If you've been waiting for the inevitable, in-depth profile of Stephen Colbert to hit newsstands and reveal how the 47-year-old comedian deals with his alter ego(s), you're in luck thanks to The New York Times Magazine. An opus about Colbert by Charles McGrath is due out this Sunday, but like any smart magazine should do, NYTM just posted online for the bloggers to pick over between now and the weekend. Curiously titled "How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?" the piece goes into thrilling detail about how Colbert the actor became Colbert the character, who is increasingly blurring the lines between television and reality. It's awesome. If you're short on time and want to cut to the chase, you're in luck here at The Atlantic Wire. For your skimming pleasure, we offer the six best things we learned about a man McGrath says is a "Republican superhero."
1. Steven Colbert is an "extremely normal" guy. According one neighbor, the actor is just like you. Except for the whole multiple personalities thing, we guess.
2. Stephen Colbert is affecting political change. The main focus of the sprawling exploration of the many Stephens is on the Colbert super-PAC ("a real one, with real money," McGrath writes) called Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Of the recent move into politics, Colbert told the magazine, "This is 100 percent legal and at least 10 percent ethical." Of the very real money he's collecting, Colbert said, "Citizens United said that transparency would be the disinfectant, but (c)(4)’s are warm, wet, moist incubators. There is no disinfectant." It's unclear if he's kidding.
3. Stephen Colbert is good at Google. We mean this more literally than you might think:
Colbert says that education isn’t his aim with the super PAC -- being funny is. Nevertheless, he proudly showed me that if you Google the phrase "super PAC," his name is one of the first that shows up, and the evolution of his super PAC has lately been the show's big, ongoing narrative. As Potter pointed out, when Colbert began his super PAC, he wasn't sure how a super PAC worked; he just knew he wanted one. Now he is full of plans, most of them confidential, for more "grand actions," as he calls them.
4. Stephen Colbert is an international sensation. Something else we didn't know is that the Colbert Nation is going international. "There would have been a bridge in Hungary named after him, after he encouraged his followers to submit his name in an online contest, but government officials decided at the last minute that the winner could not be living or someone not fluent in Hungarian," explains McGrath.
5. Stephen Colbert is not Ali G. Seriously, he's more of a straight-shooter than that British guy:
Colbert is not Ali G. He doesn’t sandbag the unsuspecting. And he is particularly careful to visit guests beforehand in the green room and prepare them for what’s going to happen. When John Lithgow was on recently to promote his new memoir, "Drama," Colbert warned him that his character would become the biggest jerk Lithgow had ever met. "Just pretend I’m the drunk in a bar who won't shut up," he said.
6. Stephen Colbert, deep down, is a huge sweetheart. The one quote from Colbert that seemed like it came straight from the heart is actually pretty heart-wrenching. In explaining his feelings about a plane crash that killed his father and two brothers, Peter and Paul, when he was only 10, Colbert says, "There's a common explanation that profound sadness leads to someone’s becoming a comedian, but I’m not sure that’s a proven equation in my case … I’m not bitter about what happened to me as a child, and my mother was instrumental in keeping me from being so. … She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain — it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice."