Meet the Press   |  October 14, 2012

David Gregory chats with Stephen Colbert

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert shares his thoughts on the 2012 presidential campaign with NBC’s David Gregory.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this week i sat down with the host of "the colbert report " for a rare, behind the scenes look at the man and the character from his office in new york. stephen colbert , welcome back to "meet the press."

>> it is a thrill. i cannot wait to meet the press. bring them in! bring all of the press in.

>> let me ask stephen colbert the character --

>> hold on. hello! i'm stephen colbert ! go ahead.

>> who has the edge in this race right now?

>> romney, obviously. did you see him the other night? that guy is on fire. he was on a rocket ride to plausible at this point. did you what up?

>> i did. it was a strong debate.

>> what was it like? i didn't see it. i don't really watch the news so much. i come in around 6:30 and just say the opposite of whatever rachel maddow says the night before and i'm usually good.

>> what does the real stephen think?

>> what?

>> what does the real stephen think about the race?

>> don't yank my string around. the real stephen is actually pleased at the performer that mitt romney got his [ bleep ] upon. because i model conservative punditry. and if he doesn't -- if he's not someone i can follow, then i'm lost. and i have to say up until wednesday night, i just thought, i don't know what i'm going to do for the next month.

>> because why?

>> he was just a walking, shambling mound of weakness. you know, even the people who liked him didn't seem to be behind him that strongly. people were, you know, stepping out of his boat. you know, all saying, hey, that's the guy? i'll be right there. no, i'm just trying the life jacket on right now. do i have to self inflate or do i pull the cord?

>> and that all changed.

>> now he's the man. now he's got these long luscious coat tails and everybody is jumping onboard.

>> is it hard for guests to adapt to you in character? what do you like to tell them before hand?

>> i say the same thing. i said it to you. which is, listen, thank you so much for coming. because i'm grateful. i know it must be kind of a tough booking sometimes because it's not like going on charlie rose , you know. you don't know necessarily what i'm going to say or what i'm going to ask because i'm an active idiot. and as i say to the guests, i say thank you for coming. have you ever seen the show? i do the show in character. he's an idiot. he is willfully ignorant of what you know and care about. please disabuse me on my ignorance and we'll have a great time. but sometimes they forget. i had senator bob kurie on. it was the 9/11 commission report. very early on, about four or five months into the show, and i said that backstage. about three minutes into a seven-minute interview, i don't know what i said, but he turned to me and he said, what the hell are you talking about? but in the middle of the interview, i couldn't explain to him what it was. and then he just took the mic off and left as soon as the interview was over. i hope at some point someone explained to him that i was just fooling around and i'm very sorry.

>> there's a course at boston university , professor rodriguez has a syllabus that we got a hold of --

>> i'm not familiar with what you're about to talk about.

>> this is a course at boston university about american satire and it references heavily the colbert report . and this is what he describes. colbert satirically exposes hypocrisy inviting us to think more seriously about political issues.

>> i do not get paid enough. i didn't realize i was that brilliant. i thought i was making the occasional poop joke.

>> do you -- you are a performer, but you also do make a point.

>> well, yeah. i'm a satirist. all satirists make points. satire is parody with a point. that's all it is. and so if i was doing satire and didn't have a point of view, then that would be truly like schizophrenic. i always have a point of view. i care about the news. we do 160 shows a year. 161 shows a year. and you can't do that unless i guess you care a little bit about what you're talking about. or i couldn't. some people could, but i can't do that. and i'm interested in the news. and people often think that i'm an idealogue or that i have a political intent. when john and i did the rally two years ago, they thought that had a political intent. but i comment on things that are in the new. i am not a newsman. i really admire newsmen and i enjoy good news and i'm not a politician. but i like playing political games to see what really happens in them. that's why i formed a super pac . that's why i ran for president or formed an exploratory committee .

>> what did you expose about politics by testifying about immigration on capitol hill , which some people were critical of, or --

>> i would say that everyone was critical of. you're being very generous. i would do it again in a minute. what an honor to be asked to go do it. once you're asked, you know, and to say, well, i'm only going to do it if i can do it in character because i've got no business doing something like that, but my character thinks he does. and through him, i can say things that are hopefully in a more palatable way than i could have.

