?Stephen Colbert is a nerd’s nerd, having played D&D as a kid and developed an impressive knowledge of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, among other things. As an alumnus of Second City, Strangers with Candy, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he’s had quite a few opportunities during his career to let his geek flag fly. If you recall, he was also featured in part two of TR’s list of celebrity nerds, but by far the ultimate platform for his nerdery is The Colbert Report, a faux-conservative spinoff of The Daily Show. As the show gained momentum since its debut in 2005, so did the more-than-occasional coverage of Stephen’s awesome nerdiness. Here’s a list of the ten nerdiest moments of the show, which were difficult to narrow down due to the sheer volume of them. Any of these moments would be enough to make us non-famous nerds positively green with envy, but don’t worry – I’ve also compiled a simple three-step system any of us can use to achieve the same kind of nerdy success:
? Step One: Get your own TV show to publicly demonstrate your nerd worthiness.
? Step Two: Abandon your pride and beg for what you want.
? Step Three: Profit!
Good luck with that.
10) Stephen Has a Spider Species Named After Him
Sure, it’s kind of cool to have baby bald eagles, sea turtles, or hockey team mascots named after you – but those are just individual animals (or freakish costume adaptations of them). The true path to animal-naming immortality is to get an entire species named after you! After Stephen heard about a biologist who had named a species of spider after Canadian rock star Neil Young, he just had to have the same honor for himself – and all it took was some shameless begging on a late-night cable TV show. So Stephen had an arachnology jargon-filled conversation with biologist Jason Bond, who graciously allowed Stephen to choose from a variety of trapdoor spider species – one of which became Aptostichus stephencolberti. You arachnophobes may need to look away, or at least remind yourselves that spiders in video clips, while scary, can’t really get you. It’s the one crawling up your leg that you need to worry about.
9) Stephen Calls Out CNN for Mistaking a Balrog for the Devil
True to his nature as a nerd, Stephen couldn’t let CNN get away with using a visual representation of a Balrog from a 1970s Lord of the Rings calendar as a stand-in for Satan during a lame filler-story about the significance of the number 666 (CNN aired this June 6, 2006). He dedicated a few minutes from his show the next day to explain – in detail – the differences between Balrogs and the Prince of Darkness. This is a nerd win on a few different levels: religious nerdery, LOTR nerdery, and the nit-picking compulsion that we all seem to have when we see or hear someone getting something terribly, terribly wrong. You keep picking those nits, Stephen!
8) Stephen Gets a Free iPhone
Most gadget nerds were practically drooling in anticipation of the release of Apple’s iPhone. Stephen was no exception – cue the shameless begging! These two clips capture both the joy of receiving something cool and electronic to play with, and the agony of finding out that the damn thing doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, even if it does make delicious salsa. Those nerds of you who are so inclined will have fun with the binary code runners toward the bottom of the screen. Stephen had similar joy when he received a free iPad later.
7) Stephen Gets a Space Station Treadmill Named After Him
In his on-going quest to get things named after him, Stephen exercised the awesome power of his audience to vote in an online poll NASA was running in order to name a new international space-station node. As you’ll see in the clip, Colbert won the poll, with Serenity trailing in second place. NASA naturally reserved the right to make the ultimate decision and decided to name the node Tranquility instead (Come on, NASA! Even Serenity wasn’t good enough?). However, they did deign to name a treadmill after Stephen, complete with creating a patch and a complex acronym to fit his last name: COLBERT (Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill). As awesome and nerdy as that is, I hope I’m not the only one feeling just a little disappointment at knowing that there’s not currently an object in space officially called “Fart Monkey.”
