Late Night Television

Published on February 27th, 2012 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Colbert Report: Best Videos of the First 1,000 Episodes

The Colbert Report marks its 1,000th episode this week, and Third Beat is celebrating in Colbert-esque big-thinkin’ style by recapping 100 of the show’s best clips of the past 6 1/2 years. We’re looking at the most important and most ridiculous, with and without a point — because nobody says satire always has to have an impact.

Say goodbye to your productivity, America. THIS is a ridiculously ambitious tribute to the Colbert Report.

Special thanks to writer and Report expert Remy Maisel for her assistance in compiling these lists.

Best Interviews

One-on-one, anything can happen.

10) Elijah Wood (November 15, 2011) – Stephen visited the set of the Hobbit, and keeping secrets is killing him.

9) Philip Zimbardo (February 11, 2008) – One thing you don’t try to do? Debate Stephen on religion. Because he teaches Sunday School, motherf*cker.

8) Eleanor Holmes Norton (July 27, 2006) – The show has had Holmes-Norton on the show several times, her mock disgust making her the perfect sparring partner for Stephen.

7) Dan Savage (July 12, 2011) – A little silly, a little dirty.

6) Robert Wexler (July 20, 2006) – Prompting a media freak-out, Stephen successfully convinces Wexler to say he enjoys cocaine and hookers “because it’s a fun thing to do”.

5) Bill O’Reilly (January 18, 2007) – Bill’s strategy of keeping his punditry at bay during this much-hyped interview culminates in a claim that he’s a really sensitive guy, and “this is all an act”.  Stephen quickly retorts with the now-classic line, “but if you’re an act, then what am I?”

4) Ambassador Andrew Young (January 22, 2008) – During the WGA strike, Young lends his labor negotiations expertise. As explained in this video, Young helped settle a 1969 hospital workers strike alongside Stephen’s late father. A great interview made better by this surprise merging of character history and actual history.

3) Amy Sedaris (July 10, 2006) – Strangers With Candy fans rejoiced when Amy was joined by Paul Dinello, and the trio dusted off their tumbling routine from their Second City days.

2) Jane Fonda (May 9, 2007) – Few women can render Stephen this speechless.

1) Gorillaz (April 22, 2010) – “Stephen’s” soft-spoken alter ego – clad in Colbert’s real-life street clothes – interviews the real guys behind the fake band. For a show that creates its own rules as it goes, this had even the most laid-back viewers asking “wait… can they do that?”

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Best Screwups & Character Breaks

Whether breaking a prop or breaking character, sometimes it’s the flaws that are remembered most.

10) Chewing Tobacco (September 29, 2009)Oh, the things you learn about the effects of chewing tobacco.

9) Threatdown – Blender (October 17, 2007) – After a long set-up, Stephen panics when the payoff is DOA, making for an even better Threatdown closer than what was scripted.

8) Louis Vuitton balloon (December 7, 2010) – You have to feel bad for whoever went to the trouble of getting that balloon made. Never mind whoever wrote the next minute of material.

7) Stephen breaks the drone (July 27, 2011) – Despite practicing, and trying his very best, Stephen crashes his guest’s pet project.

6) Grit-Off (October 31, 2007) – A mousetrap used in the previous segment is left on the desk, and Stephen’s fingers get a little too close. Hilarious?  Unquestionably. An accident?  Watch and decide.

5) Planned Parenthood / Walgreens (November 4, 2011) – What can’t you get at Walgreens?

4) Threatdown –  Koalas (September 29, 2010) – It seems as though Stephen didn’t see this mock-up in advance. That’s frequently-Photoshopped segment producer Matt Lappin executing the perfect “how YOU doin’?” look.

3) Cheating Death – Vacsa-Notmasturbating (April 25, 2011) – One assumes Matt Lappin is thinking about koalas.

2) Stephen’s Laws of Love (February 9, 2006) – The first major character break that aired, and a jarring contrast against the rigidity of Stephen’s character in those early episodes.

1) Munchma Quchi (August 4, 2011) – So much collective giddiness over a few silly entendres.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Super PAC – The Heroes Respond
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Best Musical Moments

Stephen proves he isn’t just the voice of truthiness – he can also belt one out with the best of ‘em. Due to music rights issues, no longer hosts many of these videos; the links provided below are from various (but safe) sources.

10) Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Colbert (July 30, 2008) – Stephen joins CSN for a rendition of Teach Your Children Well.

9) Placido Domingo (February 23, 2012) – Stephen holds his own – at least in the pronunciation department – during La Donna Il Mobile.

8) Elvis Costello – All I Have To Do Is Dream (November 4, 2010) – Surprisingly emotional rendition of the Everly Brothers classic.

7) Barry Manilow – I Write the Songs (October 30, 2006) – Stephen nearly out-schmaltzes Manilow.

6) Jimmy Fallon (March 3, 2011) – Stephen and Jimmy take a musical ice cream trip, and become best friends for six months.

5) Hip Hopketball (March 14, 2006) – Stephen combines basketball and music.

4) Stephen & The Colberts – Charlene (February 9, 2006) – Stephen’s tribute to the object of his stalking.

3) Rick Neilson, Peter Frampton, Decemberists (December 20, 2006) – An all-star version of the Report themesong.

2) John Legend – The Girl is Mine (March 6, 2008) – Colbert channels Paul McCartney to fight John Legend over who loves the Statue of Liberty more.

1) Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind (December 15, 2009) – Playing off his suggestion in the earlier interview that she include a verse about suburban life, Stephen joins Keys for an adapted version of her hit single. Between the sharp writing, the high energy, and the joy shared by all involved (that band is happy), it was a great way to close out 2009.


Best Looks

Amazing how much Stephen can transform himself just by getting out of the suit.

10) Better Know A Founder – Benjamin Franklin (March 1, 2006)Very dapper.

9) Roman armor (June 7,2007)Stephen dresses the part to talk about the Roman Empire. Handcrafted by fan Matt Poitras, who was told that Stephen wore the armor around the office for a day and a half.

8) Post Yacht race (May 31, 2011) – After spending a week on the high seas without a razor, Stephen shows off his saltiness.

7) Ricky Martin is Gay (March 30, 2010) – Stephen’s Stossel-like qualities from his newsman past take on a more flamboyant flavor.

6) How to get the Job (October 26, 2009) – Stephen offers to help you get a job, and dresses for the part.

5) Bobsled (December 10, 2009) – A spandex onesie that puts the “oh!” on Olympics.

4) Feist’s jumpsuit (April 28, 2008 – Culturebully link) – Feist brings Stephen a replica of her blue sequin costume from the 1-2-3-4 video, and he fills it out quite nicely.

3) Esteban Colberto (August 11, 2008) – The host of the Colbert Report’s sister show south of the border bears a striking resemblance to Colbert.

2) Jack White (June 23, 2011) – Stephen pulls off the goth look.  Almost.

1) Speedskating (January 20, 2010) – Stephen goes up against Shani Davis in spectacular style, matched only by his spectacular fail.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Skate Expectations – Speedskating Team Training – Colbert vs. Davis
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Best Purely Silly Moments

Well-crafted satire is great ‘n all, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a grown man sacrifice his dignity for our entertainment.

10) Inauguration Breakdown (January 20, 2009) – Brings a new meaning to the phrase “ugly cry”.

9) Gogurt (November 16, 2011) – Nothing says “dedication to your art” like risking your eyelids being fused together with Tricalcium Phosphate.

8) The Word – Ablacknophobia (February 25, 2009) – NSFA (Not Safe For Arachnophobes).

7) Fingerprint Ink (January 16, 2006)After voluntarily taking his fingerprints to send in to the government, Stephen forgets where his hands have been.

6) Gene Shalit (November 11, 2010) – Stephen gets punny.

5) Stephie’s Knicks (June 30, 2010) – Try as he might, Stephen isn’t destined to be a Knick.

4) Fancy Feast (May 11, 2009) – You think it can’t be real. But then you look closely, and realize it can’t not be.

3) Vaxi-Mime (January 6, 2011)If Stephen did more of this, maybe people wouldn’t hate mimes.

2) Broccoli/Marshmallow (June 14, 2011) – A handy resource for when you find yourself in a dry discussion about the nuances of modern theatrical clown (and really, who hasn’t been there?). Alternatively, enjoyable as the goofy bit that it is.

