Just a quick note here. Hello to everyone stopping by from Open Book and Catholic and Loving It. I’ve added a new page at the top: “Past Highlights” kicks off with the Formidable Opponents Stem Cell debate. And I couldn’t wait for the weekend for a rerun so I changed the page to “Reruns”
Finally, marketers do demographic studies, so I wasn’t surprised to see that DirecTV has been running a spot for its broadcast of the Mass from the Basilica of Sacred Heart at Notre Dame just before the end of the Colbert Report, at least on the 8:00 reruns.
Honoring Stephen’s expectation during Monday’s show that Knox College simply rerun his commencement speech from 2006, I wanted to highlight here both his story about Jesus and comedy and also his fine advice to the graduates:
I wanted to say something about the Umberto Eco quote that was used earlier from The Name of the Rose. That book fascinated me because in it these people are killed for trying to get out of this library a book about comedy, Aristotle’s Commentary on Comedy. And what’s interesting to me is one of the arguments they have in the book is that comedy is bad because nowhere in the New Testament does it say that Jesus laughed. It says Jesus wept, but never did he laugh.
But, I don’t think you actually have to say it for us to imagine Jesus laughing. In the famous episode where there’s a storm on the lake, and the fishermen are out there. And they see Jesus on the shore, and Jesus walks across the stormy waters to the boat. And St. Peter thinks, “I can do this. I can do this. He keeps telling us to have faith and we can do anything. I can do this.” So he steps out of the boat and he walks for—I don’t know, it doesn’t say—a few feet, without sinking into the waves. But then he looks down, and he sees how stormy the seas are. He loses his faith and he begins to sink. And Jesus hot-foots it over and pulls him from the waves and says, “Oh you of little faith.” I can’t imagine Jesus wasn’t suppressing a laugh. How hilarious must it have been to watch Peter—like Wile E. Coyote—take three steps on the water and then sink into the waves….
So, say “yes.” In fact, say “yes” as often as you can. When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, “yes-and.” In this case, “yes-and” is a verb. To “yes-and.” I yes-and, you yes-and, he, she or it yes-ands. And yes-anding means that when you go onstage to improvise a scene with no script, you have no idea what’s going to happen, maybe with someone you’ve never met before. To build a scene, you have to accept. … You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. And through these agreements, you can improvise a scene or a one-act play. And because, by following each other’s lead, neither of you are really in control. It’s more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in a scene is often as much a surprise to you as it is to the audience.
Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say “yes.” And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say “yes” back.
Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”
You know what’s coming, don’t you? As someone said on YouTube a day ago, “This never gets old. Never.” So many people have stopped by to see the site in the last day or two that I just feel like singing and dancing. But I’ll let Stephen do it instead. Oh, and by the way, before you watch it a second or third time, check out the updated links at the top of the page (”Key Interviews” and “Stephen in the Blogosphere”).
How did I not see that coming? Stephen has the “definitive” coverage of the thwarted disturbance during the pope’s weekly audience. “Whenever anything happens to the pope, people ask me to interpret it. I’m kind of like the Pope’s pope.”
“As you all know, I’m huge in the Catholic community. I’m not saying I’m bigger than Jesus, but I think it’s fair to say I’m bigger than some of the minor saints.” The episode guide is up at NoFactZone with a link to St. Hubert of Liege, patron saint of dog bites.
Loved the reference to the hybrid jeep: “The little wheel turns by faith and the big wheel turns by the grace of God.”
In the interview with Cullen Murphy, he had a wonderful misquote of Scripture: “Render unto Caesar what it Caesars and the private sector what is the private sector’s.”
Not much to say, except that it’s been a great week of shows. Stephen’s character continues to develop and deepen and not incidentally just gets funnier all the time. It will be interesting to see whether tonight’s show, with the pope, a smattering of Latin, and Roman military dress will spark another round of “Hey, Stephen Colbert is Catholic” from the blogosphere.
Silliness is a great way to point up the tendency to trivialize religion. Stephen tackled the Democrats’ predictably soft responses to questions about faith in an interview on The Situation Room, particularly Hilary’s discomfort with “advertising” her religious beliefs. His response? “Advertising your faith is easy: Jesus—now with 25% more peanuts. Was that so hard?” Ridiculous? Of course. But the perfect response to a forced and superficial discussion of faith and religion with the candidates just because someone (the media? candidates playing to the religious vote?) has decided that it should be a defining issue in the campaign. And in response to Hilary’s fluffy remark about praying to lose weight? “Senator Clinton, the Lord responds to all prayers, but sometimes his answer is donuts.” A bit of levity to remind us to keep our focus on the real issues. A leader’s faith can influence the decisions he or she makes. But the kind of faith that can do that isn’t going to be neatly packaged by the newsmongers. Other examples include Barack Obama’s consideration of just war and John Edward’s confession of being a daily sinner.
“The Bible says ‘Rule over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and every living creature that crawls on the earth.’ So I do. Otherwise animals would never go to church on their own. I take them every Sunday. You cannot believe how squirmy pelicans get during the Eucharist.”
Oh the sheer silliness of it! This was the introduction last night to “When Animals Attack Our Morals,” a story about two “dude” flamingoes raising a chick from an abandoned egg, apparently the latest in a series of young these birds have raised.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Stephen and his writers chose a pelican. And perhaps not….. From Wikipedia:
In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican became a symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Eucharist. It also became a symbol in bestiaries for self-sacrifice, and was used in heraldry (”a pelican in her piety” or “a pelican vulning (wounding) herself”). Another version of this is that the pelican used to kill its young and then resurrect them with its blood, this being analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus.
I admit it. These are among the moments I revel in when I’m watching The Colbert Report, subtle little analogies whose meaning isn’t essential but which add a depth to the humor for those who get it.
We also had a cameo appearance by The God Machine for fans of Stephen’s work on The Daily Show and his regular segment This Week in God.
Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, offered the opportunity for yet another discussion of God’s existence and Stephen’s uncanny ability to mix the automatic fundamentalist response of his character, a more subtle reflection of his own just beneath the surface:
God invented us, we invented God back, we just paid the favor back. He’s eternally existing whether or not we believe in him. We created our knowledge of him, we created our acceptance of him, but God was there outside of time whether or not we believe in him.
Mr. Botstein proved to be a good humored and intelligent sparring partner for Stephen.
Not for Stephen Colbert, although possibly for his stubbornly one-sided persona, whose ignorance is only exceeded by his arrogance. At Book Expo America this past Saturday to promote his upcoming book, Colbert had this to say in response to a thoughtful question during the Q_A:
“I’m really interested in religion, I’m really interested in science. As someone who was raised by a mother who was a mystical Catholic and a father who was an immunologist, those things mix in me in a really interesting way, I think, and it’s a nice combination. It doesn’t make you immune to mysticism, unfortunately.”
I couldn’t resist using this for my inaugural post. It’s a theme that runs through many of his conversations with those who interview him out of character and it provides the foundation for his brilliant and often biting satire. Through the laughter, we find ourselves thinking about the issues he raises night after night.
Major tip of the hat to No Fact Zone for covering the run-up to Stephen’s appearance BEA. Their own correspondent WordsWithGrace asked the fine question at the breakfast.