Stephen Colbert interviews himself for the October 12, 2005 online edition of Entertainment Weekly
Fake journalist Stephen Colbert, star of a new Comedy Central spoof, ruminates on his Southern roots, his former colleague Jon Stewart, and even Clay Aiken
On Comedy Central's Daily Show spin-off, The Colbert Report (Monday-Thursday, starting Oct. 17 at 11:30 p.m.), newly promoted pundit Stephen Colbert will debate a worthy foe himself in a recurring segment called "Formidable Opponent." Entertainment Weekly asked the real Colbert to warm up by interviewing his comic equal, also himself. (Claymates, please e-mail him directly.) Mandi Bierly
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): First of all, thank you for sitting for this interview. I know what a busy time this must be for you.
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): Yeah, it is. So let's light this candle. First question?
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): Okay. Um... You're from South Carolina, but I can't detect an accent. What would you tell other young people who want to erase all traces of their heritage?
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): Never give up hope, and play tapes of Tom Brokaw while you sleep.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): Can you still say, ''All y'all want a moon pie?''
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): I'd need to get drunk first.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): Fair enough. So,the show's over, the lights are off, the cameras have bags on them, and you've let your hair de-gel: What's the real Stephen Colbert like?
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): I'm...
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): I'm...
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): Sorry, did you want to answer that one?
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): No, I'm sorry. Got confused. Heard my name and just jumped in. Go ahead.
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): ...I'm a pretty normal guy, quiet, keep to myself.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): Wow, I sound like a serial killer. Speaking of which, how is Jon Stewart handling the betrayal?
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): Jon's happy for me. In fact he sent me a fish wrapped in newspaper. It was delicious. Let me ask you a question.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): Go ahead. My life's an open book.
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): If they made a Lifetime movie about you, what would they call it?
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): Mother May I Sleep with Show Business: The Stephen Colbert Story. Who's your journalistic idol?
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): Stone Phillips' neck. Same question.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): Anderson Cooper's hair. Finally...
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): I'm afraid we have to make this the last question.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): ...I said ''Finally.''
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): You're right. It's just that mentally I'm halfway out the door. Wrap it up.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): How will you know if the show is a success?
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): Well, it's cable, so you can't measure success by ratings or personal income. But when the phone rings and it's Clay Aiken on the other end inviting me to sing ''The Little Drummer Boy'' with him on his Christmas special...then we'll know we've had an impact.
STEPHEN (INTERVIEWER): I've enjoyed...
STEPHEN (SUBJECT): [Exits with Stylist]
From the October 21, 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly
photographed by Ethan Hill
How to Succeed in the TV Business by Really, Really Trying. Five Tips From Stephen Colbert On the Eve of His New Series
The Colbert Report
by Mandi Bierly
Stephen Colbert is just about ready to shoot Xanax directly into his
carotid. Seated in the closet-size Correspondent's Lounge at The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and waiting to tape one of his final ''This Week in
God'' segments, Colbert is trying not to obsess over everything he could
be doing to prepare for the launch of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report (Mon.-Thurs., starting Oct. 17 at 11:30 p.m.), the Daily Show cable news spoof spin-off that will promote his cocksure correspondent
to autocratic anchor. ''We don't think of The Colbert Report as a
separate issue,'' says Stewart, who serves as executive producer. ''We
think of it as he'll be doing a 30-minute segment every night [on The
Yes, it's finally time for Colbert's wry, deadpan alter ego, ''Stephen
Colbert,'' to take center stage. ''He considers himself a man of the
people,'' says Colbert, 41, of ''Colbert.'' (Confused yet?) ''I think he
probably went to a pretty good school, like Cornell, but didn't study
very hard.'' Meanwhile, the real Colbert, a Northwestern alum, has been
working his butt off to ace Report. Here are the lessons he's learned
from his tireless labors.
1 - SWEAT THE DETAILS...
As with any start-up, there's plenty of minutae to consider, but at the
moment, nothing is more pressing to ''Colbert'' than his on-air wardrobe.
''Anderson Cooper is a sexy man. I want my suits to look like his,'' he
says, complaining that no designer has offered its services. ''This isn't
one of those passive things where Letterman wears something or Jon wears
something, or Blitzer wears somebody, and there's a little [credit] at
the end. I'm gonna talk about the cut and the feel of the suit on air.
Whoever's not doing my suits is missing the boat and dropping the ball.
All kinds of metaphors are not being handled correctly.'' Since this
interview, Brooks Brothers has stepped up to the plate. (Sorry.)
2 - ...BUT NOT THE FACTS
While checking out a cut of his recently taped Colbert Report interview
with Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, Colbert asks the editor if
all the awkward silences he's seeing are real or were souped up to make
them funnier. Turns out they're mostly real, but the answer doesn't
actually matter. ''My first choice is always real, because it's always
better,'' Colbert says. ''But if something's not funny, I don't have any
problem making it funny.''
3 - FLAUNT YOUR EXPERTISE
''It's very hot right now to be attacked by a bear,'' proclaims Colbert,
stepping out of his private Report bathroom to discuss the trend he's
read all about in The New York Times. ''Everybody's doing it or having it
done to them, so [I'll give] my advice on what to do, because I am an
expert on anything and everything.'' He'll put this omniscience to good
use when debating himself in a recurring segment called ''Formidable
Opponent'' and when interviewing guests, as in his chat with Democrat
Frank, whom he asks, ''President Bush: great president or the greatest
4 - IMITATE BILL O'REILLY
''O'Reilly's great because he is never, for any reason, wrong,'' says
Colbert, explaining that the shouty Fox News Channel host served as
inspiration for The Colbert Report. ''He's got a very strong persona, and
the biggest ego. But he's just one muse. I love the way [Fox News'] Shepard Smith speaks in headline talk: 'Shepard Truncates Sentence.'
CNN's Aaron Brown has a real folksy way of sucking the flavor out of the
news. He really warms up each sentence and ornaments them with his
adjectives, and that's something I will absolutely draw upon.''
5 - DON'T LOOK BACK
He's been a serious actor (his professional stage debut, while still in
high school, was as a leper in a production of The Leper), dabbled in
opera (he's a bass), had the requisite SNL stint (he voiced half of the
Ambiguously Gay Duo with fellow Daily Show alum Steve Carell), and
worked as a correspondent for Good Morning America (a gig that yielded
only one on-air report). He may not have been ''weatherman funny'' enough
for a network morning show, but Colbert's got two Emmys that say he's
perfect for late-night ''news.'' While viewer expectations may be
dauntingly high, Colbert's once and future boss Stewart is keeping it
all in perspective: ''Inevitably, the show will not launch as a fully
formed human being, but it will be fun to watch it grow and mature, and,
uh, get recast, and then almost canceled, and then be sent overseas,
become very popular in Belgium, and then put out its first DVD...''