Widgets Magazine


In memoriam: Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA

April 10, 2014. That was the day we learned that we would soon lose Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, the esteemed pundit and host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. This household staple was given only eight more months to live — crippled by the mysterious, devastating disease known only as The Late Show with David Letterman.

With his remaining few months of life, Dr. Colbert plans to continue his show to deliver “truthiness” to the American people, but it just won’t be the same. It will be hard to watch the final episodes of the Report, as every twisted irony and every piece of overt-yet-somehow-still-subtle sarcasm won’t produce laughter so much as a painful reminder that all good things must come to an end.

Dr. Colbert and I didn’t always see eye to eye. I agreed with him on some issues but disagreed with him on others, and I was always really jealous of the incredible range of motion of his eyebrows. Moreover, I am a native Georgian; Dr. Colbert reportedly grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. I have been conditioned from a very young age to hate that cesspool known as Charleston, South Carolina.

Nevertheless, I find myself waxing nostalgic over Colbert’s imminent death because his show was a special gem in the wreckage that is cable television today. People have praised or criticized the show for espousing particular ideologies, but the real heart of The Colbert Report had little to do with actual politics — it was far more a critique of modern discourse, where people refuse to agree on the facts. And, more importantly, it shed light on the complete absurdity of the world with enough levity to keep us from going insane.

Colbert’s hysterical, slightly embarrassing interview of my local Congressman, Jack Kingston — the first of his 435-part-series “Better Know a District” — underscores just what we will lose when that disease known as “Letterman” finally eats him up. To the face of a sitting member of Congress, who expected a serious, traditional interview, Colbert peppered Kingston with uncomfortable questions. Ultimately, after three years of making politicians squirm, the series took a hit in content when then-Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel instructed Democrats not to appear on the show.

Emanuel’s message to House Democrats highlights the other unique feature of the Report: It actually had the ability, however minor, to effect change. Whether leading a crowd of 50,000 people with his nemesis, the devious Jon Stewart, at the “Rally to Restore Fear and/or Sanity” or starting his own Super PAC under the guidance of a salty-ham version of Karl Rove to expose flaws in campaign finance laws or even running for President on more than one occasion, Colbert had the rare ability to influence politics and inspire minds, even as a comparatively lowly television host. At times, I imagined that he would follow the path of Robin Williams in Man of the Year and actually win the damn thing.

Throughout the process of making politicians quiver in their boots or bringing attention to convoluted laws or the theatrics of cable news, Colbert always brought a light-hearted sense of humor that made it easy to feel hopeful in spite of the ridiculousness manifested everywhere one looked.

Incidentally, I thought it might be worth noting that a guy also named Stephen Colbert will be taking over for David Letterman at the end of the year. I have no doubt that this Mr. Colbert — who I hear possesses extreme mental agility and a sharp wit — will be excellent in his new role; however, that doesn’t make up for the fact that something will still be missing. With the imminent passing of Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, we lose a truly American voice — one that led us to laugh at ourselves and eat all-beef meats whenever possible.

In the future, I hope more Stephen Colberts — regardless of their personal political ideologies — can take the stage and bring us that optimism through humor. But, in the meantime, we should all remember to make the extra effort to laugh at ourselves and the world around us while staying just a bit more optimistic about the future. Dr. Colbert wouldn’t want to have it any other way.


Vihan Lakshman is starting up his own comedy show. It will be called “Countdown with Vihan Lakshman” and it will make Steve Spurrier the permanent “Worst Person in the World.” Contact Vihan with tips and suggestions at vihan “at” stanford.edu.

About Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu