In an instance when you really should read it for the articles, Playboy magazine’s November issue features a rare serious interview with Stephen Colbert, as opposed to “Stephen Colbert,” the political pundit caricature he plays on his satirical late night show, The Colbert Report.
It’s not often we see Stephen Colbert as the real Stephen Colbert, but he’s shaken off his character twice this month: First for Oprah, and now for Playboy.
Colbert explained to the magazine his reasoning for not staying in character for the interview: “If I’m doing a talk show or an interview like this, or pretty much anything where I can’t control the context, I’m loath to do the character. Because outside the context of the show, you have to be okay with the clang of [that character] against reality.”
In the interview, Colbert talked about his childhood love of science fiction, his visit to the set of The Hobbit, the death of his father and two brothers when he was 10 years old, and his friendship with Jon Stewart. You can check out the full interview online here, but we know you PopWatchers are busy folks what with all that pop culture consumption you have to do, so here’s a look at the highlights:
On how he encourages his guests to play along on the show: “[The ‘Stephen Colbert’ character] is willfully ignorant of what you know and care about. Honestly disabuse him of his ignorance and we’ll have a good time. All they have to do, as my guest producer Emily Lazar says, is talk to him as though he’s a harmless drunk at the next bar stool.”
On what he’s truly afraid of: “Accidentally driving my boat into a pillar with loved ones onboard.”
On grief: “The interesting thing about grief, I think, is that it is its own size. It is not the size of you. It is its own size. And grief comes to you. You know what I mean? I’ve always liked that phrase ‘He was visited by grief,’ because that’s really what it is. Grief is its own thing. It’s not like it’s in me and I’m going to deal with it. It’s a thing, and you have to be OK with its presence. If you try to ignore it, it will be like a wolf at your door.”
On getting into science fiction as a teenager: “In some ways it was about escape. I think there’s absolute truth in escaping the reality of your present predicament. And that can just be about being young. It doesn’t have to be tragedy. There’s a tragedy to being 13. Things are changing. Friends are changing. Your body is changing. You need to escape that. My additional emotional crises don’t necessarily explain my interest in it.”
On his friendship with Jon Stewart: “I’m an ardent admirer of his. I would say the thing that has kept me from being as good a friend to Jon as I would like is just that I am such a fan. I am gobsmacked by his abilities. But that being said, we go out to dinner, and we sometimes pick up the phone just to say, ‘How are you?’ Or, ‘Do you mind if I tell you how I am? I had a s—-y week.'”
On comedy: “Ultimately it’s an athletic endeavor. You have to be able to just hit the backhand. You can’t think about all the pieces of it. You can’t think about your swing. You just have to do it. Reading someone else’s deconstruction of what I do, all it does is put me in my head. On nights when the show goes particularly well, I am not aware of its fluidity. A lot of nights I’m just worried that I’m not going to be as good as the script in front of me.”
On extending his contract with Comedy Central through 2014: “I try not to think about it in terms of years. You can’t do 161 shows. It can’t be done. All I can do is today and tomorrow and have some idea of what we’re doing next week. That’s all I can worry about. I have a script for today, I have probably half a script for tomorrow, and that’s as far down the road as I ever look. I know the mechanism of my show, and I know how it works. There’s a joy in that.”