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Stephen Colbert - Biography


Photo of comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert
Photo by Scott Wintrow/Getty Images


May 13, 1964

Quick Stephen Colber Facts:

  • Stephen Colbert was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in South Carolina.
  • He studied theater and improvisational comedy at ImprovOlympic and Second City, both in Chicago.
  • In 1995, Colbert co-created and starred in the sketch comedy show Exit 57 on Comedy Central.
  • In 1997, he joined the cast of The Daily Show as a correspondent.
  • Colbert reunited with his Exit 57 cast mates to create and star in Strangers With Candy, which ran from 1998 to 2000.
  • In 2005, Colbert left The Daily Show to host his own comedy news show on Comedy Central, The Colbert Report.
  • In 2008, he briefly and unsuccessfully ran for President.
  • In 2014, Colbert was announced as the successor to David Letterman as the host of The Late Show when Letterman retires in 2015.

Stephen Colbert Overview:

Stephen Colbert might just be the best fake right-wing pundit in America. As host of his own comedy news show, The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Colbert has made famous his perfectly assured (even when wrong), outspoken conservative character. Colbert's background is in improv and sketch comedy, making him incredibly quick-witted and fast on his feet. Combining absurdity with heady intellectualism, his satirical take on punditry has made him one of the country's leading political comedians. The world needs more of his brand of truthiness.

Young Stephen Colbert:

Stephen Tyrone Colbert was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up the youngest of 11 children in Charleston, South Carolina. At the age of 10, Colbert lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash. Raised from then on by a single mother, Colbert being to act in plays and developed a love for theater. He attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia to study philosophy, but transferred to Northwestern University after two years to study theater.

While attending Northwestern, Colbert began to do improvisational sketch comedy at Chicago's Annoyance Theater as part of the city's famous ImprovOlympic. After graduating in 1986, Colbert took a job at the city's other famous improv comedy theater, Second City, where he eventually joined the touring company as the understudy to future Daily Show co-star Steve Carrell.

The Move to TV:

While at Second City, Colbert met and made friends with cast mates Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. The three joined forces to create the sketch comedy show Exit 57, which was picked up by Comedy Central in 1995 and ran for one season on the network.

After Exit 57 was canceled, Colbert joined the writing staff and cast of ABC's short-lived sketch comedy The Dana Carvey Show, alongside Carrell, Robert Smigel and Louis C.K. Once again, the show lasted less than a season.

Stephen Colbert and 'The Daily Show':

In 1997, Colbert joined the cast of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. He played one of four staff "reporters" on the show, which at that time was hosted by Craig Kilborn. When Jon Stewart took over in 1999, Colbert began to take on a more prominent role. It was during these years that Colbert's "character" -- the know-it-all blowhard he would eventually take to his own series. Colbert remained on the show until 2005, once again working alongside Carrell and occasionally filling in for Stewart as anchor when needed. He won three Emmy Awards for his work on the show, in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

'Strangers with Candy':

In 1998, while still working on The Daily Show, Colbert reunited with his Exit 57 cast mates to co-create and co-star on the Comedy Central series Strangers with Candy. The comedy, a parody of after-school specials (on which Colbert played a closeted-gay high school teacher), ran for three seasons from 1998 to 2000. In 2006, a feature film version of the now-cult series was released to poor box office and mixed reviews.

'The Colbert Report':

By 2005, Colbert had become a popular enough fixture on The Daily Show to warrant his own spin-off. With The Daily Show as its lead-in, the Colbert-hosted The Colbert Report premiered in 2005 and became an instant hit. A parody of FOX News shows like The O'Reilly Factor, The Colbert Report features the comedian in full "character" mode, spouting often-nonsensical conservative dogma while actually satirizing the Right. After being nominated for three years in a row, Colbert finally took home an Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series Emmy for the Report in 2008.

In 2007, Colbert published his first book, the satirical I Am America (And So Can You). It quickly reached the top of the New York Times Bestseller list.

Also in 2007, Colbert announced that he would make a bid for the 2008 presidential election in his home state of South Carolina. Within a month, his ballot application was denied.

In 2008, Colbert debuted his own Christmas special on Comedy Central: A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All. It was released as an album in 2009, and won the 2009 Grammy Award for Outstanding Comedy Album.

Additional Stephen Colbert Facts

  • Colbert is deaf in his right ear.
  • He has won three Peabody Awards for his show The Colbert Report.
  • In 2006, Colbert was invited to speak at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, where he delivered a now-infamous and scathing routine on President Bush and his staff -- all of whom were in attendance.
  • Colbert provides the voice for one half of Robert Smigel's recurring Saturday Night Live animated short, "The Ambiguously Gay Duo."
  • Time magazine named Colbert one of the 100 most influential people in 2006, and he was named Person of the Year at the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
  • Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream named their "Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream" after the comedian.
  • In 2008, a professor at East Carolina University named a species of spider after Colbert.
  • Also in 2008, it was announced that Colbert's DNA would be sent to the International Space Station.
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