Ahead of the end, here are the top moments from The Colbert Report
Stephen Colbert is the merriest of jesters, a lefty provocateur and master of satire, wrapped in the far-right garb of America’s Red, White and Blue. But don’t be fooled by the twinkle in his eye – behind his inspired idiocy he wields a razor-sharp dagger of social commentary that has slashed a wide, influential swath in his nine years as host of The Colbert Report.
As he tells his guests in the green room before every interview: “My character’s an idiot. Your job is to set him straight.”
But, in reality, it’s Colbert who gives the tune-up on-air, with the ensuing internet and social media tumult to hammer it home.
He’s come a long way from the college kid who sold souvenirs in the concession stand of the famed Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, where he studied under fellow comedy actor Steve Carell, en route to glory as a Daily Show correspondent for Jon Stewart and then to his own gig on Comedy Central – which landed him on Time’s list of The World’s Most Influential People in 2006 and 2012.
Before his show, America and the world had never seen comedy quite like Colbert’s adopted persona: a star-spangled super patriot whose extreme political punditry and fearless questioning dealt body blows to the right-mongering likes of Fox News and Bill O’Reilly.
Colbert’s caustic comedy style is, perhaps, best explained by Garry Trudeau, creator of the legendary Doonesbury comic strip, who told Time magazine: “On The Colbert Report, every day is Opposite Day. Because of how his humour works, the audience finds meaning through sustained inference, which is a lot more fun than it sounds.”
When it comes to killing himself off, Colbert doesn’t fool around. His final guest has been announced as The Grim Reaper himself – affectionately known as “Grimmy” to Colbert fans.
Colbert will resurface when he replaces David Letterman as host of The Late Show next year.
Before the bald eagle in the show’s opening credits screams its last hurrah, here’s a look back at Colbert’s top moments:
COLBERT’S SUPER PAC
It rubbed him the wrong way when the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations have free-speech rights to spend unlimited cash on political advertising to elect or defeat candidates. So Colbert created his own Super PAC (Political Action Committee) – Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. It raised more than US$1million (Dh3.67m) for political ads – but also for “normal administrative expenses, including but not limited to, luxury hotel stays, private jet travel, and PAC mementos from Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus”. In the end, the money went to charity and Colbert won a Peabody Award for distinguished and meritorious public service for this brilliant parody in 2012.
You don’t cancel on Colbert – just ask Daft Punk. When France’s electronic duo stood up the show in 2013 in favour of making a surprise appearance at the MTV Music Video Awards, Colbert declared “I’ve been Daft Punk’d” – then enlisted celebrity pals Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Fallon, Hugh Laurie and Jon Stewart to fill the void with their own rollicking dance moves to Get Lucky.
BURNING THE BUSH
Hailed by some as a watershed moment in US history – and standing mere inches from president George Bush at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in 2006 – Colbert as uber-patriot, delivered the most scathing face-to-face satirical critique of Bush’s eight-year administration, and taught the docile media in the room the true meaning of questioning authority. “I stand by this man,” he said. “I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound – with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.”
THE ELEPHANT MAN
“Together we can create a reality that we all agree on,” says Colbert. In putting his concept of “wikiality” to the test in a segment of The Word, he directed viewers to go to Wikipedia to edit the post on elephants to read that their African population had tripled. They did. Wikipedia’s servers crashed. Editing privileges were revoked. And Colbert’s cultural sway did a victory strut on the global stage.
One of the clever neologisms Colbert has added to the English language is “truthiness” – the difference between “thinking with your heart” and “knowing with your gut”, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination or facts. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary selected it as its 2006 Word of the Year, beating second-place “google” by a 5-1 margin in a reader poll.
PLIGHT OF MIGRANT WORKERS
After working a day alongside migrant workers in upstate New York in 2010, Colbert testified humorously on their behalf, in character, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Security. As well as offering a video of his colonoscopy for the congressional record, Colbert in the end broke character to share his compassion: “I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and this seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result.”
NO BRIDGE TOO FAR
When Hungary’s Ministry of Transport announced an online contest to name a bridge over the Danube, in his Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger segment, Colbert asked viewers to vote for him. He won, with 17,231,724 votes in the first round alone – seven million more people than the population of Hungary. But before the name goes on the bridge, the Hungarian ambassador has informed him he must speak fluent Hungarian – and be deceased. Time will tell.
HOUSTON, WE’VE GOT A TREADMILL
In another voting victory for Colbert, Nasa now has a treadmill orbiting Earth on the International Space Station named COLBERT: Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill.
GETTING HIS LICKS IN
In the sweetest tribute ever, ice cream wizards Ben & Jerry in 2007 unveiled a new flavour — Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream – with all proceeds going to good causes via the Stephen Colbert AmeriCone Dream Fund.
• The final episode of The Colbert Report is at 10.30pm on Friday on OSN First Comedy
Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM