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'Daily Show' Correspondent Anchors 'Colbert Report'

By John Crook

Saturday, October 15, 2005

12:02 AM PT

The first thing you need to know about Comedy Central's new nightly series "The Colbert Report" is how to pronounce its title: "col-BARE re-POUR."

Premiering Monday, Oct. 17, immediately following "The Daily Show," the new half-hour series spotlights former "Daily Show" correspondent Stephen Colbert as he provides his personal spin on current events.

Fresh off his second Emmy win as a member of the "Daily Show" writing staff, Colbert, 41, didn't even bat an eye (or cock an eyebrow) as he tackled our hard-hitting questions.

Zap2it: How will "The Colbert Report" differ from "The Daily Show"? More Colbert?

Stephen Colbert: It never hurts. As "The Daily Show" is to a headline-driven news show, this is more like one of those personality-driven shows, like O'Reilly or Scarborough or even Aaron Brown, who has his own folksy personality. People who turn to those shows already know what the news is; they just want that person's take. We see this show as a public service, to give people my take.

Zap2it: The stuff you've done on "The Daily Show" obviously has a veneer of parody. As host on this show, will you be playing it a little straighter?

Colbert: If "The Daily Show" has, as you say, a veneer of parody or fakery, you can add a thick frosting of fraud on top of that for us. Then smother it in a goof sauce. We'll be faker, more character-driven. I'm the same "character" on both shows.

Zap2it: How big is your spin zone?

Colbert: It's just slightly larger than my personal space. It's within arm's reach, though. So if you actually get into my spin zone, I can usually grab you by the neck.

Zap2it: Any guests that you have lined up?

Colbert: Yes, we are doing congressmen this week, the newsmakers who haven't made the news -- not the leaders of the Democratic or Republican party, but congressmen who are more tucked away into smaller districts but get just as much of a vote as Tom DeLay or Nancy Pelosi.

Zap2it: Will you just have one big guest per night?

Colbert: As opposed to multiple tiny guests? So if you come on my show and there are other people, you know you're tiny? No, we'll probably have one guest per night, unless we have a panel or something like that. We want people with passion. They don't have to be big newsmakers.

Zap2it: Gosh, sounds as if there's going to be a lot of substance to this show.

Colbert: Well, we're going to change the world, you see. I probably should have led with that. And we have to change the world by Christmas or we won't get renewed.

Zap2it: So, will you be resuscitating the old tag line for "The Daily Show": "the most important television show ever"?

Colbert: I don't think we have to resuscitate it. I think it's going to be perfectly obvious what our level of importance is.

Zap2it: Are you looking forward to not having to carry Jon Stewart any longer?

Colbert: Look, he's got a good show and he's a cute guy. Don't get me wrong. But what bugs me about "The Daily Show" is that they have shirked the awesome responsibility that comes with having a news parody show on basic cable. And we're not going to drop the ball they way they have. We're going to stick up for America, and we're not going to let people mess with us anymore -- with Texas, or with any of the other states.

Zap2it: A lot of people are curious about the timing of this show. Certainly, movie audiences were deeply moved by your performance in "Bewitched." Were you tempted to take other film offers, or did you feel it important to get back to doing something funny?

Colbert: After my experience on "Bewitched," I felt it was important to get back to my family. Ten weeks in Los Angeles is enough to make anyone run screaming back to the East Coast.

Zap2it: You're doing this show from the old space that "The Daily Show" moved out of back in July. How creepy is that?

Colbert: They left me here like a place setting on a magician's table after he pulls the tablecloth away. We've painted the place and hosed out most of the irony. We've scraped it down to a level of sincerity that we can shellac with our own sarcasm. I was in this building with Jon for five years and already it doesn't feel like the same space.

Zap2it: A New Yorker column recently described you as "leached of self-importance." What the ... ?

Colbert: I take offense at the idea that I'm not self-important. I had the self-importance leached out of me only to make more room for pomposity. The places that used to be filled with self-importance they are now re-filling with hauteur.