Fallows@Large July/August 2004

Colbert-ology

What you know if you've seen the show live...

… as I did, a couple of hours ago, for what will be broadcast a couple of hours from now.

* Extremely nice-seeming guy (out of persona), which is another way of saying: phenomenal acting job the instant the in-persona segments begin.

* Larger and sturdier-seeming guy in person than on TV, reversing the normal “gee, you look different in person” effect. The normal rule is that famous people look smaller in real life than you’re expecting, with a few obvious exceptions (Bill Clinton, most professional athletes except tennis players, etc).

* Can his jet-black hair be natural? Yes, based on the presence of three to four grey strands on each temple.

* Although the show is taped, the whole operation has a very appealing “we’re doing this in real time!” atmosphere and attitude, as people run around with last-minute rewrites for the monologues and questions.

* The curse of doing a five-minute interview on TV: thinking, every second, Hey, wait a minute, that’s not what I should be saying! Oh well.

* The path not taken: I had told him off stage that he had a devoted following among many Chinese 20-somethings I have met at universities in Shanghai, Beijing, and elsewhere, who watch his show via YouTube or, more rarely, Slingbox. He said: Hey, let’s talk about that and forget all this Iraq stuff! I was all primed to give him the saga of Colbert-over-China… but, it was Iraq 24/7, or rather: five minutes out of five. I’ll tell his Chinese fans all this when we’re back “home” next week.

James Fallows is a National Correspondent at The Atlantic.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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