Stephen Colbert is the latest 2008 presidential hopeful, but the satirist told a packed house at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium on Friday night that his goal is not the White House.
"If in Denver someone was forced to say into a microphone South Carolina ... casts one delegate for native son Stephen Colbert, I would say I won the entire election," Colbert said.
Three days after launching his presidential campaign for the South Carolina primary, the comedian candidly discussed his life, career and new book, "I Am America (And So Can You!) in an interview with NBC's Tim Russert at Lisner.
Colbert said there is a distinct difference between the conservative, flag-waving news pundit he portrays on his show, Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," and the person that he is in real life.
"My character loves power," Colbert said. "I have no desire for power."
He added, "I have affection for him because I get to cash his check."
Colbert, who worked on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" for six years before starting "The Colbert Report." Colbert said Jon Stewart, the host of "The Daily Show," was a major force behind his political comedy.
Colbert said he stayed away from political comedy when he started at The Second City comedy club and did not satirize politics until he worked with Jon Stewart at "The Daily Show."
"I wouldn't do anything political," Colbert said. "The Daily Show made me ... more political."
The comedian said his character on his show is an amplification of the senior Washington correspondent he played on "The Daily Show."
"I want to be like all kinds of pundits," Colbert said. "I want to be as concerned about broken borders as Lou (Dobbs). I want to be as shiny as a dime as Anderson Cooper. I just want to be as incurious as Sean Hannity."
Colbert said Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," is the primary inspiration for his show.
"You want to be the king," Colbert said.
The comedian said he also finds inspiration from former U.S. President Richard Nixon.
"He was the boogie man of politics," said Colbert, who said he has a poster of Nixon in his office. "I have strangely tendered feeling for him."
The faux news pundit said writing "I am America (And So Can You!)" was the next logical step for his character.
"These guys pump out books all of the time," Colbert said. "We said we have to do something."
The satirist said his book was written as a constitution for the United States.
"I hold my truths self evident," Colbert said in character. "That is why I did no research for this book."
After the discussion, Colbert and Russert opened the floor to questions from the audience.
Junior Jenn Syperski asked Colbert if she could intern for the show, and said she would not mind cleaning the toilets.
"That is actually what our interns do here at the Report," Colbert said.
Colbert said she should send an application to the show and "tell me you had the balls to ask the question."
GW students in attendance, a few of whom waited several hours in the rain to be among the first to enter Lisner Auditorium, said it was interesting to learn about a different side of Colbert.
Joanna Comus said "I thought it was surprising especially with his strange infatuation with Nixon."
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© 2007 The GW Hatchet via U-WIRE