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We are like the Mob. If Mr. Rogers ran the mob.
December 1, 2010 11:30 AM   Subscribe

back in October, when reddit was helping raise money for DonorsChoose, Stephen Colbert (major reddit fan, BTW) provided us with an extra incentive: if we raised $500,000 before the rally, he would let reddit ask him anything. Well, you guys held up your end of the deal ($575,000 and counting, with the vast majority of donations coming from redditors). You asked some great questions. And now, we have answers to the top 11, as voted by you.

A glimpse behind the mask, as out-of-character Stephen Colbert candidly responds to thoughtful questions imposed before him through the coercion of charity blackmail.
posted by hippybear (28 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool, but I can't see question #1 for some reason.
posted by Eideteker at 11:38 AM on December 1, 2010


Reddit confuses me so much. For any given topic, I never know where I'm supposed to start reading. It's the nadir of intuitive site design.
posted by jbickers at 11:44 AM on December 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Those are actually some pretty great questions from the Redditors there.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on December 1, 2010


I am so impressed that your idea of coercion is to do good deeds until they are national news.

This should be the Golden Rule of teh Internets.
posted by jeanmari at 11:48 AM on December 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


For any given topic, I never know where I'm supposed to start reading.

You pretty much start with the rounded corner and head down.

It's the nadir of intuitive site design.

I'm confused. What does this have to do with consumer protection?
posted by circular at 11:50 AM on December 1, 2010


>>I am so impressed that your idea of coercion is to do good deeds until they are national news.
We're like the Mob. If Mr. Rogers ran the mob.


best comment ever.
posted by liza at 12:01 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised by the vote breakdown for that story:
2,422 points (57% like it)
9,541 up votes 7,119 down votes
Stephen Colbert, internet darling and hero of the Reddit set, personally answering questions from Redditors in order to reward the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for charity by Redditors... and more than 43% voted against the story? How strange.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:12 PM on December 1, 2010


Fun fact: Colbert says at one point that he is a fan of J.D. Salinger's and then he says:

I have a pretty good idea of who I am, and am sustained by a breathtakingly levelheaded girl who married me long ago.

"Breathtakingly levelheaded girl" is a quote straight out of Salinger's work. I think it was in "For Esme: With Love and Squalor".
posted by orange swan at 12:18 PM on December 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


Rhaomi, this thread explains a bit about fuzzing the percentages.
posted by shinyshiny at 12:29 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's.... A somewhat baroque bit of functionality.
posted by Artw at 12:50 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh, bizarre. If they're going to futz with the numbers, then why bother displaying them at all? And it looks they do the same for comments, making helpful posters like this one think that they're being massively downvoted for no reason. How off-putting. And apparently they do it because users would rather see fake statistics than no statistics at all.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:52 PM on December 1, 2010


Orange Swan: Wow, you rang it.

"however, I've since discussed the matter extensively with my wife, a breathtakingly levelheaded girl, and we've decided against it-for one thing, I'd completely forgotten that my mother-in-law is looking forward to spending the last two weeks in April with us."
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:57 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Salinger quote is pretty interesting. I wonder if he just saw the opportunity to work the reference in there, or it's some kind of inside thing with his wife, or if he somehow draws a parallel between the story and his career/identity awareness. The guy in "For Esme" does play the willfully naive role in a couple of different ways, but that's one of those stories I've never been able to explain as a coherent whole. I have more questions, Steve.
posted by cmoj at 1:09 PM on December 1, 2010


There have been many times that I have successfully argued a position I don't agree with.

Stephen Colbert: Troll
posted by dersins at 1:11 PM on December 1, 2010


I wonder if he just saw the opportunity to work the reference in there, or it's some kind of inside thing with his wife, or if he somehow draws a parallel between the story and his career/identity awareness.

It's possible it's an unconscious quotation. I know I've picked up bits of language from beloved writing which I then incorporate into my speech and writing with no regard or agenda.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2010


Damn orange swan, well done. And cmoj, I am right with you. I have always loved "For Esme" but have also found it frustratingly hard to get my arms around no matter how many times I've read it.
posted by ND¢ at 1:18 PM on December 1, 2010


"I think Jon's appearance on Rachel highlighted his ability to be pretty sharp after vomiting for eight hours."

