TV Article

''Show'' Off

''Daily Show'' reporter finds humor in politics -- Stephen Colbert on washing Tom Brokaw's window, making Jon Stewart laugh, and his dream interview at the GOP convention

Stephen Colbert, the second-most-trusted man in fake news, is sitting in his office at ''The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.'' After covering the Democratic National Convention -- where he trumped Barack Obama by declaring himself ''the son of a turd miner, the grandson of a goat ball licker'' -- he's happy to offer commentary on his digs. Pointing to artwork from one of his three children, he says, ''That's the sad devil clown, who I guess is me.'' On his ''Lord of the Rings'' collectibles: ''If we're working on a piece and someone suggests an idea, I go, 'Uh-huh, I like it. How do you feel, Cave Troll?''' Once the topic of decor is exhausted, Colbert turns his attention to ''The Daily Show'''s Democratic and GOP convention coverage, fabricating the news, and window washing.

Was there a motto for your coverage of the DNC?
I have one motto for everything I do -- it's ''Let's go get these bastards.'' It doesn't matter whether we're gonna go interview the head of the Klan or schoolchildren, I have to summon Geraldo Rivera for my character's persona.

What was your highlight?
I don't think you get any better than ''goat ball licker'' -- not the joke, just not laughing [when delivering it]. We were shrieking, beating the desk during rehearsal. Jon said, ''You're kidding yourself that you're gonna be able to get through this.'' I said, ''Jon, if you hold it together, I'll hold it together.'' And then I knew halfway through, whatever dark thoughts about my childhood I had to summon up and later deal with, I wasn't gonna laugh.

You weren't quite that straight-faced during your infamous Prince Charles report.
Such a proud moment of professionalism. You work for years crafting cogent satirical essays and the thing that everybody remembers is me making love to a Chiquita and bursting into laughter. What you can't see off camera is Jon started laughing first. And then I'm weak. As much as I want to make the audience laugh, I really want to make Jon laugh.

Let's talk about you climbing over seats to wipe NBC's window for Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.
I'm looking up and it occurs to me that there are smudges on NBC's glass, and at that moment Brokaw sees me. I said, ''Turn on the camera,'' and I jumped onto the backs of the seats, took out my handkerchief, and started cleaning. What you don't see is both of them reach into their pockets and start peeling off bills, and they're looking for a hole in the glass to get them through.

Any dream interview you hope to snag at the Republican convention?
The President would be nice. But I'm most curious about how the press is gonna handle it. When the press says ''The message is so tightly controlled,'' the press is actually saying ''We're not getting access.'' When they complain about how there's so little to talk about, it seems self-absorbed.

Do you think the Republicans will welcome you?
I think we proved we were just as willing to mock the Democrats' message. I don't know what our access will be, but it wasn't good in 2000. I had to stay outside for the entire thing.

You'd think they'd want you inside. Kind of a keep-your-enemies closer theory.
If I were the Republicans, I would want us in there to give our cameras something to shoot, as opposed to having us outside making things up for our cameras to shoot.

Are you a Democrat?
Listen, it's a secret ballot. Yeah, I'm a Democrat. I'm not asking anybody to vote for Democrats or Republicans. I say everyone should vote for both candidates -- except me. Just let me vote for Kerry. Then we'll be fine.

Originally posted Aug 13, 2004 Published in issue #778 Aug 13, 2004 Order article reprints