May 13, 2013
Comedians are broken souls, and from that brokenness springs a desperate need for the approval of strangers – lousy for them, lucky for the rest of us. So goes the conventional wisdom, which is what makes STEPHEN COLBERT (born 1964) such an interesting case. Though he surely has his damages – he lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was 10 – by all appearances he’s one of the most well-balanced people in entertainment, maybe on the planet. His funny comes from an invention: “Stephen Colbert,” a needy mess, all desperation and pleading, winking, dancing, mugging, punning – anything to make new friends. And yet Colbert’s commitment to that character sometimes sends him in exactly the opposite direction – like when he roasted the President of the United States while POTUS sat five feet away, sour-faced and glowering. (“This administration is not sinking,” Colbert declared. “This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!”). Or when, on his own show, he sits even closer to political opponents and apes them to their face, hijacking their shtick with such accuracy (and just enough absurdity) that some folks take years to get the satire, and some may still not get it. It’s imitation as the sincerest form of mockery, and it would be squirm-inducing (like Sacha Baron Cohen’s version) were it not for Colbert’s lovely charm and, yes, his character’s eagerness to please.
HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God
READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Original Generation X (1954–63) and Reconstructionist (1964–73) Generation.