Stephen Tyrone Colbert (/ˈkoʊlbɝt/; born May 13, 1964) is a three time Emmy-winning American comedian and satirist. He is well known for his dramatic style and deadpan comedic delivery. He is most famous for his work on The Daily Show, and as the star of its spin-off, The Colbert Report. The latter is a satirical parody of personality-driven political news and opinion shows, such as Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor.Colbert was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2006.
Stephen Colbert was born in Charleston, South Carolina and grew up on James Island, the youngest of eleven children in a Catholic family. His father, James Colbert, was the vice president for academic affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina. His mother Lorna Colbert was a homemaker. In interviews, Colbert has described his parents as devout people who also strongly valued intellectualism, and taught their children it was possible to question the Church and still be a Catholic. The emphasis his family placed on intelligence as a desirable trait would, in part, led Colbert to eventually learn to speak without a Southern accent when he was still quite young. As a child, he observed that Southerners were often depicted as being less intelligent than other characters on scripted television; in order to sound more intelligent, he taught himself to imitate the neutral accent of American newsanchors from an early age.
On September 11, 1974, when Colbert was ten years old, his father and two brothers, Peter and Paul, were killed in the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 while it was attempting to land in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were reportedly en route to enroll the two boys in the Canterbury Preparatory School in New Milford, Connecticut. Shortly thereafter, Lorna Colbert relocated the family downtown to the more urban environment of East Bay Street. By his own account, Colbert found the transition difficult, and did not easily make new friends in his new neighborhood. Colbert would later describe himself during this time as detached, lacking a sense of the importance of the things other children around him concerned themselves with.He developed a love of science fiction and fantasy novels, especially the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, of which he remains an avid fan. During his adolescence, he also developed an intense interest in fantasy role-playing games, especially Dungeons & Dragons, a pastime which he would later characterize as an early experience in acting and improvisation.
Colbert attended Charleston’s Episcopalian Porter-Gaud School where he participated in several school plays and contributed occasionally to the school newspaper, but by his own assessment, was not highly motivated academically. For a while, he was uncertain as to whether or not he would attend college, but ultimately he applied and was accepted to Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he primarily studied philosophy. There, he found the curriculum rigorous, but was more focused than he had been in high school and was able to apply himself to his studies. Still, after two years, Colbert came to the conclusion that acting was the only thing he really enjoyed working hard at. After two years, he transferred to Northwestern University to study acting, a choice that was influenced by his mother and a love of Bill Cosby. While there, he became involved in the improvisation troupe ImprovOlympic. After college he went to work at Second City and participated in improv classes there.
He is married to Evelyn McGee-Colbert, who appeared with him in an episode of Strangers with Candy as his mother. She had an uncredited cameo as a nurse in the series pilot, as well. The couple has three children: Madeline, Peter, and John–all of whom have appeared on The Daily Show.
Although by his own account he was not particularly political before joining the cast of The Daily Show, Colbert is a self-described Democrat.. He is also a practicing Roman Catholic and a Sunday school teacher. The name Colbert is both an Irish and a French surname.
Before acting with The Second City, Colbert worked selling souvenirs for the comedy troupe at their Chicago theater. According to Anne Libera, the artistic director of The Second City Training Center, Colbert still holds the record for greatest number of T-Shirts sold.
Colbert is deaf in his right ear, as he has no ear drum in it. “I always wanted to be a marine biologist…but then I had this ear problem. I have no ear drum. (Flicks his ear.) So I had this operation at the Medical University when I was a kid. Now I can’t get my head wet. I mean, I can, but I can’t really scuba dive or anything like that. So that killed my marine biology hopes.” He once joked to The New Yorker that “I had this weird tumor as a kid, and they scooped it out with a melon baller.”
Colbert first performed with The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, initially as an understudy for Steve Carell, who would also go on to serve as a Daily Show correspondent. It was there he met Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello, with whom he would often collaborate later in his career.
When Sedaris and Dinello were offered the opportunity to create a television series for HBO downtown productions, Colbert quit Second City and relocated to New York in order to work with them on Exit 57, a sketch comedy show which aired on Comedy Central from 1995 to 1996. Despite only lasting for 12 episodes, the show was critically successful, garnering five CableAce nominations in 1995 in categories including best writing, performance, and comedy series.
Following the cancellation of Exit 57, Colbert worked briefly as a cast member and writer on The Dana Carvey Show, as well as a writer on Saturday Night Live, before taking a job filming humorous correspondent segments for Good Morning America. Only two of the segments he proposed were ever produced, and only one aired, but the job led his agent to refer him to the Daily Show’s then-producer, Madeline Smithberg, who hired Colbert on a trial basis in 1997. During the same time frame, he worked again with Sedaris and Dinello to develop a new series for Comedy Central, Strangers with Candy, which was picked up in 1998, after he had already begun to work on the Daily Show. As a result, Colbert accepted a reduced role on the Daily Show — filming twenty segments a year — for Strangers with Candy’s entire run.