In his first book, I Am America (And So Can You!), late-night comedian Stephen Colbert takes on everything that’s destroying America.
In an interview before The Colbert Report began, you described your “Stephen Colbert” character as a well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-class idiot.
High-status. They misquoted me. It’s high-status idiot. The New York Times—no surprises there, they got the story wrong.
But he is pretty consistent in being elegantly clueless.
That’s the heart of it for me. Well-intentioned and poorly informed, and that can lead you to a lot of different locations.
Was it hard to stay in character throughout the writing of I Am America?
It wasn’t hard at all because we wrote the book the same way we write the show, which is essentially through improvisation. Allison Silverman, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello and I were the ultimate editors and the writers of all the material, but we generated it the same way we generate it for the show. We came up with a general take of what we wanted to do, and then we asked the writers, “What would you do on this?” They went off and did an unbelievable job—we have books and books of material that we never used. Every writer and illustrator was a huge contributor to the work.
Were there key things that “Stephen Colbert” wanted to write about?
Some chapters are on classic topics like Hollywood and the media. But a topic like pets and animals, we thought, is just such a big part of life that we had to put it in someplace. Each chapter can be read on its own, but I really hope people will actually read the whole book straight through, because there is a rhyme and reason for our order.
Did any works by conservative pundits have any influence on your book?
Mostly how often they use sections of the Lord’s Prayer. Sean Hannity wrote Deliver Us from Evil and Bill O’Reilly wrote Those Who Trespass. They certainly have what we Catholic and/or possibly Jews call chutzpah. And we tried to write the book with balls. By the way, there are rumors that I plagiarized some of the book. I just want to say, here and now, that I officially challenge anyone to find something that I plagiarized.
How do you feel about the book winning the first “Stephen T. Colbert Award for Literary Excellence”?
I’m not surprised, but I’m just as honored. And to win the first one is a particular honor.
What about the rumor that if you read I Am America backwards it’s the unreleased last book of the Left Behind series?
Backwards and upside down. And you have to be able to speak Aramaic.