1) Starbucks Withdrawal (February 27, 2008)Wonderfully high-concept illustration of the character’s weaknesses.

Best Yes-Anding

Starring an improviser, and written by improvisers, the Report lives by the rule of “yes and”.  Here are the best examples of offer-accepting on the part of the audience and of Stephen.

10) 2008 Presidential run (November 1, 2007) – Stephen ponders a run for President, and is egged on all the way.

9) Crop picking (September 23, 2010) – When Arturo Rodriguez of the United Farm Workers Union offered Stephen the opportunity to work the fields, he became one of the few people ever to say “yes”. Stephen later testified before Congress about this experience.

8) Hungarian Bridge (September 14, 2006) – Hungarians propose naming a bridge after Chuck Norris, but wouldn’t it be better if it were named after Stephen?  The Nation says “yes”.

7) Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle (October 3, 2006) – The Nation vote-bombed the Saginaw Spirit hockey team’s website to name their new mascot after Stephen – so now they’d better get it together.

6) Wriststrong Bracelets (August 20, 2007) – After breaking his wrist, Stephen encourages his audience to snap up his Wriststrong bracelets. They did, and almost five years later, they’re still being given away to lucky audience members.

5) 1-888-OOPS-JEW (September 15, 2010) – The annual “atone phone” attracts messages from viewers and celebrities alike.

4) Greenscreen Challenge (August 21, 2006) – When Stephen does a bit infront of a greenscreen, viewers take it upon themselves to work some chroma key magic. The logical way to heighten this? Make it competitive.

3) Rally to Restore Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive (September 16, 2010) – Even though plans were already secretly underway, Stephen’s friends on “the Reddits” banded together to make the Rally a reality. Over 200,000 fans would converge on Washington for the event.

2) Operation Iraqi Stephen (June 11, 2009) –  When former Assistant Secretary of Defense Bing West put forth the idea in a post-interview chat, Stephen’s instinctually said “yes” and pulled off an ambitious week of shows from one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces.

1) Colbert SuperPAC (February 2, 2012) – Stephen lets other people talk about how much money the 31,595 heroes donated to fund his cat-breading efforts.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Super PAC – Thank You
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Best Celebrity Appearances

Cameos, cameos, cameos. (Honourary mention goes to Jon Stewart, not included on this list because he’d take up half the slots.)

10) Jeff Goldblum lives (June 29, 2009) – Stephen squashes a rumor.

9) Steve Martin walk-on (February 4, 2009) – Stephen pulls a Christian Bale on Steve Martin. (Even better: the uncensored version was used in the show’s international edition.)

8) Tom Hanks and USO care packages (June 10, 2009)If anyone knows about long-distance couriering of packages, it’s Tom.

7) Lithgow reads Gingrich (May 19, 2011) – Can you suggest a better way of delivering this statement?

6) Conan O’Brien (February 4, 2008) – While the fake feud during the writers’ strike had its best moments on the Daily Show and Late Night, this chapter in the saga kicks ass as well.

5) Joe Biden (September 8, 2010) – Vice President Biden pops in to serve hotdogs to the troops.

4) Viggo Mortensen (September 13, 2007) – A life-long Lord of the Rings fan on a level incomprehensible to most, Stephen is given the ultimate sign that he should run for president.

3) George Lucas enters Green Screen Challenge (October 11, 2006) – Surely he lost points for including Jar-Jar.

2) Rain Dance-Off (May 5, 2008) – Stephen battles his Korean pop rival.

1) President Barack Obama (June 8, 2009) – President Obama orders General Ray Odierno to shave Stephen’s head on the first night of the show’s tapings in Iraq. (Behind-the-scenes video of filming Obama’s part can be found here.)

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Obama Orders Stephen’s Haircut – Ray Odierno
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Best Supporting Characters

Try has he might, Stephen can’t do everything alone. Sometimes, he relies on his staff members (and one famous comic) for backup.

10) Meg DeFrancesco as Meg the Intern (May 6, 2008) – The frequent victim of Stephen’s sexual harassment.

9) David Cross as Russ Lieber (February 1, 2006)An early recurring leftie character.

8) Peter Grosz – Rickles (September 23, 2008) – Stephen finds a way to blame Peter for his Emmy loss.

7) Frank Lesser as Frank the Roommate (July 30, 2009) Viewers who missed the previous night’s bit about Stephen taking in a roommate had no context for writer Frank Lesser’s presence at the desk – which is part of this gag’s charm.

6) Barry Julien as the Starbucks barista (July 23, 2008) – Ironically, a lot of Canadian television writers do work at Starbucks.  God bless America and their O-1 visas.

5) Peter Gwinn as director “Jimmy” (March 21, 2006) – Gwinn portrays real-life Report director Jim Hoskinson in this employee reviews segment.

4) Jay Katsir as Jay the Intern (June 10, 2010) – Poor Jay.

3) Tom Purcell as Audience Guy Carl (August 24, 2006) – An inspired concept that planted the seeds for a future meme, as years later “audience guy” returned multiple times to be shot in the leg by Stephen’s handgun, Sweetness.

2) Eric Drysdale as Stage Manager Bobby (December 5, 2005) – When Drysdale took a hiatus from the show in 2008, Stephen killed off his Bobby the Stage Manager character and ate him. Drysdale came back, but there are no plans for “Bobby” to return from the dead.

1) Paul Dinello as Tad the Building Manager (July 19, 2006) – Paul and Stephen reprise their sexual tension from their Strangers with Candy days.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Oprah and Gayle
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Best Signoffs

Poor underappreciated Act 4. Elaborate signoffs and “flamesides” (writerspeak for Stephen sitting next to the fake fireplace) have become rare, but here are some gems that made the cut.

10) Captain America Shield  (March 12, 2007)Stephen shows off an impressive addition to his set.

9) Farewell, James Brown (January 9, 2007) – A tribute to the Godfather of Soul.

8) Teleprompter Eulogy (June 28, 2011) – Stephen shares a message from beyond the grave.

7) Future Stephen (October 28, 2009)But if he’s here, then…?

6) Reverse Toss (August 8, 2006)Turnabout is fair play as Stephen finds out what’s coming up on the Daily Show.

5) Stephen wants to hug you (March 16, 2009) – As a commenter on the video’s page correctly points out, it’s hard to determine whether Stephen’s reaction is one of flattery, fear, or both.

4) Cookie Monster (June 19, 2008) – In all fairness, it does look like a cookie.

3) On Letterman… now (June 14, 2006) – Perfect timing: Viewers watching the original airing switched channels right when Stephen snapped his fingers, and watched him walk onto Letterman’s stage.  How’d they do that?

2) Ingmar Bergman (August 2, 2007) – Stephen understands suffering and longing. But how do you bid farewell to a friend?

1) I Have a Dreamsicle (January 16, 2006)Delicious, delicious race relations.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sign Off – I Have a Dreamsicle
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Best Words

The strongest of the Report’s best-known segment.

10) AT & Treason (March 6, 2008) – Privacy? Who needs it?

9) Abortion (January 30, 2006) – Stephen aborts his Abortion Word to go unscripted.

8) Valued Voter (April 17, 2008) – John Edwards steps in to deliver The Word.

7) Gay Gay Gay Gay Gay (November 20, 2005) – Only some gay people are really gay.

6) Kidding (February 7, 2006) – A super-smart, super-meta piece about Muslim-related comedy, and a great example of how much personality the writers used to give “Bullet”.

5) Swift Payment (December 13, 2010)What viewers might not know: the writers use A Modest Proposal as a style guide for the verbal part of The Word.

4) Allison! (September 17, 2009) – Former Executive Producer Allison Silverman gets a sweet sendoff.

3) Wikiality (July 31, 2006) – The Word that spawned a million troublemakers.

2) Sigh (November 8, 2006) – Post-midterms, Stephen’s at a loss for words.

1) Truthiness (October 17, 2005) – The one that started it all, and established the premise by which the show lives.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Truthiness
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

So, Colbert Report-savvy folks: what did we miss?  Let us know in the comments.

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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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  • The Colbert Report A-Z

    Third Beat editor Sharilyn Johnson presents the ultimate fan guide to The Colbert Report, available from all major booksellers including