First an understudy for Steve Carrell at Chicago's famed Second City improv theatre, Northwestern grad Stephen Colbert went on to work with fellow comedians Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris on the popular cult series "Strangers With Candy" before going on to become one of the most popular elements of the Jon Stewart-hosted news/comedy series, "The Daily Show", where he worked as a correspondent. Colbert recently announced that he will be running for President in 2008 and will run in the South Carolina primary as a Democrat and a Republican.
"The Daily Show" eventually became such a smash for Comedy Central that it became apparent that there was demand enough for a spin-off, and it was Colbert who took the lead as "The Colbert Report" was born. The series has become just as popular as the original, as some of Colbert's "terms" have even been recognized by national media, such as "truthiness" (a word brought up in the first episode), which was recognized by the American Dialect Society as its 2005 Word of the Year and beat "Google" as Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year.
The series generally follows a similar structure (hosting bits, mock interviews with politicans and others and occasional sketches) to "The Daily Show", although Colbert certainly has a different energy and personality than Stewart. Like Steve Carrell, only bone-dry and laced with some well-intentioned sarcasm, Colbert's brilliant deadpan and swift improv skills make the intelligent series deeply hysterical and occasionally, even a bit informative.
Some of the highlights here include: Colbert's first mention of "Truthiness", "Better Know a District" (including Colbert responding to Nancy Pelosi's challenge that he would not be able to interview every Member of Congress), a guest appearance by George Lucas (Colbert to Lucas: "Have you always been a fan of 'Star Wars'"?); singing a "peace treaty" with the guy who "stole" his Emmy (Barry Manilow), an interview with Bill O'Reilly (O'Reilly's new book is presented with a 30% off sticker over his face on the cover), "Cooking With Feminists" (a cooking segment with Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinhem), "Gravitas" (Colbert and Stone Phillips work on their gravitas), Stephen Jr.'s adventures (an eagle named after Colbert), "A Rare Correction" and others.
Unfortunately for fans, "The Colbert Report" is not being released in a season set, but instead, we get this nearly 3-hour long "best of" program that goes through tons of the show's most favorite bits. While fans would likely have rather had seasons, one has to admit that three hours is a bit more than the usual hour-long "best of"s that are usually offered up to fans. Either way, this is great material and hopefully there will be more "Colbert Report" DVDs to come.
VIDEO: "Colbert Report" episodes are presented here in 1.33:1 full-frame by Paramount, the show's original aspect ratio. The DVD presentation wasn't without a few minor concerns (some slight shimmer and occasional traces of artifacting), but sharpness and detail remained satisfactory throughout the show. Colors remained bright and well-saturated at all times, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, this was about digital cable broadcast quality.
SOUND: The show is presented with a crisp stereo soundtrack.
Final Thoughts: Lead by a magnificently funny performance by host Stephen Colbert, "The Colbert Report" is witty, fast and hilarious. While the first DVD release of the show is sadly not a full season set, this nearly 3-hour program is packed with some of the show's best moments. Recommended.