contract in May 2009.[113] The show also has a strong following in Ireland. In Portugal, it airs on Sic Radical.

Beginning June 3, 2008, The Colbert Report also aired on the ShowComedy channel of Showtime Arabia (Currently OSNComedy), a channel which broadcasts in the Middle East and North Africa.[114] The show is transmitted on a one-day delay from original transmission in the US.

The show was shown during prime time on Australia's free-to-air ABC2 in 2010, however the channel was outbid for rights for 2011. [115][116] The show was available directly on the website for part of 2011, with Australian advertisements, however Australian access is now blocked.

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. This means a new or newly repackaged episode can be screened every weekday.

In addition most recent episodes (usually 3 weeks back) are available in full length on However some international audiences are unable to view the videos or episodes.

Related multimedia


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.[117][118][119] Best Buy sold the DVD with a bonus disc containing several animated Tek Jansen adventures.[120]

An hour-long Christmas special A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! was released on DVD November 25, 2008.[121]


Comedy Central released the complete soundtrack of A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, featuring songs by performers such as Feist, John Legend, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Jon Stewart, Elvis Costello, and Colbert himself. It was released exclusively through iTunes.

In June 2011, Jack White's record label Third Man Records released a 7" vinyl single of Stephen Colbert and The Black Belles performing "Charlene II (I'm Over You),"[122] which they also performed together on the show.[123]

I Am America (And So Can You!)

Referred to as a "pure extension" of the show in book form, 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 not addressed on the show. Red margin notes appear throughout the book, providing reactions and counterpoints to Colbert's arguments in a style comparable to the Report's Wørd segment. The book draws some influence from and also parodies 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 (2005), which Colbert says he "forced" himself to read as a reference.[124]

I Am America (And So Can You!) was also released as a three-CD audiobook, narrated—or according to the cover, "shouted"—by the author.

I Am A Pole (And So Can You!)

Main article: I Am A Pole (And So Can You!)

In 2012, Colbert released a second book, this time a humorous children's book about a pole finding its place in the world.[125] The book was quite successful, reaching number one on the New York Times bestseller list[126] but has attracted some controversy over whether its contents are actually suitable for children.[127]

America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't

Main article: America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't

On September 25, 2012, Colbert released his third book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't.[128] This is a follow on book to his earlier book I Am America (And So Can You!).[128]

See also

Further reading

How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?



  • National Public Radio, May 4, 2005
  • The New York Times, May 4, 2005
  • The Washington Post, October 10, 2005
  • The New York Times, October 12, 2005
  • Zap2it Colbert interview October 15, 2005
  • Slate, October 18, 2005
  • Comedy's Colbert Report Gets 1.13 Mil. Viewers, Mediaweek, October 18, 2005
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 19, 2005
  • Detroit News, October 20, 2005
  • The wit and sense of 'Colbert Report': Show is smart, funny and a logical offshoot, Media Life, October 20, 2005
  • Newsweek, October 21, 2005
  • Daily Orange, October 21, 2005
  • 'Colbert', Cartoons Break Big for Comedy Central,, October 24, 2005
  • Truthiness")
  • Toronto Star, October 31, 2005
  • The Pitt News, January 7, 2007

External links

  • Web site
  • Internet Movie Database
  • RSS Feed of Colbert Report clips on Viacom's iFilm
  • Bluster and Satire: Stephen Colbert's 'Report' from December 7, 2005

Template:Comedy Central programming

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