Before you watch this fascinating video of Steve Colbert interviewing -- and utterly bamboozling -- bestselling atheist Sam Harris (The End of Faith), read this post at Althouse: "Colbert and the dissonance between religion and comedy."
If I had not read this post, and the Colbert interviews touching on religion that it links to, I would have assumed, like the friends who are visiting me right now, that Colbert was purely making fun of religion, parodying a fundamentalist believer in Biblical inerrancy. "After all, he was on 'The Daily Show'!" So he must be a straight-up liberal humanist, right? Not exactly.
Professor Althouse, on Stephen's rattling off John 3:16 during his interview with Paul Begala:
I was struck by this moment on the show. The interview was going very well -- Begala speaking crisply (about speaking crisply) and Colbert slipping in perfect zingers. And then Begala wants to use the New Testament to prove a point about how he got through to Clinton. I felt that, reciting the verse, Colbert was not being the Colbert Report character but that his own religion was dictating that he had to say the verse as a demonstration of his own faith, and it wasn't right to fool around with that. I can't say why I feel so sure. The Colbert character would, I think, have been more pleased with himself to know the verse. You'd have felt the preen. I experienced this moment as a startling statement of faith, the kind of thing you don't normally see on TV.
Unless you, y'know, watch one of the six religious channels on your cable, or PAX, or catch a crowd shot in any domestic athletic contest that happens to be on.
Really, now, using a routine on a comedy show to defend your monotheism for you? Isn't that just a tad needy, if not actually sacrilegious? (By the way, it's too bad you ladies missed him bamboozling Peggy Noonan last month.)
Cripes, it's someone who didn't understand the show praising the take of someone who was watching the insides of her eyelids, apparently. Colbert rattled off John 3:16 without looking. So can I. It's not exactly obscure. "That's the Christian sound bite," he told Begala.
There just seems to be no earthly use in trying to explain about acting and movies and fiction and such to these people. Althouse is certainly entitled to her interpretation, but if there's a riskier target than Colbert for analysis by Comcast I'm not sure who it might be. (There was the time, many years ago, when Peewee Herman shared a letter with Dave he'd received after an earlier Letterman appearance. He didn't share the contents with the audience, but the gist was that a doctor had written him informing him that he--Peewee, or Paul, it was unclear if the letter writer even understood this was an act--was suffering from some syndrome or other, involving the gonads, no doubt, that caused extended juvenile traits in men.)
I've known several actors, working actors, students, acting teachers, who could, and did, do exactly what Colbert does on his show: slip into an obvious character at once convincing and recognizable as parody, especially if you knew their real opinions. Hell, I had a teacher in high school who was also a part-time actor/director, and a fake persona was practically his only public persona. For that matter, I--no thespian--became aware in sixth grade, when we had to read a story to the class every week, that I had a talent for deadpan comedy, which coupled with a frightening Germanic visage got me exactly nowhere, but could be used to get people to leave me alone. It's called acting.
And that's what Colbert does, and he's found a remarkable fit for his talents. So did Steve Carrell, but you don't hear a lot of microencephalic bloggers insisting he must be a secret pinhead.