Colbert-ology

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

By James Fallows

… 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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/07/colbert-ology/305799/