Stephen Colbert and His Ironic Claim to Fame

colbertThe news of Stephen Colbert succeeding the legendary David Letterman on the Late Show has rocked the entertainment world; however before Colbert was the famous comedian and the beloved TV personality that he is today, he had his fair share of ironic qualities (still does) that made way for an almost paradoxical claim to fame. Colbert was born to a Catholic family; not just a regular Catholic family, a Catholic family with 11 children, of which he was the youngest (Jimmy, Eddie, Mary, Billy, Margo, Thomas, Jay, Paul, Peter, and Stephen). In interviews, Colbert described his parents as devout individuals who strongly value intellectualism; contradictory to the silly nature of Colbert’s programs.

The emphasis Colbert’s family placed on him to be intelligent coupled with his observations of the negative stigmas associated with Southerners led him to hide his Southern accent. Tragedy struck Colbert when he was young, his father and two brothers Peter and Paul were killed in an airplane crash. After that, he could not make friends easily and became very introverted. During this period, he became an avid enthusiast of  the fantasy genre – frequently playing Dungeons & Dragons and immersing himself in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, Colbert has a cameo in the most recent Hobbit film.

Colbert’s claim to fame is precipitated upon his silliness and colorful commentary on news subjects, so it is ironic that Colbert originally went to school to become a marine biologist. Unfortunately, (or perhaps not) a surgery complication caused him inner-ear damage that made him deaf in his right ear and unable to scuba dive. Also ironic is that the Emmy and Grammy award winner attended the prestigious Northwestern University. Not only that, but once Colbert began studying performing, it was with the full intention of becoming a dramatic actor.

Perhaps the most ironic in Colbert’s claim to fame as one of the most notorious comics and personalities, is that the entire catalyst for his career might have happened by chance. After graduating, Colbert found himself in desperate need of a job. A school friend of his associated with the infamous Second City Improv offered him a job at the institution answering phones and selling merchandise. Colbert accepted and found out employees of Second City could take classes for free, and despite his aversion to comedy acting and desire to be a dramatic actor, Colbert signed up for the classes and enjoyed the experience immensely.

After his success in Second City, Colbert began writing and performing for television programs, including Exit 57, Saturday Night LiveGood Morning AmericaThe Dana Carvey ShowStrangers with Candy, and The Daily Show. The most admirable ironic quality of Colbert is that despite his fame and fortune, he still offers intellectual criticism about this nation. For instance, at the 2010 Congressional testimony, Colbert broke his comedic routine and very seriously addressed the issue of migrant workers. He stated that they are the least powerful people in the country and they are exploited as a result, that we ask them to come work for us yet at the same time make them leave, and they deserve rights and retribution for this treatment.

Opinion By Andres Loubriel

The New Yorker
The Telegraph

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