The Colbert Report ( — t is silent in both "Colbert" and "Report") is an American satirical late night television program that airs Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central. It stars political humorist Stephen Colbert, a former correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
The Colbert Report is a spin-off from and counterpart to The Daily Show that comments on politics and the media in a similar way. It satirizes conservative personality-driven political pundit programs, particularly Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor. The show focuses on a fictional anchorman character named Stephen Colbert, played by his real-life namesake. The character, described by Colbert as a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot", is a caricature of televised political pundits.
The Colbert Report has been nominated for four Emmys each in 2006, 2007 and 2008, two Television Critics Association Awards, and two Satellite Awards. It has been presented as non-satirical journalism in several instances, by the Tom DeLay Legal Defense Trust, and following Robert Wexler's interview on the program. The Report received considerable media coverage following its debut on October 17, 2005, for Colbert's coining of the term "truthiness", which dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster named its 2006 Word of the Year. The Report has also coined other neologisms, such as "freem".
The Report has had cultural influence in a number of ways. In 2006, after Colbert encouraged viewers to vote online to name a Hungarian bridge after him, he won the first round of voting with 17,231,724 votes. The Ambassador of Hungary presented Mr. Colbert with a declaration certifying him as the winner of the second and final round of voting, though it was later announced that the bridge would instead be named the Megyeri Bridge, as a law prevented it from being named after a living person. In 2007, the Democratic Caucus chair, Rahm Emanuel, instructed freshmen Representatives not to appear on the show's "Better Know a District" segment.
In 2005, The Daily Show won Emmy Awards, and Comedy Central wanted to expand the franchise. Producers were also looking for a way to hold on to Colbert, Daily Show correspondent and co-writer for six seasons, after the show's other breakout star, Steve Carell, left the program to pursue a career in film and network television. Jon Stewart and Ben Karlin (The Daily Show's executive producer) supposedly came up with the idea for The Colbert Report after watching coverage of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Bill O'Reilly. Jon Stewart's production company, Busboy Productions, developed The Report. Colbert, Stewart, and Karlin pitched the idea of the show (reportedly with one phrase: "our version of The O'Reilly Factor with Stephen Colbert") to Comedy Central chief Doug Herzog, who agreed to run the show for eight weeks without creating a pilot.
The Colbert Report first appeared in the form of three television commercials for itself which aired several times on The Daily Show, although the themes that form the basis for The Report can be seen in the reports of Colbert's correspondent character on The Daily Show. The show debuted October 17, 2005, with an initial contract for an eight-week run. On November 2, 2005, based on the strong ratings for the show's first two weeks, Comedy Central and Colbert announced they had signed for an additional year, through the end of 2006. In 2007, co-head writer Allison Silverman became an executive producer of the show.
Typically, Colbert starts an episode with teasers regarding the show's topics and guest; each headline is structured to be a deliberate pun. The series of puns are followed by a verbal metaphor that promotes the show and is almost always finished with, "This is the Colbert Report." The show's original opening title sequence began with an eagle diving past the host, following by images of Americana, stock footage of Colbert, and words describing Colbert flying by (some of which have been used as The Wørd). The first word used was "Grippy", and has changed to include, among others, "Megamerican", "Lincolnish", "Superstantial", "Flagaphile", and "Factose Intolerant". The May 4 episode in 2009 featured "346x" as a hint planted by J. J. Abrams about when and where Colbert would be in the Persian Gulf, and "Farewellison" for the final episode of former producer Allison Silverman. The sequence ends with a computer-generated shrieking eagle swooping toward the foreground and exposing a live shot of the set. On January 4, 2010, a new opening debuted. The opening begins and ends with an eagle as before, but features new background renderings, new shots of Stephen Colbert, and is now colored in an American, red white and blue motif. Both openings feature "Baby Mumbles" by Cheap Trick as theme music.
Following the opening sequence, Colbert most often proceeds with a run-through of recent headlines in a manner parodying traditional news broadcasts; this is similar to The Daily Show but with a faux-right-wing spin. The program typically continues with Colbert addressing a specific topic. That topic will usually lead into a "The Wørd" segment, which juxtaposes Colbert's commentary with satirical bullet points on-screen, a parody of The O'Reilly Factor's "Talking Points Memo". On occasion he will conduct a short interview with someone having to do with the topic. The format of the middle segment varies, but it is normally a visual presentation or skit. Often, these skits are parts of recurring segments, which may include "Better Know a District", in which Colbert interviews a U.S. Representative from a certain district of the United States; "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger", in which Colbert voices his approval or disapproval of prominent people and news items; "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A.", a health segment; "The Sport Report" with the "t" in both Sport and Report silent, a sports segment; and "The ThreatDown", in which Colbert lists the five greatest threats to America, and others. His newest segment, "Thought for Food" deals with the consumption of specific foods across the world.