>> but that's where you're a performer making a point. what have you exposed about politics through those examples you just mentioned?

>> well, that, the congressional one is that congress is like eighth grade recess. they are so nasty to each other. and i didn't think they could give a damn whether it was me but they saw it as a way to beat on each other. or the republicans saw it as a way to beat on the democrats. and maybe it was a valid way to beat on them, but they sure knew a weapon when they saw one. the super pac was an act of discovery. an example. it was an act of discovery because i didn't intend to have a super pac . i intended to make a joke about tim pawlenty 's unbelievably over the top ad, like a michael bay voice of god , you know, preaching to america from the surface of the moon, tim pawlenty saves our country, and i couldn't figure out how to end it. at the end it just said liberty pac .com. and i said let's put on ours. and that led to one thing and then another, including a lot of lawyers. there's an entire industry that i didn't know that is not only raising money but built on raising money off the fact that there is so much money in politics. and almost no rules.

>> a lot of what your character does, a lot of what you do through the program, is similar to what you're talking about the super pac , exposing what's absurd or what simply doesn't work about politics and about our institutions of government, which i think a lot of your followers and your viewers believe.

>> well, i don't know if i expose it. but i try to be aspects. i try to put myself in the news or embody the thing. john does what's called pure deconstruction, where he picks apart what's happened in the day's news and lays it out to you like a cadaver. but i falsely reconstruct the news.

>> mitt will put the leaders of iran on notice.

>> so that's a different way of doing the job.

>> to make a point of absurdity, right?

>> exactly. and if i do it, and something in the news is doing it, that thing, that real thing, is probably bull. because if i can go out and do it, and it is happening in the real world , the close ter is to me, the less you should trust it.

>> why do you think so many people think you and jon stewart are more effective at exposing hypocrisy, getting to real truths, than the news media is?

>> i don't know if that's the case.

>> well, i think certainly there are people who believe that.

>> ok. they're entitled to their beliefs. i don't know. jokes make me palatable. i would say that. comedy just helps an idea go down. that's all. and just makes you listen for a minute.

>> we've been talking some about the absurdity of politics, the political discourse . so here comes your book.

>> about damn time. the qvc guys are coming in in a minute, order now and you'll get one.

>> this goes right to what you're talking about in this

campaign, "america again: re-becoming the greatness we never weren't," at a time when you write about america 's perfect, now we should change it.

>> fix it. america is perfect and we have to fix it, ok? because america is an exceptional country.

>> why write another book here?

>> what?

>> i mean, you've written others.

>> you obviously haven't read it if you have to ask that question. hey, homer. "iliad" was good. why write "the odyssey"? god, why two testaments? one was fine. really? wow. you've already found someone to marry you, right? because you are rude. [ laughter ]

>> i understand.

>> you felt the need to rewrite this.

>> well, i don't know how things are going up there in network town, but down in america , people are hurting, david gregory . this book has common sense answers to people's problems, you know? it tells you how to find a job.

>> does the outcome of this election change anything significantly?

>> well, sure. sure. i'm not ralph nader . you know what i mean ? i don't think that there's no difference. there is a difference. i don't know what the difference is, though, because i think there is a possibility that obama would be, say, more aggressive -- a more aggressive reformer or changer in the second act of this presidency, and i don't know how mitt romney would governor. he might govern as a technocrat. that sort of has been his career, like the guy from pepsi that comes in to run gm. he can't tell us what he'll do because he hasn't seen the books yet. but we don't know because he seems absolutely sincere as a moderate and also as a severe conservative. so that's not a dig. it's honest confusion. he's got a good shot at winning. and if he does, i hope he's a good president. and if obama wins, i hope he keeps some of the promises he didn't keep the first time. but i have no idea how it changes for us. but i know there's got to be a difference between the two men, or we're all part of a huge cruel joke.

>> stephen , any thought of running for political office yourself?

>> no, no. absolutely none. i have said terrible things with a straight face on camera. can you imagine the political ads that could be run against me? can you imagine?

>> stephen colbert . the full interview on our website,