• New York Times Profiles Stephen Colbert and Stephen Colbert (also Stephen Colbert)

    How many people will ever be so honored as to see the New York Times write a personality piece on them for their weekly magazine? I don't have exact numbers, but I'm guessing it's well under 43 percent of the U.S. population.

    Of that, though, what percentage will get to see the New York Times profile two of their personalities?  Considerably less, I'm guessing.

    How about three of their personalities?

    The blustering O’Reilly-like persona is an outgrowth of a character Colbert had been playing on "The Daily Show" almost since the beginning, and briefly on the short-lived "Dana Carvey Show" before that: a self-important, trench-coated reporter who does on-location stories in a way that suggests his own presence is the real scoop. The models Colbert had in mind were people like Stone Phillips, Bill Kurtis and especially Geraldo Rivera. "I loved the way Geraldo made reporting a story seem like an act of courage," he told me.

    After Jon Stewart took over from Craig Kilborn as host of "The Daily Show" in 1999, he encouraged Colbert to make the character more political… At first Colbert resisted a little. "I thought topical stuff had an ephemeral quality — it would be meaningless in a week," he told me. "I wanted my character to be eternal."…

    Stewart also recalled that Colbert worried at first that the "Report" might not be sustainable, and says he kept pointing out, " 'I don't know anyone more interesting than you. You know so much about so many different areas.' " Stewart went on: "I'm not at all surprised that the show is good — he's amazing at it. He's able to weave a character in a way that’s never been done on television before — rendering this fictional character in 3-D, live, in such a way that he’s still able to retain his humanity." The extra dimension, he explained, is the other Colbert, the real one. "The third dimension is him. That's the thing we started to see here. He is so interesting, smart and decent. He's a good person, and that allows his character to be criminally, negligently ignorant."

    Interestingly, being referred to as "criminally, negligently ignorant" in the Times really isn't all that rare an honor. Not with Paul Krugman on staff.

    Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images


    Tags: New York Times, Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, Video

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