If you conduct an internet search of the term “Stephen Colbert,” Wikipedia spits out two pages: One for Stephen Tyrone Colbert, a political satirist who got his big start on The Daily Show, and the other for Stephen Colbert (character)—the bumbling conservative pundit that earned himself his own spin-off, The Colbert Report.
The nature of acting is such that one must take off pieces of himself to put on pieces of somebody else, but nobody clouds the line between fiction and reality quite like Colbert; he’s known for breaking character so sparingly that many are unsure of when character ends and man begins.
How does one maintain a healthy sense of self while committing so thoroughly to the creation of somebody else? The distinction has become so blurred that his wife once told Oprah of the Colbert character “I don’t really like the other guy. He doesn’t come in this house.” Comments like this have caused many to assume that the real Colbert must be starkly different from the caricature he parodies, while others have speculated that, just maybe, Stephen Colbert (character) and Stephen Colbert (man), are not all that different.
The world will find out sometime in 2015, when Colbert takes over for late night TV legend, David Letterman.
Though he’s yet to determine an exact date, Letterman announced last week that he would be retiring at some point in 2015. Shortly after, CBS made it official: In what many consider a surprising move, they announced that Colbert would be taking Letterman’s place—Stephen Colbert (man), not Stephen Colbert (character).
If nothing else, the enigma of the real Stephen Colbert has garnered enough intrigue that CBS will certainly have viewers tuning in to see—what’s he really like? After all this time, does Colbert even know the answer to that question? In an official statement given last Thursday, he said “I won’t be doing the new show in character, so we’ll all get to find out how much of him was me. I’m looking forward to it.” Of course, there’s the chance that Colbert isn’t really all that funny—that he’s a one-trick pony who’s cashed in on an easy to make joke. Only time will tell.
Whether he sinks or swims, Colbert is retiring the alter-ego after 17 years. Some will immortalize the caricature as legend, and others dismiss it as a cheap gimmick. Underneath it all is a man the world will meet for the first time in 2015.