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‘The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert’

An Overview

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‘The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert’

Stephen Colbert testifies before U.S. Congress regarding the plight of immigrant farm workers - a testimony that has become a bit controversial.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Fast Facts

Title: The Colbert Report

Host: Stephen Colbert

Theme Music: Performed by Cheap Trick

Format: 30 minutes, satire of political talk shows such as The O’Reilly Factor and The Rachael Maddow Show.

Broadcast information: Comedy Central, Monday through Thursday, 11:30 p.m. to midnight ET

Tapes: Weekdays, from NEP Studio 54 in New York City.

Premiere Date: October 17, 2005

Overview:

The Colbert Report is somewhat unique in its approach to the talk show genre. By satirizing political pundit talk shows, it forgoes the usual guest interview until the last segment – and even then, the interview is unconventional in that the interviewer – Stephen Colbert – remains in character throughout the interview.

Hosted by Stephen Colbert (playing a version of Stephen Colbert – read on for more information) the show follows this basic formula:

  • Tease outline of the show, followed by opening credits, leading straight into a “news” segment. In this segment, Colbert gives his opinion about the day’s headlines. Often, he provides an extreme right-wing view of the topic, more often than not, completely over the top and less right-wing than just plain crazy.
  • After commercial break, Colbert returns to discuss a specific topic, highlighted by either a sketch or field report. Most recurring segments occur during this act.
  • A guest interview follows after the second commercial break. Rather than interview his guests directly, Colbert remains in character and debates or challenges his guests to defend whatever they happen to be promoting, be it a book, album, movie or philosophy.

The Colbert Report is a spinoff of The Daily Show, where Colbert was once a correspondent. At the height of political pundits Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity’s popularity, The Daily Show ran a series of satirical promos for the fictitious Colbert Report, in which Colbert spat ridiculous rhetoric and made up words to get his point across.

Originally given an eight-week commitment by Comedy Central, strong ratings compelled the cable network after only two weeks to extend that contract to a year. The show has been making waves and winning viewers ever since.

Since its debut, the show has been nominated for several Emmys, though it has yet to garner one. It has also been nominated for two Television Critics Association Awards and has received a Special Recognition award in 2007 from GLAAD Media Awards.

Most prestigious is its George F. Peabody Award recognizing its excellence in news and entertainment.

A running joke – of sorts – is Colbert’s consistent nomination for an Emmy as Outstanding Individual Performance and consistent loss to an older, more established entertainer. Since 2005, Colbert has lost to Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett and Don Rickles.

The Colbert Character:

It is important to note that Stephen Colbert plays a caricature of himself on The Colbert Report. It’s a character that Colbert has described as a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot." Though described as right-wing, the Colbert character is so over the top as to be a parody of punditry in general, regardless of party affiliation.

In true media oversaturation style, the character Colbert is constantly promoting both himself, products that he has created, and products he endorses (both fictional and real). He is also prone to inserting himself into news stories, including the recent presidential election (he attempted to run in the North Carolina primary, but couldn’t get on the ballot).

Popular Segments:

The Word: In this segment, Colbert shares his opinion about a topic while a text screen underscores his point. But the text screen actually presents the opposite of what he is saying or delivers puns based on the topic. It’s a deliberate parody of Bill O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo.”

Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger: During which Colbert shares his personal cheers or jeers regarding recent topics.

Better Know a District: Colbert interviews a representative from one of the U.S.’s 435 Congressional Districts to humorous effect. Representatives have reacted variously to the segment. Those who have enjoyed it – and were in on the joke – tended to see their poll numbers rise. Those who stumble or lambast the segment after it airs tend to see their numbers drop. Regardless, every one of the 28 actual congressmen Colbert has interviewed (as of late 2008) won election or reelection.

Formidable Opponent: Colbert debates a topic with the only person he knows is formidable enough to challenge his intellect – himself.

ThreatDown: Colbert’s list of the five biggest threats to the country. Invariably, “bears” is listed as one of the five.

Interesting Facts:

  • Officials of the San Francisco Zoo have named an eagle after Colbert: Stephen Jr. The eagle was reintroduced to the wild, and Colbert regularly follows his travels.
  • Colbert is a doctor, have received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Knox College, Illinois
  • Has a minor-lague hockey team mascot named after him: Steagle Colbeagle.
  • Has appeared crime-fighting alongside Spider-man.
  • Has a Virgin America airplane named for him: Air Colbert.
  • Has had his portrait hung in the national portrait collection at the National Museum of American History.
  • Has a bridge in Hungary named after him.
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