Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report"
premiered October 17, 2005


 

In October of 2005, after nine seasons as a correspondent on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", Stephen Colbert's beloved snarky, smarmy, self-satisfied "character"—who also happened to be named Stephen Colbert—was spun off into his own pundit show, "The Colbert Report".  The show's title should be pronounced, col-BEAR re-PORE. As Stephen explained in one promo, "It's French, bitch!"  [Note: Stephen had actually been on "The Daily Show" before it was "with Jon Stewart", since the days when Craig Kilborn was the show's host.]

Colbert's show took the plum time slot right after "The Daily Show", at 11:30pm EST.  Just before the big debut, Stephen described his on-screen persona to the Associated Press as, "a very well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot, not unlike some people who have these shows in the real world."

"The Colbert Report" was conceived with the intention of taking Colbert's bellicose, opinionated alter ego and spoofing the personality-driven cable shows hosted by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Anderson Cooper, and even Larry King. In fact, Colbert and fellow executive producers Stewart and Ben Karlin came up with the idea for the show after they'd followed reports of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against O'Reilly in 2004.

The show's premiere outing attracted about 1.1 million viewers, which is roughly the same number garnered by its lead-in, "The Daily Show", and throughout subsequent weeks the show's average viewership actually increased to 1.2 million. The audience was more than twice the size of "Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn", which aired in the same spot a year earlier.

Critics generally lavished much praise on the initial show. Beth Gillin in the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote: "What makes the portrayal so funny is that it rings so true, and the show gives Colbert plenty of room to explore the comic tensions between a blowhard anchor and his gooey soft center."  Matthew Gilbert in the Boston Globe called Colbert's debut "auspicious," and added: "While Stewart keeps one foot on Earth and rolls his eyes skyward, Colbert skyrockets into absurdity as an out-and-out parody of a celebrity commentator. With his blowhard vocal pattern and patriotic pretenses, he's a living, breathing caricature of Bill O'Reilly."

Despite critical kudos, many people wondered whether the Colbert character and the nature of this particular satire could sustain a half-hour format—as opposed to 5-minute "Daily Show" segments—for four nights a week. On "The Daily Show", Jon Stewart essentially plays himself and gets to share the 30-minute load with his contributing correspondents. On "The Colbert Report", however, Stephen has to be on camera the entire show, not only giving editorials but also conducting interviews, remaining in character all the while. But a couple months after the debut the general consensus was that the show was not only holding up well, but it had actually improved. The response of critics and fans was so strong, in fact, that just two weeks after the first show aired, Comedy Central announced that "The Colbert Report" had been picked up for a full year, extending its run from the original eight-week order through 2006.


Stephen and his first guest, Stone
Phillips, have a gravitas contest

Stephen takes on Hollywood

Why wouldn't Barney Frank take "The
Colbert Report"
seriously?

Colbert recognizes the contributions of a
great American, Matthew McConaughey

Stephen shows guest Anderson Cooper
the difference filters and lighting make

Stephen's double portrait
Within the first three weeks of its October 17, 2005 debut, "The Colbert Report" featured "Strangers With Candy" alums Matt Lappin (SWC additional writer), Paul Dinello (Geoffrey Jellineck), and David Cross (Dr. Trapanning, Is My Daddy Crazy?) in various segments.  On October 25th, Matt played a staff member whose handwashing habits were being monitored with a hidden camera.  On November 1st, Paul played Stephen's building manager, Tad, who demonstrated emergency evacuation procedures to protect Stephen and his stuff in the event of an attack or natural disaster. In the process, Tad had to snap the neck of a wheelchair-bound man named Toby who was blocking the stairwell, and Tad ended up being locked in a bunker (complete with an exact replica of the "Colbert Report" set) deep underground beneath the real studio.  On November 2nd, David played Russ Lieber, Stephen's radio commentator nemesis, which would become a recurring role on the show.

Paul's character Tad would return to the show on April 24, 2006 and July 10, 2006Amy Sedaris was the interview guest on the 7/10/06 episode. She appeared on the "Report" to promote the Strangers With Candy movie, but she pretended that she was meeting Stephen for the first time (even though he'd previously interviewed her on "The Daily Show" on April 3, 2001). She said that her "Strangers" co-stars were Paul Dinello and Kevin Spacey (as science teacher, Mr. Noblet).