Friday, May 3, 2013

Top 5 Tolkien Nerd Moments of Stephen Colbert

Since he got his own show, Stephen Colbert's public appearances have generally stuck to the version of himself he plays on The Colbert Report: a narcissistic, hyper-patriotic conservative pundit. He's stuck to the character so closely that he's maintained it in everything from the White House Correspondents' Dinner to testimony before Congress on immigration reform.

But if there's any part of his actual persona that Colbert lets slip into his shows, it's the fact that he's a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, namely the Lord of the Rings universe.

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And it's never more apparent than in the following examples.

5. Colbert And Back Again

The Colbert Report started a couple of years too late to do anything with the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, so the fact that Peter Jackson and some of the original crew would be making a movie of The Hobbit (and turning it into a trilogy, no less) it must have seemed like a godsend to Colbert and the show.

Indeed, the show went all out with a week of guests related to the movie, a new intro with a Middle Earth style map of New York City (inevitably getting the biggest laugh from the "Hipsters Deep" of Brooklyn), and turning the set into The Shire. This video serves as a nice introduction to Colbert's interviews with Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, and Peter Jackson (who declared Colbert the biggest Tolkien geek he'd ever met, much to the host's delight).

4. Sting-off With Elijah Wood

Elijah Wood's visit on this show was to discuss Happy Feet Two, but it's not like Colbert can let a Frodo appearance go by without discussing a little bit of Lord of the Rings. Especially since The Hobbit was being filmed at the time, with Wood having a minor role and Colbert getting invited to the set. Colbert is palpably eager to discuss the details of the new film with Wood after the interview given that he had to keep a lid on any spoilers.

3. Interviews with James Franco

James Franco is nerdy enough to be balancing his acting career with studies at Yale University as he pursues a PhD in English. And since Colbert obviously considers Tolkein to have some of the foremost works in literature, he quizzes Franco on some details in Lord of the Rings and winds up giving him partial credit.

Franco tries to get his own back in a second visit by pitching a trivia question about The Silmarillion. This is essentially the Bible of the Lord of the Rings universe, and is often just as inscrutable. The ease with which Colbert answers the question and his subsequent reaction are hilarious.

2. John McCain hobbits quote

John McCain's political stances have been at various points on the spectrum in the past decade or so, but despite going more to the right as the Republican candidate in 2008 he's sparred with the even farther right Tea Party wing on a few occasions since then. In one instance, he read part of a Wall Street Journal editorial critical of GOP resistance to an effort to raise the debt ceiling that referred to "Tea Party hobbits." One Tea Party representative replied that McCain could be considered Sauron in this metaphor.

It was all practically an open invitation for Colbert to have as much fun as possible with trying to compare various political figures with Lord of the Rings figures. And to show off his vast array of Lord of the Rings collectibles, of course.

1. Daily Show interview with Viggo Mortensen

Back before he had his own program, Colbert was just a lowly correspondent on The Daily Show. And way back in 2005, while Jon Stewart was discussing A History of Violence with Viggo Mortensen, we got perhaps the best glimpse of Colbert's Tolkien knowledge.

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Near the end of the interview, Stewart plays an audio recording of what was no doubt Stewart asking him to recite as much of the history of the Lord of the Rings character as he could. It turns out to be quite a bit, as Stewart eventually just cuts it off and asks Mortensen (the actor who played Aragorn in the movies) how he deals with superfans like Colbert.

Mortensen's answer? Well, for Colbert anyway, send him a gift of chocolate with Lord of the Rings characters expertly carved into them. And as Colbert mentions in the #2 clip, Mortensen would also present him with Aragorn's sword as part of a sketch on The Colbert Report. He seems like a nice guy.

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