I think part of what I enjoy most about watching the interactions between Stewart and Colbert is that they have what seems to be an honestly huge respect for one another's work, all why keeping up a slightly competitive front. Like each is egging the other to go just a little bit further.

It's a fantastic and fascinating dynamic. I'd love to be there when they sit around and shoot the shit. I bet it'd be an education in the speed of wit.
posted by quin at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2010


The "real" Colbert is also featured in the latest Northwestern alumni magazine, which talks about his college days.

(I was a year ahead of him, but did not know him, even though we apparently knew some of the same people)
posted by briank at 1:43 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I often have a guest whose subject I happen to know a thing or two about, and I want to engage them intelligently, but I am an aggressively ignorant character. That is frustrating.

And yet it is so blindingly obvious from watching his show how well read and quick witted he is.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:51 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


briank, thanks very much for that link! There's tons of interesting stuff in there, what a great read. I especially loved the breathtakingly adorable picture of Stephen as a college student - be still, my heart!
posted by pikachulolita at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2010


"I am so impressed that your idea of coercion is to do good deeds until they are national news."

I did not hear about this in the news. Can someone clue me in with a relevant link?
posted by rebent at 5:41 PM on December 1, 2010


‘Well, it might have something to do with the fact that my father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash when I was 10, and I was left home with a grieving mother. And my main mission became to make her laugh.’ (from briank's link)

Wow.
posted by straight at 5:45 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: the way voting stats and such work on reddit, it's worth keeping in mind that the volume of traffic & discussion happening there, and the corresponding incentives to game the system, lead to a set of problems that most of us will never even remotely approach dealing with. A certain amount of misdirection is not entirely surprising.

All things considered, I think reddit is actually kind of a marvel of usability and clarity in design; it's just that the model is very different from a thing like MeFi. The comments on a given article are rarely anything like a linear or cohesive discussion, especially once more than a handful of people notice it.

Anyhow, it's a pretty solid Q&A. It reminds me that I like Colbert a lot, and I'm glad he does what he does, even though I don't actually find his show all that entertaining.
posted by brennen at 10:00 PM on December 1, 2010


...I am an aggressively ignorant character.... - And yet it is so blindingly obvious from watching his show how well read and quick witted he is.

You've never found that the well-read and quick-witted are the first to label themselves as ignorant? I always figured they are the most aware of how much there is out there to know, and how little they can possibly get a hold of.
posted by whatzit at 12:53 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


He means the character that he plays is ignorant.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:45 AM on December 2, 2010


I often have a guest whose subject I happen to know a thing or two about, and I want to engage them intelligently, but I am an aggressively ignorant character. That is frustrating.

And not only for you, Stephen. You often have very interesting guests, and I've often found it so exasperating that though I really want to hear what they have to say, you're too busy doing your schtick to let them speak at any length. However, you do seem to have improved in this regard during the last year or so.
posted by orange swan at 6:45 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


rebent: ""I am so impressed that your idea of coercion is to do good deeds until they are national news."

I did not hear about this in the news. Can someone clue me in with a relevant link?
"

Here is the FPP from it. Colbert's rally was all over the national news, CNN has 5 pages of stories on it when I searched their website. Per the FPP, it was suggested in a comment on Reddit, and pushed via charitable donations until Stephen gave in.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:51 AM on December 2, 2010




...I am an aggressively ignorant character.... - And yet it is so blindingly obvious from watching his show how well read and quick witted he is.

You've never found that the well-read and quick-witted are the first to label themselves as ignorant? I always figured they are the most aware of how much there is out there to know, and how little they can possibly get a hold of.


I guess what blows me away is the well read bit. I mean how does one successfully ply an aggressively ignorant schtick yet still get away with making subtle jokes about obscure Catholic theological doctrine or political parties in Sri Lanka? It's an intellectual dance that makes the head spin. When his first show came out, I thought "Cute, but this is going to get old fast." It is such a tribute to his talent that the show not only has stayed funny, but fresh, and *relevant* more than ever. He is absolutely the satirist of our time, the Mark Twain of the 21st century.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:13 AM on December 2, 2010


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