Late Night Television

Published on February 20th, 2012 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Colbert Addresses Absence Upon Return to Report

Stephen Colbert returned to the set of the Colbert Report Monday after two abruptly-cancelled tapings last week, addressing his real-life family emergency at the top of the show.

“Hi!  How’ve you been?  Before we start the broadcast tonight I just want to address my recent absence from the national conversation. As the hub around which the Republic turns, I can understand why the machinery of this great nation ground to a halt last week when you were denied THIS.  I’m sure you felt the same way I do when I’m in a room with no mirrors,” he said.

He went on to jokingly address the “wild rumors” surrounding his absence, which ranged from plastic surgery to rehab.

“Others said because I said I offended the Catholic church when I compared the Pope’s hat to a giant yet stylish prophylactic.”

“Rumors quelled, moving on,” he said before hesitating.

“Oh, one more thing. Evidentally, having 11 children makes you tough as nails.  Confidential for a lovely lady.”

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After days of speculation and reports from unofficial sources, this was the first time he acknowledged that the family emergency alluded to in his weekend Tweet was indeed related to the health of his 91 year old mother, Lorna.

Despite the pressure to address the situation, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Colbert chose to speak this directly about the absence. Aside from being a difficult event to address via his alter ego, the real Colbert attempts to keep his family life private as much as possible.

With very little in the way of official news through Comedy Central, viewers have been sending their regards via Twitter. Some fans have taken more organized approaches to their well-wishing, such as starting a donation pool to fund a flower delivery or a charity donation — all with positive intentions, but arguably varied in appropriateness.

Third Beat hereby offers the following suggestion to fans wanting to reach out:

Most performers will attest to the power of a performance high in alleviating pain, whether it’s physical or emotional.

In May of 2011, Colbert told a studio audience after the cameras stopped rolling that he’d been suffering from back spasms and vertigo, and said “having all of your joy, and your energy, made it all okay. When you were laughing, I didn’t feel the pain at all…. So thank you for your joy.”

While public concern is understandable (and clearly very appreciated by Colbert), returning to work this week giving audiences a show probably benefits him more than any fan-driven campaign could.

So the best thing his fans can do for him?  You’re already doing it.

EDIT: Colbert’s “books” referred to in tonight’s interview? One is the follow-up to 2007′s I Am America (And So Can You), entitled America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, due out in October. The other is the previously-imaginary children’s book that Stephen pitched on the show, called I Am A Pole (And So Can You!), due out in May.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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