Of course, since I went over Jon Stewart’s greatest hits in an earlier post, I would be remiss not to mention the greatest hits of The Daily Show’s sister show, The Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert proved to be a popular correspondent on The Daily Show, so in 2005, Comedy Central gave him his own spinoff. The Colbert Report has built a large and maniacally devoted fan base. It could even be argued that it has surpassed the original show in popularity. Colbert has had many strokes of comedic brilliance; below are a few of them.
5. Truthiness: October 17, 2005
Colbert’s first show featured many segments that would go on to be his most popular. In his first broadcast of “The Wørd,” he coined a new word, “truthiness,” which describes people who claim to know things “in their gut,” without regard to objective facts. Truthiness slowly became integrated into the American lexicon, and was named the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society and Merriam-Webster in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In this segment, Colbert also articulates the central pledge of his program, to “feel the news at you,” rather than simply reading the news to you. This episode also features a hilarious “gravitas-off” with news anchor Stone Phillips, which I’ve also linked to here.
4. A Democratic Party: April 17, 2008
The Pennsylvania primary rarely gets much media coverage, but in the protracted battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, it proved pivotal. Colbert broadcasted from Pennsylvania for a week of episodes, the best of which aired on April 17 and featured appearances from Obama, Clinton, and former candidate John Edwards. I always appreciate when candidates can laugh at themselves, and Clinton did when she professed her “love of solving problems” while fixing Colbert’s broken screen. Edwards did his own version of “The Wørd” called “EdWørds,” where he talked about his sought-after endorsement. Finally, Obama appeared on the show to ask Stephen to put political distractions On Notice, speaking to the controversy over Obama’s not wearing a flag pin on his lapel.
3. A Big Red Button: various episodes
(For whatever reason, WordPress won’t let me post a pic here. Huh.)
One of Colbert’s more underrated segments is Bears & Balls, in which he discusses the financial system and receives advice from a big red button that speaks with his voice when he presses it. The segment has provided me with many big laughs over the years, and is a great satire of some of the more ridiculous aspects of the financial system.
2. Reading Rainbow: May 9, 2013
In this recent segment, Colbert had announced the formation of “cOlbert’s Book Club,” in which he would discuss The Great Gatsby in anticipation of the new movie adaptation of the book. In an interview with Carey Mulligan (who stars as Daisy in the film), Colbert confesses that he has not read the book mere minutes before the book club is supposed to air. Mulligan also confesses a dark secret, that she cannot read and has no idea what the book is about either. Mulligan and Colbert’s prayers are answered when the butterfly from the popular kids’ show Reading Rainbow appears and show host LeVar Burton explains the subject of the book. I liked this clip because I felt the joke was speaking directly to my generation, as I watched Reading Rainbow and pretty much every other PBS show as a kid. Man, no wonder I turned out a nerd.
1. Cookie Monster Abandons Cookies: June 19, 2008
Speaking of PBS shows, my favorite Colbert clip by far is Cookie Monster’s appearance on the show in 2008. Stephen called out the popular Sesame Street character for “abandoning the pro-cookie agenda” and encouraging kids to eat fruit before cookies. Cookie Monster appeared on the show to “set the record straight” in a hilarious interview, and then ate Colbert’s cookie-shaped Peabody Award. This clip, like the previous one, is one of Colbert’s more “out of left field” jokes that scored a hit.