Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show with David Letterman"
September 2, 2005
David Letterman: Our first guest is a very funny and talented man who will soon have his own television program entitled "The Colbert Report". It premieres October 17th, ladies and gentlemen, on Comedy Central. Here's Stephen Colbert.
Welcome to the program.
Stephen Colbert: Thank you very much for having me.
DL: Tell me, as soon as you take your complimentary beverage there...
SC: This could take a while.
DL: Tell me about, uh... [Stephen raises his pointer finger to signify that he needs another moment]
SC: Oh, that's such a long wait back there. [in the Green Room] I came to watch the grinder girl [a regularly featured spectacle on Dave's show].
DL: Oh, I'm sorry.
SC: That is so disappointing.
DL: Believe me, we're all disappointed.
SC: There's nothing not to like there.
DL: Tell us about yourself, your background, your hometown, your hopes, your dreams...
SC: Well, I grew up on a little dirt road in South Carolina, actually. Outside Charleston, South Carolina. One of eleven brothers and sisters.
DL: Oh, my goodness, eleven brothers and sisters!?
SC: [rapidly] Jimmy, Eddie, Mary, Billy, Margo, Tommy, Jay, Lulu, Paul, Peter, and Stephen.
DL: Wow, that's very impressive.
SC: [audience applauds] I hope that applause is for my mom.
DL: And were you the last...
SC: I'm the baby, yeah, yeah.
DL: Oh, my God. What was that experience like, for heaven's sakes?
SC: Well, every family seems normal to the people who are in it, but, um, my experience with it is, um, my mom had a little trouble remembering the names, at times. You'd be doing something you weren't supposed to do and she would go, "Jimmyenniebibbynommy [unintelligible]... Number eleven!"
DL: Good enough.
SC: She knew I was a prime number.
DL: And how do the brother and sisters regard you? As the baby?
SC: Well, yeah, I don't think I'll ever not be the baby. Yeah, I mean, I think... they still think of me as being ten. You know? They're like, "He's driving now!" "Did you notice that Stephen is shaving?" Well, yeah, I'm married and I have three children. And they're like, "He's so precocious." "Would you like some candy?"
DL: Now, uh, was it earlier this summer you took a pretty impressive sailing trip. You left from, uh...
SC: Yeah, my hometown, Charleston, South Carolina.
DL: Are you a sailor?
SC: No. No, no. I'm not a sailor.
DL: How would a thing like that happen, for heaven's sakes?
SC: It took a week to get there. And my wife said I could go.
DL: Uh huh.
SC: My rule is, your wife says you can go away for a week, you go.
SC: Even if it's life-threatening.
DL: How large was the ship... the boat?
SC: It was a 45-foot boat. It was a double-masted wishbone catch, Dave. I don't know what that means! But they kept on telling me, if anybody asks, tell them...
DL: And other than get in the way, since you don't sail, what did you do on the boat?
SC: I was integral to the trip. I was the chaplain, and I was the cook, and I was the morale officer. And those all came together during grace.
DL: Did you have trouble with seasickness?
SC: Um... No. No, no, um... We found the rum pretty early. It was supposed to be a dry cruise, you know, but everybody thought of their locker as the exception.
DL: It was actually a race from Charleston to Bermuda?
SC: Absolutely. From Charleston, South Carolina to Bermuda. Over 1000 miles of open ocean, through the Bermuda Triangle.
DL: Any trouble?
SC: We lost our power, our communication. We lost our toilets. We lost our sails at one point. And it was a wonderful experience.
DL: And where did you come in, in the race?
SC: Dead last.
DL: Dead last.
SC: Yeah. As I said, we... [audience applauds for a moment] Thank you. Thank you.
DL: It's really the doing of it that's the significant part. The accomplishment.
SC: It's spending time with your buddies. You know.
DL: And would you consider doing it again?
SC: Oh, sure. Sure. It took seven days. I wouldn't do eight days. I think we've reached the limit of just how close we could get. You know, you lose your toilets on day two and you've got five more days together. That's crusty seamanship.
DL: And, but then the great thing is, once you get to Bermuda, well then...
SC: Yeah, yeah. You get there at 10:30 on Saturday night and you leave at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Because you thought you were getting there on Wednesday! One more day and I think we would've gone cannibal.
DL: How many boats in the race?
SC: Twenty, I think.
DL: So you were dead last out of twenty.
SC: Dead last out of twenty, yeah. Though the lead boat beat us by four days. But I got great footage of me at sea in the full gear and I brought it home to my wife, and she's like, "It's so manly," you know? "Look what daddy did."
DL: Something to show your older brothers and sisters.
SC: Exactly. Oh, can I say happy birthday to my brother Jim?
SC: OK, he's my eldest brother, and he's 95, and they're letting him stay up tonight, um, and they gave him pudding, or something like that. Happy birthday, Jim, go to bed.
DL: Take care of yourself, buddy.
SC: It was actually last night.
DL: And you know a friend of ours, Amy Sedaris.
SC: Oh, yeah, I know Amy very well. I've known Amy since before she had imaginary boyfriends.
DL: Whenever she's on the show she talks about, I think it's Ricky.
SC: Ricky, her imaginary boyfriend. I knew her when she had flesh-and-blood boyfriends. But I really think that imaginary boyfriends are a better fit. You know...
DL: I can see that.
SC: They get her. You know? It's a meeting of the minds.
DL: Can you give us a different perspective on the woman? I find her fascinating.
SC: A lot of people from the outside think she might be wired a little differently, or something like that, but those of us who know and love her are very worried.
SC: Yeah, a little concerned, you know. She's so beautiful.
DL: Lovely, yeah.
SC: So much beauty on such a tiny skull. She's got a little coconut head. She'd look good carved in a gift shop, don'tcha think?
DL: But very energetic.
SC: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you know, in her next life she should come back as a monkey.
DL: Energetic in a way, perhaps, that should be controlled.
SC: Yeah, maybe so.
DL: Let's talk about your show for a second. It begins in October. October 17th.
SC: We're calling it Oc-to-BEHR.
DL: Oh, perfect.
SC: Thank you very much.
DL: And the type of thing you'll be doing on the show?
SC: Um, changing the world. You know, if that's what... Evidently I'm being asked to. The people are clamoring for me...
DL: For world change.
SC: I've been on "The Daily Show" for years, but...
DL: How long do you think it'll take you to change the world there?
SC: Uh, I think we have an eight week initial commitment.
DL: Two months ought to do it.
SC: Yeah, by Christmas.
DL: I think so. "The Colbert Report" debuts October 17th. Comedy Central. Great pleasure meeting you, Stephen.
SC: Oh, thank you.
DL: Thank you very much for being here.
SC: Thank you very much.