Hey, y'all remember that thing I was bitching about last week? Where every news article I was sent about Stewart's last episode of The Daily Show conspicuously avoided describing that thing he was doing as 'crying', even though it obviously was, for reasons that were unspecified but which I suspected mainly boiled down to him being a dude?

They're not doing it anymore!

Know why they're not doing it anymore?

(No, the press is not reading my blog. My stats are not anywhere near high enough for that.)

Because Stephen Colbert gave an interview in which he mentioned that making Stewart cry was probably his favorite thing he ever did on the show. In those words. On camera. Top of the piece, even. One article notes that it was taped at the Television Critics Association press tour, where he was presumably promoting The Late Show for CBS on August 10th, but the datelines on everything I can find that quotes him say the articles didn't go up until yesterday, the 17th.

I've begun to wonder about Colbert. He is definitely aware that he's an odd duck, but I'm not 100% sure he's aware of which specific bits are the ones that make people think that. I know he intentionally pushes norms and boundaries, but some of the more subtle things he does so blithely I can't be certain if it's intentional now, the result of an intentional decision a long time ago that he's just been following through on for decades, or just one of many strangely-shaped blind spots that he's never looked into because they don't bother him.

The major piece many of the others link to and appear to be piggybacking on is the cover story from GQ, which is long, was done mainly while he was working himself to gleeful exhaustion doing prep for The Late Show, and wanders occasionally into strange territory.

Colbert is certainly not up to Bruce Banner's 'bag of cats' assessment, but there is a whole fucking lot of something going on in his head that does not necessarily show all the time or get translated into words very well. One of the reasons he decided to end The Colbert Report is that he did the whole show in character, and that meant he couldn't let any of the native weird out on camera. There is something fundamental and structural about his thought process that's been nagging at me every time I see him speak at length that I cannot quite pin down. At minimum, the way he simultaneously simplifies things and attaches his emotional impression of them by interpreting them into examples rather than just discarding pieces until they get understandable suggest that his internal indexing system is highly metaphorical. You probably either get it intuitively after an hour of real conversation, or need a guidebook to the guidebook forever.

Someone really needs to ask him about synaesthesia. And then give some examples, because when you ask someone 'hey is your brain weird' you have to tell them what your idea of 'not-weird' is or they have nothing to base their assessment on. I'd bet money on eideticker; he's evidently one of those actors that lines just magically stick to after a couple of run-throughs.

I'm sure it's perfectly pleasant to spend time with the personality that comes out of all that, but actually rummaging around in Colbert's head is probably something of an acquired taste. I expect there are a lot of people who specifically and intentionally do not try. I also expect Jon Stewart zeroed in on that immediately, mainly because it's what I would have done. You would need to have an incredible amount of book crammed into your head already to even start to understand what he was talking about, and be willing to cram additional books in on top of that if you wanted to get his interest.

The advertising people have absolutely no idea what to make of Stephen Colbert. One of them is quoted, amusingly, as saying, "I don't know what he's really like." This bespeaks a certain lack of attention on their part. Admittedly he hasn't gotten to be himself on camera all that much, but it's not like it's never happened before. It happens a lot now that he officially has control of The Late Show staff and authorization to post random things to YouTube.

I do fully realize that none of those clips make him look less odd, but they do illustrate that Colbert looks quite different when he's not acting.

It seems to confuse people that Colbert can slide in and out of character at will, when he thinks it'll be funny, but there's a pretty distinct change in mannerism with each one. For one thing, Colbert, as himself, stammers. He fidgets, and worries at his fingernails. He's a lot shyer about eye contact. He can't keep a straight face when OOC -- he grins at anything that makes other people giggle, even if he's the one who said it. He's kind of a goober. Colbert has this perpetual feel of a sweet nerdy kid who has just discovered that he can use his actual personality in public and get a hug for it instead of an atomic wedgie, and still thinks of it as this combination of kind of alarming and really super neat.

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens when Colbert is allowed to do large swaths of TV as himself. He is unusual even among culture jammers. A lot of them make it a point not to tell you what their aim was or how they feel about what they're doing -- either they subscribe to the 'death of the author' theory or they say the only point was to get people to think, and they don't much care what it made you think about. A few groups are specifically ideological, but in exchange they tend to operate under cover of anonymity whenever possible, so that the people whose culture they're jamming can't stop them before the prank is set into action. Colbert shows his face and lets you know what the point is, even if the point is just 'I want you to be startled into laughing'.

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