You don’t hear O’Reilly complaining about his role as comic foil. One, he has a sense of humor. Two, it’s good for him. Three, he knows that when people are paid millions to yack on TV, they don’t get to whine when someone else making millions gets a new gig. I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Reilly among Colbert’s first guests.
To put it plainly, the fellow who will be sitting in the “Late Show” chair is nothing like the character on the “Repor(t),” which is both a delightful and grievous prospect. Many will mourn the exit of Comedy Central’s Colbert, but millions more will celebrate his new role. Having met the real-life Colbert, the lad from Charleston, S.C., I’m confident viewers will find him every bit the Everyman as was all-time favorite Johnny Carson.
The one time I appeared on “The Colbert Report,” Colbert met me in the Green Room beforehand and, speaking as the polite Southerner he is, said, “Now, I’m going to be in character on stage, so don’t let me put words in your mouth.” You can’t say I wasn’t forewarned.
In real life, Colbert, the youngest of 11 children, is a regular guy with an extraordinary wit who is as heartland as they come, if you judge “heartland” as devoted to family and devout of spirit. He became a funny guy in part as a result of tragedy when, at age 10, his father and two of his brothers died in a plane crash. Colbert inherited his brothers’ Bill Cosby record collection, which he says he listened to night after night.
From personal grief, he blossomed into a national treasure — wickedly funny, charming and charismatic. That he has made jokes at the expense of nearly everyone is merely further testament to his qualifications. An equal opportunity offender in a politically correct world. What more can one ask of a comedian?