Saturday, August 14, 2010

[Stephen Colbert is the Real Deal]

I love Stephen Colbert.  I've always been a fan and impressed with his show on Comedy Central (and even before when he worked on The Daily Show), but for I started paying much more attention to him last year in June.

In June of 2009, Colbert took his show to Iraq for the troops.  It was obvious in everything he did that he was performing for those troops in front of him.  It didn't matter that his performance was being televised and aired all over America-- you could tell he was willing to do anything for the audience.

And then he shaved his head.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Gets His Hair Cut
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This was one of those moments, as silly as it sounds, where I realized that Colbert really truly cared about those watching him.

And that's not the only reason why I am a fan.  I love this guy-- not just because he's hilarious, not just because he's a Sunday school teacher, not just because he got his hair shaved on T.V. Not just because although he plays an arch-conservative character for satire, he's really more complicated than that.

Part of it has to do with this interview clip:

Did you ever go through a period where you lost your faith?
Yeah.  It was a college angst thing.  But once I graduated from college, some Gideon literally gave me a box of The New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs on the street in Chicago.  I took one and opened it right away to Matthew chapter 5, which is the opening of the Sermon on the Mount.  The whole chapter is essentially about not worrying.  I didn't read it--it spoke to me, and it was an effortless absorption of the idea.  Nothing came to me in a thunderbolt, but I thought to myself, "I'd be dumb not to re-examine this."
What caused you to go through that dark period?
Well, I had very sad events in my childhood.  The death of my father and my brothers [his father and two brothers died in a plane accident] was an understandably a shattering experience that I hadn't really dealt with in any way.  And there comes a time when you're psychologically able to do so.  I still don't like talking about it.  It still is too fresh.
Do you think experiencing that has helped what you do in any way?  Or made it more of a challenge?
Not to get too deep here, but the most valuable thing I can think of is to be grateful for suffering.  That is a sublime feeling, and completely and inexplicable and illogical, but no one doesn't suffer.  So the degree to which you can be aware of your own humanity is the degree to which you can accept, with open eyes, your suffering.  To be grateful for your suffering is to be grateful for your humanity, because what else are you going to do -- say, "No, thanks?"  It's there.  "Smile and accept," said Mother Teresa.  And she was talking to people who had it rough.  That's not how you make jokes, though.

Not only is Colbert an incredible comedian, but he genuinely cares about the issues and problems facing the United States and the rest of the world.  In his position I feel like he gets a free pass to say almost anything he wants.  And he does.  But all while still being optimistic and light-hearted.  I feel like his authoritarian character makes it easier for him to topple authority and level the playing field.

And who else can say "I TEACH Sunday School, motherf***er!"?


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Philip Zimbardo
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**Disclaimer** -- There a lot of people that I look up to or inspire me, and I'm not quite sure why I chose Colbert. I think he's just been on my mind a lot lately. He and Stewart are really how I get my news while living in Moscow. And he's one of the few people where I consistently laugh out loud all the time.  I guess I'm really saying this because I'm afraid people will read this and think "really??  You couldn't think of anyone better??"