American television host Stephen Colbert is his own complex creation. The host of the iconic The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, he originally studied to be a dramatic actor, only venturing into comedy and satire because that was where the work was.
But away from his television identity, he is a lifelong practising Catholic. The youngest of 11 children, 52-year-old Stephen was born in Washington to immunologist and academic William and homemaker Lorna. He has been married to Evelyn McGee-Colbert since 1993 and the couple have three children.
Known for his religious-satire segment ’This Week in God’ on Comedy Central’s parody news show The Daily Show, he says he has no problem reconciling his satirical work with his Christian faith.
“I love my Church and I’m a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout,” he told Time Out New York.
“I was raised to believe that you could question the Church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That’s totally different from the word, the body and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this Earth.”
Over the years, life events have tested Stephen’s faith. In September 1974 his father and Stephen’s brothers Peter and Paul were killed in a plane crash.
For a period it was just Stephen and his mother at home, and their Catholic faith was a vital element in helping both of them deal with their grief.
“She was a daily communicant, and many times I was too. It was a constant search for healing,” he told parade.com.
After majoring in theatre at college, Stephen worked in several television shows as a writer and performer, before joining The Daily Show team and then The Colbert Report, where he played the host in character as a blustery right-wing pundit.
Stephen’s fame was growing and, in 2006, he was the featured entertainer for the famous White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where he lampooned President George W. Bush in the presence of the man himself, which attracted criticism, perhaps being too close to the bone for his audience.
But the experience didn’t hurt his career, and after several years hosting The Colbert Report, Stephen succeeded the iconic David Letterman on his retirement from The Late Show in 2015.
While this is fame on a grand scale, Stephen’s priority is one many of us would share. “I desire to have what I would consider a normal life. To have a wife and kids and live in a suburban house. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think a lot of people who perform have a fear of being ordinary,” he told parade.com.
Part of that ordinary life is to teach Sunday school when he can, and to live by the lesson found in the Bible, where Jesus talks about relying on faith in God to combat anxiety and fear.
“’Who among you by worrying can change a hair on his head?’ It spoke to me,” he explained.
He may appear in American lounge rooms every night, but Stephen Colbert is a man whose faith remains central to his life.