Friday, December 7, 2012

Funniest Man in the Room Nerd Crush: Stephen Colbert

by Sara N.

I've been promising to catalogue my love of one Stephen T. Colbert for a while now, and this week seems like the week to do it, as Colbert has just finished his blindingly brilliant Hobbit Week on The Colbert Report. Between his nerdy background, his geeky pursuits, his devilishly clever humor and his overall good guy-ness, Colbert is a worthy nerd crush.

Colbert's Hobbit Week was a delight for fans of the books, the movies and The Colbert Report. This week on the show, which featured Middle-earth-inspired opening credits, Colbert smoked wizard weed, vanished with the help of the One Ring, and pointed out that Pater Jackson once said Colbert was the biggest Tolkien geek Jackson had ever met. In the interview portions, an obviously delighted Colbert chatted with Jackson, Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis about the films and the source material, and each interview was funny, chatty and informative. Colbert isn't exaggerating his Tolkien knowledge, or his Tolkien love. If you missed any of the shows this week, you can catch the highlights here. (My favorite was the one with Freeman, but really, you can't go wrong with any of them.)

OK, so Colbert is king Tolkien nerd. But he's so much more than that, too. Consider the many, many nerdy pursuits he's featured on his show. In 2006, Colbert  released video of himself playing with a toy lightsaber in front of a green screen and asked his viewers to create clever videos with it. You can see some of the best results hereColbert also frequently lobbies for naming rights to different animals and objects, and his television platform and vocal fanbase tend to make it happen. As such, he's got his own spider species named after him (Aptostichus stephencolberti), and NASA named a treadmill on its international space station COLBERT, for Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. (These are his nerdiest namesakes; he's got a host of other things that bear his name.)

Colbert is a former D&D player who can drop more gaming knowledge on you than you could roll a 20-sided die at, and he has on multiple occasions experienced a Quickening after absorbing a foe's power, a la Highlander. So mighty a patriot (and geek) is Colbert that Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada gifted Colbert with Captain America's shield. As you can hear in the clip below, it's clear that I'm not the only lady harboring pro-Colbert thoughts.

Setting aside Colbert's occasional bouts of televised nerdiness, there's much to admire on The Colbert Report itself. Colbert uses his television platform to educate his audience and make his political points with over-the-top humor. Consider the Colbert Super PAC, which he established to point out the flaws in the country's campaign finance laws. It raised more than $1 million, and Colbert won a Peabody Award for the "innovative means" of educating his viewers about the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision. In general, Colbert's earnest conservative persona on his show is a brilliant way to get people engaged in complicated political, financial and legal issues that the public simply must understand. His critique of modern punditry is both devastating and spot-on hilarious, particularly his criticism of the fast-and-loose approach to facts many politicians and pundits embrace. Truthiness, as Colbert defines it, is knowing something emotionally without regards to facts or evidence. It's a dangerous trend in our political leaders, and Colbert spoofs it through his character's trademark blow-hard cluelessness. Is there any better way to educate than through humor?

Photo source 
Colbert also supports worthwhile causes; in 2009, Colbert sat in a specially-made 7-foot-tall chair to read "The Story of Ferdinand" out loud to kick off the Montclair Public Library children's read-aloud marathon. Another nerd crush-worthy aspect of Colbert is his genuine delight when appearing publicly with his family. I mean, look to the left. Who looks more excited, Colbert or his kids? It's almost as endearing as his big, goofy white shoes, dad-style polo shirt, and khaki shorts.

More than anything else, Colbert comes across as a wickedly smart and dizzyingly funny guy who's innately decent, making jokes with warmth and affection that keep his barbs from stinging. He's tickled by the celebrities who appear on his show, and that enthusiasm is contagious. He's your average Tolkien-loving, light saber-swinging, politics-educating, self-deprecating funny man, and you should consider him for the position of your new nerd crush. 

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