Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law
One of the first ever Adult Swim shows, Harvey Birdman faced so many production issues that it took the series seven years to release four seasons, but the fantastic writing and stellar voice cast made it worth the wait. Colbert played the non-sequitor machine Phil Ken Sebben to the hilt, seemingly never slowing down to take a breath as he shouted out dirty jokes of some type or other. And Stephen did just as well with villain-turned-lawyer Reducto, with his obsession with constantly shrinking things. Colbert had to leave the show before the final season due to his busy schedule, but he still found time to squeeze his way in to the 2007 finale. Ha ha! Squeeze…
Colbert and his banana on The Daily Show
Before finding his political pundit character for The Report, Colbert spent years on The Daily Show as one of the best correspondents the show ever had. One of the few to make the crossover from Craig Kilborn to John Stewart, Colbert always did stellar work as he began to find his particular political agenda, though the above clip of him breaking up is one that’s been lodged in my brain ever since it aired. The Daily Show didn’t often keep in flubs like this one, which shows just how funny the producers found the scene. Another of Colbert’s early successes at The Daily Show? Interviewing a concerned man worried that orange juice commercials were going to turn people gay.
(Ed. note: I have to imagine that guy has since come out of the closet.)
Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not
After all their work together, Sedaris, Dinello, and Colbert worked together in 2003 to create the humor book/fake travelogue about a town called Wigfield. The small hamlet makes Strangers With Candy look damn friendly by comparison, as Wigfield is full of the most hateful, violent, and clueless group of thugs to ever pretend to be a small town. In the audio version, the trio of actors play all the roles beautifully, Colbert included as both the lead, Russell Hoax, and many of the town’s most enchantingly dangerous residents. Above is a brief clip of Colbert reading the part of Raven, one of Wigfield’s more forgetful strippers. Both print and audio versions are like a whole new season of work from Colbert and his friends, so you need to seek it out if you’ve yet to encounter it before.
The Venture Bros.
In 2004, Colbert joined his second Adult Swim series, this time taking on a parody of Reed Richards on the high adventure satire The Venture Bros. In both the first and second season. Colbert brought tons of smarm and smugness to the character of Richard Impossible, a man too full of himself and in love with science to notice his family imploding, becoming a rather dark recreation of the absent-minded professor of The Fantastic Four. Colbert did two impossibly great episodes of the series before becoming too busy to keep doing the cartoon – or at least that’s what Stephen’s representatives told the Venture Bros. creators. If there was any bad blood over the move, that seems to be cleared up, as Colbert resumed the role in an hour-long special in January 2015. Dare we hope to see him once again in season 6?
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2006
In 2006 The Colbert Report was fairly new, and it’s safe to say it wasn’t the national favorite it would soon come to be after April 29 of that year. That day Stephen Colbert hosted the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, which left fans like myself in shock. Events like this one was where Washington D.C. would gently laugh at themselves, but in 2006 Pres. George W. Bush was so thoroughly protected from difficult questions or direct mockery, that it seemed impossible that Colbert would get to sit within several feet of W. and make fun of him to his stupid face.
Yet that’s exactly what he did. For people like myself who had long since been fed up with Bush, it was a wonderful moment of catharsis seeing Stephen Colbert, in full-on satire mode, take on the posture of a supporter while tearing apart the administration. These couple dozen minutes put Colbert on the map, and in the years since the annual dinner has basically become a staging ground for Obama to create viral videos. But back in 2006, it was a starmaking turn that alerted the world to Colbert’s talent.
Funnily enough, as Stephen Colbert ascends to new heights of fame and success, one of his first guests ever on the Late Show is W.’s similarly dopey brother Jeb. If the above video is anything to go by, I’m hoping Stephen gives Jeb similar treatment, now on his grandest stage to date – yes, even more impressive than C-SPAN. Sure, Colbert may not be the best kept secret of comedy nerds and whiny liberals like myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate his success while also remembering all the work that got him there. Not that he needs the encouragement anyway.