6) Stephen “Wins” Twitter
Stephen raised the bar for both social networking nerds and celebrities by being awarded “The Golden Tweet” by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Stephen’s tweet about oil-soaked birds in the Gulf of Mexico became the most re-Tweeted Tweet of 2010. Stephen, of course, accepted the award with all of the grace that goes along with rubbing his victory in the faces of Ashton Kutcher and Kanye West, who (let’s face it) are really not interesting at all but seem to have a lot of followers. Will he take it again for 2011? Only time will tell. This clip is also notable for Matt Damon asking Stephen to use his Twitter followers to plug a charity, and Stephen taking the opportunity to tell him to go to hell – twice!
5) Stephen Is Written Into The Amazing Spider-Man as a Presidential Candidate
Stephen’s short-lived 2008 Presidential campaign (more on this later) continued in The Amazing Spider-Man comic universe, starting with a few background campaign billboards and culminating in an extended appearance with everyone’s favorite web-slinging superhero (issue #573). Marvel Comics editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada himself, came on The Colbert Report to discuss Stephen’s appearances and congratulate him on his continued fictional campaign success. As cool as it is to be in the running for President in the Marvel universe, this clip leads to a much more important and enduring question: if YOU were to run for president, who would you pick as your running mate? I think Iron Man’s alter ego, Tony Stark, would set you up nicely for campaign financing, but you’d probably have to deal with a higher-than-usual amount of scandal. Whereas the Hulk would just be awesome!
4) Stephen Gets Captain America’s Shield
Stephen ended this edition of The Colbert Report with a letter from Joe Quesada, informing Stephen that as editor-in-chief of Marvel, he is the executor of Marvel characters’ estates. Apparently Captain America willed his shield to uber-patriot Stephen, as he saw that he was the only man to possess the “red, white and blue balls to carry the mantle.” Stephen treats this moment with all the dignity it deserves, pledging to only use the shield to fight for justice – and to impress girls. The shield now rests in a place of prominence on the set of the show. Cap would be proud.
3) Stephen Absorbs Lou Dobbs’ Audience with a Quickening
When Lou Dobbs finally hung up his spurs at CNN, Stephen – knowing that “there can be only one” – seized his chance to absorb Lou Dobbs’ audience and opinions with much blowing of leaves and lightning effects in a classic send-up of the Highlander film and series we all know and love. It was enough to make the entire clan McLeod proud. You’ll notice that the sword he’s holding looks suspiciously like a replica of Aragorn’s sword Narsil/Anduril from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, but I’m prepared to let that slide. Stephen’s experienced Quickenings on two other occasions: once when he absorbed movie critic Gene Shalit’s puns (and mustache), and once when he attempted to absorb Keith Olbermann’s opinions after he left MSNBC. Sadly, Stephen’s body rejected them.
2) Stephen Gets a Sign to Run for President
Having dropped numerous hints throughout 2007 (and in his book I Am America – And So Can You!) about a possible Presidential run, Stephen finally begged on-air for a sign that he should declare his candidacy. He got one in the form of Viggo Mortensen, who had reprised his role and costume as Aragorn specifically to surrender his sword to Stephen. Armed with a large enough letter-opener to accommodate the flood of encouraging fan mail, Stephen attempted to run on both the Democratic and Republican tickets in his home state of South Carolina. Unfortunately, the Democrats declared him ineligible and the Republicans wanted oodles of money to get on the ticket, so Stephen’s campaign died a quick death (except in the Marvel universe!).
1) George Lucas Is Runner-Up in the Green Screen Challenge
In 2006, Stephen filmed himself wielding a light saber in front of a green screen, and issued a video-making challenge to his viewers. Well, there were many impressive and hilarious submissions, but Stephen finally narrowed it down to two: a clever patriotic video game created by Bonnie R., and a Star Wars video created by George L. Stephen judged them both on-air, and though George Lucas was there in person, it was Bonnie who took the title of number one!
While George had all of the advantages of access to a major effects department and ownership of an entire franchise, his video also included Jar Jar Binks, which is minus fifty billion points right there. George soon got over it, though, and the show ended with a light saber duel between him and Stephen in a massive crescendo of nerdiness.