Come back, “Colbert Report”!

The show takes a mysterious hiatus - and reminds us how much we need it

Topics: The Colbert Report,

Come back, "Colbert Report"!Stephen Colbert (Credit: Yuri Gripas / Reuters)

Where’s Stephen? On Wednesday, fans eager to attend a taping of “The Colbert Report” were shocked to learn the show had been abruptly canceled. The situation turned to one of mass withdrawal symptoms Thursday as the show still didn’t return; Comedy Central issued a terse announcement that the show was shut down due to “unforeseen circumstances.” It was the first time in the show’s seven-year history that it’s had to cancel taping.

Questions continue about whether Colbert and his nation will return Monday (the show doesn’t tape Fridays). The leading theory is that the sudden hiatus has to do with the host’s 91-year-old mother. The Wall Street Journal reports that “people familiar with the show” attribute the sudden suspension of production to “an emergency in Mr. Colbert’s family.”

Whatever the cause, it’s impressive that Colbert has managed for so long to keep a respectable degree of privacy around his off-screen persona and family life. His colleague Jon Stewart trades in daily snark too, but mingles it with intense sincerity — for proof, look no further than Stewart’s interview Thursday with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and the way the schoolteacher’s son from New Jersey made the conversation eminently personal.

Stephen Colbert, in contrast, the youngest of 11 children, the boy who grew up in South Carolina pronouncing his last name with a hard “t” on the end, nightly slips easily into the guise of Stephen Colbert, bespectacled, vaguely French sounding, super PAC-starting conservative blowhard. He’s spent his Comedy Central career deftly creating a knowing caricature, a man whose absurdity isn’t just brilliantly funny, it’s also a hell of a disguise – one that has no doubt afforded him and his family a degree of insulation from his larger-than-life persona.



A mysterious and sudden halting to a successful television show is always newsworthy. But this week, his silence has also made clear how deeply viewers depend on the show for a nightly dose of satire in a sea of political and religious insanity. Just the night before the show went dark, the Catholic Colbert was raising hackles for citing “Obama’s vengeful crusade against the Catholic Church,” and noting, “Vengeful crusades? Kind of our thing.”

It’s clear already that television without Colbert – even for a mere two episodes – creates a keenly felt absence. But a guy absurd enough to wear star-spangled pants also knows that there are moments in real life when the best thing you can say about what’s going on is nothing at all.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>