Sometimes, there is a "Colbert Report Special Repor-t" (the final 't' pronounced with special emphasis), or even a "Colbert Report, Sport Report, Special Repor-t", in which Colbert devotes a section of an episode, and sometimes the entire episode to a special subject. The third segment is almost always an interview with a celebrity guest, often an author or government official. The interview is, unlike The Daily Show, conducted at a different table on the set. Viewers applaud as Colbert hammily jogs from his desk to the interview area, where his seated guest awaits. At times, Colbert will give high fives to the front row of his audience as they stand and clap. This is meant to parody traditional talk show formats in which the guest enters to applause and joins the already-seated host. The third segment of the show is on occasion a musical guest. Prominent musical guests have included Rush, Green Day, Paul Simon, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Yo-Yo Ma. Afterwards, Colbert ends the show by giving some parting words to the audience or, if short for time, a simple "good night".
The Colbert Report taping studio, at 513 W. 54th Street New York, NY 10019 located in New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, was used for The Daily Show until July 2005. NEP Studio 54 on 54th Street is owned by NEP Broadcasting which is New York City's largest production facility and also owns The Daily Show set at NEP Studio 52 two blocks south on 52nd Street.
The set for The Colbert Report is called "The Eagle's Nest" and reflects and facilitates Colbert's self-aggrandizing style. The set has two main areas: the desk, from which Colbert hosts most of the show, and the guest interview area to camera right, where his guest for the evening is interviewed. Colbert's desk is in the shape of serifed C, standing for Colbert. On one wall, there is an artificial fireplace with the engraving "Videri Quam Esse," meaning, "to seem to be rather than to be"; it is a play off of the traditional Latin phrase "esse quam videri," or, "to be, rather than to seem to be," reflecting Colbert's mock right-wing personality. Above this fireplace is a portrait of Colbert; it originally showed Colbert standing in front of the same mantel with another portrait of himself. On the show's first anniversary, the portrait was replaced by one of Colbert standing in front of the mantel with the first portrait above it; the original was auctioned off at a charity event and currently hangs in the Sticky Fingers restaurant in Colbert's native Charleston, S.C. Colbert stated that the portrait will be changed every year to add another level of depth. On October 17, 2007, the portrait was removed and replaced with a new one that followed an identical pattern, but changed Colbert's placement in the foreground.
On January 16, 2008, the "three-deep" Colbert portrait was placed on display "right between the bathrooms near the 'America's Presidents' exhibit" at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. After first being rejected by the National Museum of American History, Colbert petitioned the Smithsonian to display his portrait, who agreed to "go along with the joke", though they stressed that it was only temporary. Colbert said "I don't mean to brag, but as it contains three portraits, my portrait has more portraits than any other portrait in the National Portrait Gallery!" The portrait was then put on display at the Smithsonian until April 13. On October 16, 2008, the three-deep portrait was officially donated to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's American Treasures exhibit. In September 2009, the portrait was retired to the Smithsonian's collection. At the end of that show, a new 5-deep portrait was unveiled, with the newest Colbert holding his newly won Emmy with another Emmy and a Peabody by the mantle.
The graphics used throughout the show and the studio itself are saturated with American flags, bald eagles, Captain America's shield, and other patriotic imagery. The set contains many references to Colbert, and on the show's first episode he pointed out several examples: his name, initials and the name of the show appear on the desk's plasma screen, on the rafters above the desk, and the desk itself is shaped like a giant "C". In an interview with The A.V. Club, Colbert explained that much of the design for the set was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. "All the architecture of that room points at Jesus' head, the entire room is a halo", Colbert said. "On the set, I'd like the lines of the set to converge on my head. And so if you look at the design, it all does, it all points at my head...there's a sort of sun-god burst quality about the set around me." On the floor to the front stage right of his desk there is an eagle's nest, and a tape outline of where he injured his wrist, akin to those seen at murder scenes on television police procedurals.
For the week of April 14 through April 17, 2008, the program was taped at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Pennsylvania campus, in advance of the Democratic Party primary in that state on April 22. This was the first time the program has been taped outside its regular New York City studios.
In an interview with Lisa Rose for nj.com published on October 26, 2009, Colbert mentioned that a new set was being built and would premiere sometime in January, 2010. The new set was introduced on the show on January 4, 2010, along with a new opening graphic for the show's transition to HD broadcasting.