Stephen Colbert Birthplace Washington, D.C.

Stephen Colbert Birthplace Washington, D.C., From the time he first had ambitions to perform, Stephen Colbert had wanted to not just play, but be Hamlet. Indeed, the comedian famous for his well-intentioned yet poorly informed idiot persona on the fake news program, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central, 1996- ) and later as anchor of "The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central, 2005- ),

First thought of himself as a serious thespian-in-the-making. So consumed was he with the notion of being a dramatic actor, that Colbert wore all black all the time and adopted an impenetrable air of severity that in retrospect, seemed ridiculous. But with the intervention of various mentors and fellow actors, Colbert came to grips with a harsh reality - he was funny. His dreams of being the next Sir Laurence Olivier dashed, Colbert was instead confined to a life of making an ass of himself on television in front of millions of hysterical viewers.
Born on May 13, 1964 and raised in a Roman Catholic family in Charleston, SC and the youngest of 11 children, Colbert knew early on that he wanted to be a performer, thanks in part to his mother's unrealized acting ambitions. In Charleston's exclusive Episcopalian Porter-Gaud School, Colbert gained his first experience as a leper in a production of "The Leper." After sharpening his skills in a few more school plays, he went on to study theater at the ultraconservative and all-male Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Two years of grinding work and little contact with women prompted Colbert to transfer to Northwestern University in Chicago, a complete turnaround from Hampden-Sydney that included c d dorms, openly gay students, and professors crashing on his couch after nights of partying. While at Northwestern, Colbert met Del Close, godfather of improvised comedy in Chicago, and began studying the art with the Improv-Olympic troupe. Coupled with his more formal theater training at school, Colbert was on his way to accomplishing his goal of becoming a serious actor, with a bit of polished humor for back-up.

Like many a young person fresh from college, Colbert traveled Europe and returned penniless. He slept on the couch of a friend who happened to be the box office manager at Second City and got work answering the improv institution's phones. Colbert soon realized he could take classes for free, which he did even though he never intended to go into comedy. While at Second City, he was an understudy to Steve Carrell and became friends with Amy Sedaris. By the time he left the group, Colbert had shed his "serious actor" persona and yukked it up with fellow alums Sedaris, Mitch Rouse and Paul Dinello on "Exit 57" (Comedy Central, 1994-1997), a sketch comedy show about dysfunctional families and various bizarre characters in the fictional Quad Cities. Colbert moved on to write and star on "The Dana Carvey Show" (ABC, 1996), the once-popular comedian's sketch series that lasted about a month. One of his more memorable contributions to the show was, along with Carrell, writing and voicing "The Ambiguously Gay Duo," a series of animated shorts that later proved popular on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ).

After the "The Dana Carvey Show" was canceled, Colbert looked for work for a solid year with little success. He failed to get a correspondent gig with "Good Morning America" (NBC, 1975-2004), then appeared in a single episode of "Spin City" (ABC, 1996-2002), before spending a brief time writing for "SNL." The rest of the 1996-97 period was spent worrying about how to feed his family and pay the rent. Then out of the blue, he was offered a job on "The Daily Show," then hosted by Craig Kilborn. Without ever having watched the show, Colbert accepted the job. With the prospect of food and rent money looming on the horizon, Colbert began what would become his defining gig - playing a pompous, ill-informed correspondent on a fake news program. Under Kilborn, "The Daily Show" had little to do with politics. But when anchor Jon Stewart took over in 1999, the show steered full boar towards political satire. Colbert had never thought much about his own political stance or doing political comedy - but to his surprise, he soon discovered that he indeed had strong (and liberal) opinions on many issues.

Over the next six years, Colbert and company lacerated politicians, pundits and political wonks of all stripes. From the election debacle in 2000 through the subsequent debacle in 2004, "The Daily Show" became a safe haven from the inanity of politics and the 24-hour spin cycle that passed for TV news. But while "The Daily Show" considered itself a comedy show first, many who watched felt that the truth was more faithfully represented than on so-called real news shows. Meanwhile, Colbert honed his cocksure and idiotic correspondent character, adding considerable gravitas and diction to reports while simultaneously looking the fool. Such memorable moments included roving the floor at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (he badgered an avid listener of John Kerry's speech who turned out to be one of the speechwriters); filling in for an interview with Al Sharpton as Al Sharpton; and hosting a semi-weekly segment, "This Week in God," where Colbert walked the tightrope between comedy and religion.

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