Many viewers of The Colbert Report can't wait for host Stephen Colbert to introduce another Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger segment. Others wait in anticipation for the next Alpha Dog of the Week. They are both popular recurring comedy segments on the award-winning show.
What's a recurring segment? It's a comedy bit - either a sketch, routine or gag - that the host returns to regularly. Johnny Carson had Carnac the Magician. David Letterman popularized Stupid Pet Tricks and the Top 10 List.
Like those talk show greats, Colbert has its own stable of gags and routines. If you're a fan, you have your favorite. But if you're new to the show, where do you begin? Here, with 10 of the most popular recurring segments and short description of each:
- Alpha Dog of the Week
During this segment, Colbert bestows the title Alpha Dog on a newsmaker who has made headlines for some bold, brash and unexpected - either good, such as Newark Mayer Cory Booker running into a burning building - or bad, such as Cecilia Giminez, the amateur restoration artist that turned a "naturalistic portrait of the Son of God into a dough-faced homunculus." The name implies the segment occurs weekly, but that would be a bit of false advertising. The truth is that it takes a big personality to trigger an Alpha Dog of the Week.
- Better Know a District
A noble effort by Colbert that has been around since the show debuted more than seven years ago, Better Know a District follows Colbert in his effort to interview a member of Congress from every district in the U.S. - all 435. Well, 434, since Colbert declared California's 50th "dead to him" in 2005. Over seven seasons, Colbert has interviewed 79 representatives. Typically in these segments, Colbert will ask the Representative ridiculous questions and highly loaded questions in an attempt to either see if they'll play along or if they'll squirm and try to "talking point" their way out of the interview.
- Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA
During Cheating Death , Colbert provides the audience with news on new health discoveries and advances in medicine. After each news item, Colbert pitches products that deliver similar health benefits to the news item - products that are made by a fake pharmaceutical company, Prescott Pharmaceuticals. The medicines Colbert hawks always come with warnings about outlandish side effects, such as "skeletal xylophoning". Colbert ends the segment by telling his audience that he'll "See you in health!"
- Formidable Opponent
Though Colbert hasn't aired a Formidable Opponent in some time, it's one of the more creative and clever segments the show produces. When a topic is so polarizing it demands debate, Colbert turns to the only opponent who can keep up with his intelligence and wit - himself. But using two cameras and a color-keyed tie that changes color when the camera feed is change, Colbert is able to debate himself on a wide range of topics. Each Colbert takes one side of the debate, creating a liberal Colbert and an ultra-conservative Colbert. The debates are almost always won by the conservative Colbert.
- Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger
This segment parodies the popular "Cheers and Jeers" segments of many print and broadcast publications. The twist, in Colbert's case, is that he'll often praise a person or event with a Tip of the Hat, only to turn around and give them a quick Wag of the Finger. For example, Colbert might praise a foreign dignitary for taking the President of the United States to task for his foreign policy. Then he'll turn around and chastise the dignitary for daring to criticized an American citizen.