‘Daily Show’ ‘reporter’ jokes, because he canBy Brian Balthazar
NBC News producer
March 10, 2005
Stephen Colbert is a man who has found his niche.
Wickedly smart, always clever and occasionally goofy, what other career path to take than comedy? But it took a cathartic moment to convince him to abandon his fears and pursue the art of making people laugh, or, as he has described his career to his young children, ‘saying silly things for a living.’
Born and raised in South Carolina, Colbert began making a name for himself in Chicago as a member of the famed “Second City” improv troupe where he met two friends that shared his twisted sense of humor — Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. The threesome moved to New York and developed “Exit 57,” a half-hour sketch comedy series that ran for two seasons during the mid-‘90s on Comedy Central.
A correspondent and standout on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” since 1997, Colbert has reported on an eclectic mix of subjects, but shines most when he’s covering the foibles of Washington politicos. As a commerical pitchman, he’s the funniest thing to happen to Mr. Goodwrench since ... well, ever. Now his knack for satire has propelled him into no less than three films set for release this year.
While still maintaining his post as political correspondent on “The Daily Show,” Colbert has reunited with Sedaris and Dinello to create the big-screen version of his successful Comedy Central series, “Strangers with Candy,” an ‘interpretation’ on the classic and typically moralistic afterschool specials ... except the central character happens to be a 46-year-old ex-junkie prostitute who’s back in high school. Why not?
You recently returned from The Sundance Film Festival, where the film version of “Strangers With Candy” was one of the first films purchased. Explain to us non-insiders what this means and why this is a great thing.
But it’s a good sign!
You work for, literally, years trying to get something together, and you show it at the festival in order to get a distributor. Well, you show it at the festival for someone to see, and if you’re lucky, someone decides to distribute it.
How did you find out about the deal?
Sounds like an excellent wake-up call…
Someone once told me that it has never really been your interest, or your goal, to be famous. Is that true?
It has never been your motivation though.
It must be devastating to be going through such a meteroric rise then.
The way I see, it, when people interview you, they want one of two things — they either want you to ‘be’ funny, or they want you to talk about ‘what it is’ to be funny.
Well mission accomplished. Okay, I’m just teasing. What was the point in your life when you realized that you were going to pursue comedy? In of itself it requires an admission to yourself that you’re funny — and that strikes me as a difficult thing to do.
Yeah, no pressure at all in show business. You chose a career that’s much less stressful than ...
So then there had to be a point in your life when you realized that you really could make a living at this. Was that around the same time?
Speaking of fraud, even though the mainstream media acknowledges that “The Daily Show” is fake…
…Do you find it interesting that mainstream networks have still tried to inject “The Daily Show” into their newscasts?
Well, by having you, or other cast members on their show, don’t you think they’re hoping that you’ll inject some ‘funny’ into the newscast?
Before doing “The Daily Show,” you did some spots for a major network — I won’t name names … did it have a satirical bent to it?
I only did two pieces, only one of which was ever broadcast. They didn’t like what I was doing, and I certainly didn’t like what I was being asked to do. It just wasn’t a good mix. They wanted me to be witty like the weatherman is witty. They wanted me to ‘quip’ — they didn’t really want satire.
All I know is I pitched 20 pieces in a row and they got shot down. So I thought ‘maybe there is something else out there for me.’
I was only doing it as a day job — I didn’t have any pretensions of being a Correspondent, but I had a wife and a child, and I was living in New York, and I was unemployed. I thought: ‘that sounds like a good idea … that sounds like it might have cash associated with it.’
But it actually set me up well to go over to “The Daily Show” because when I went to “The Daily Show” I had press credentials from ABC news, where ‘more Americans got there news than from any other source,’ at the time.
You initially stayed away from politics in your early days as an improvisational actor, is that right?
What caused the change?
But that’s what changed it. I literally got a job where they asked me to do it and I did my best.
And now you’ve got three, count ‘em, three films coming out: “Bewitched,” “Strangers with Candy” and “The Great New Wonderful.” Is this the face of things to come? “Stephen Colbert: Movie Star, Journalist, Denture Wearer?”
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” airs Monday through Thursday
at 11pm ET, 10pm CT, on Comedy Central.
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