Stephen Colbert's American Grandstand

The comedian chatted with WWD at the Brooks Bros. book launch party for his new tome, "America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t."

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Stephen Colbert’s new book.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 10/11/2012

WWD: Do you like fashion, personally? Do you have any interest in it?
I like watching it. I’ve never put the time and cash into wearing anything particularly fashionable, but I can appreciate it. My wife likes it, and I can appreciate high, or what I might call impractical, fashion, in an almost sculptural sense — as something that is aesthetically pleasing or just visually shocking. I mean, I know what a bias cut is. I had to take costume and decor classes because I was a theater major [at Northwestern University], so I know a little bit of the history of fashion and design. But I don’t reach for that page in the newspaper.

WWD: You seem pretty classic and preppie when you’re off set.
My default is, “Give me a blue blazer and a pair of khaki pants,” because that’s how I was raised. Nothing ever supplanted it. I flirted with wearing black and having a beard when I was in theater school, but that passed. I went back to my default settings. Somewhere out there is a style for me. Maybe, when I’m older, I’ll be one of those guys who is whip thin and can get away with wearing a straw boater. Only a really thin man can wear a straw hat.

WWD: You had Anna Wintour on your show recently.
She was great! We’re supposed to go on a date together. Where were we supposed to go, Cheesecake Factory?

WWD: I think you guys said Long John Silver’s, to lose yourselves in battered shrimp.
[Laughs] That’s exactly right. We haven’t gone yet, but I still hope.

WWD: Are there any other fashion people you’d like to have on the show?
Hmm, let’s see. I hope I’m pronouncing this right: Monique Lhuillier? [Mangles pronunciation.]

WWD: Monique Lhuillier? The L.A. designer? Why her?
My wife has worn her. I like how my wife looks in Monique Lhuillier.

WWD: What do you think of the trend in men’s wear of revived heritage brands that are made in America. Do you think it’s important to buy American-made clothes?
Sure. Keep American craftsmen in their jobs. Especially shoes. It’s hard to find good shoes that are made in America.WWD: There’s a company called Alden that makes great shoes in the U.S.

WWD: There’s a company called Alden that makes great shoes in the U.S.
I’ve actually been to one of the last handmade-shoe factories in America that uses a curved last. We went for [Jon Stewart’s] “The Daily Show.” They were the last maker of handmade clown shoes in the U.S. — they made a beautiful, high-quality shoe that just happened to have an enormous toe.

WWD: So while most of America is now focused on Obama versus Romney, the big showdown in fashion this season was the debut of Raf Simons at Dior versus the debut of Hedi Slimane at Yves Saint Laurent. Are you more team Dior or team YSL?
All of that was like Greek to me. Umm…I’ll go with YSL, because I’m a fan of initials.

WWD: How do you keep up on the news? What do you read and watch?
I read The Times. And I read standard conservative and liberal blogs, like Red State for conservatives and The Huffington Post for liberals. I also spend a lot of time on Reddit, which is a social network and aggregator. People vote stories onto the front page, so you can see what people are talking about. I’m blessed with a good memory, so I consume a great deal of information in a short period of time, and my job is to synthesize that into a joke with a meaning.

WWD: Your character is based on cable news anchors.
Actually, it’s based on pundits. Anchors give you information, but pundits give you their opinions.

WWD: So do you watch a lot of the cable pundit shows?
I used to watch them a lot, but not anymore, because they are corrosive to the soul.

WWD: If I go through a list of cable news personalities, can you say the first thing that comes to mind? Anderson Cooper?

WWD: Rachel Maddow?

WWD: Plunging?
Plunging neckline.

WWD: Chris Matthews?

WWD: Bill O’Reilly?
Papa Bear.

WWD: Joe Scarborough?
Jack Daniels.

WWD: Wolf Blitzer?

WWD: Your character is ironic, sarcastic and self-important. Does that take a lot of work or does it come naturally to you?
It comes naturally. Once I’m in character, it’s easy for me to improvise what he might say. Figuring out what to care about is the hardest part, not writing the jokes. It’s what do you want to spend the time writing the jokes about.


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