Real talk: Stephen Colbert breaks character to give thoughtful advice to young women

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow


Have you ever wondered what the differences are between the character Stephen Colbert and the real-life Stephen Colbert?

The world will get a full serving of the “real” Colbert once he takes over hosting duties from David Letterman on “The Late Show” next year. But for now, we’ve seen only flashes of his real persona.

On Friday, Colbert gave viewers a glimpse of his true self when he hosted a 10-minute Q&A session offering advice to young women for the website Rookie Mag as part of its “Ask a Grown Man” series.

The questions were across the board, including whether a teenage girl should be able to sleep at her boyfriend’s house, what is love, why boys are mean and how to know if someone really likes you.

Colbert’s advice was thoughtful, sincere, often moving and at times conservative compared with his more liberal political views.

The Colbert reveal was more special because the iconic “Colbert Report” host almost never breaks character, whether on the show or at public events. There are rare exceptions, like when he talks about his faith in Catholicism or takes part in one of the many volunteer efforts he’s done for U.S. military veterans.

But his 10-minute video was very sincere, so much so that it might even be a bit startling for those who think of Colbert as only a sarcastic political comedian. Here are some highlights from Colbert’s Q&A with Rookie Mag:

Loretta, 14: “I know most men aren’t jerks. But when guys, especially teenage guys, do things like catcalls and make jokes about rape, do they know their behavior is harmful? Is that why they do stuff like that, or is it because society has taught them to be misogynistic?”

Colbert: “The reason boys do this kind of stuff is to get your attention. And no, I don’t think they know that it’s harmful, because I don’t think that they mean to be harmful. I just think they desperately want you to pay attention to them. So, my advice would be, if you don’t know the person who is doing it, I would ignore it. But if you know the person, if the person is a friend or somebody you know, they really care what you think. It may not seem like they do because they’re being so aggressive, but they actually really do care. And I would say, ‘Please don’t do that because I really don’t like it.’ And they may blow you off at the time, but I promise you that they’ll remember that you said that.”

Eve, 19: “My dad won’t let me sleep at my boyfriend’s house, and there is no real reason for that. I assume it’s because he’s very close-minded about sex, but when I try to discuss it with him, he gets very angry and refuses to talk about it. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year, and my whole family approves of him. What do you think is the best way to talk to a dad like this and convince him to let me sleep at my boyfriend’s house?”

Colbert: “Eve, I’m going to disappoint you here. ... He may not actually be close-minded about sex. After all, you exist. So, he’s fairly open-minded about it. But he may not think sex and a relationship are the same thing. And he might be traditional and someone who wants you to be married. Or, even be older before he is comfortable with you having a physical relationship. ... Maybe he’s embarrassed to talk about sex with his daughter, because that’s a very intimate thing. That’s not unusual. ... Approval of a boyfriend is not the same sort of thing as giving you carte blanche in terms of approving of a sexual relationship with him. ... I don’t know how to talk to your dad about this. I would just ask you this: Why do you care what your dad thinks? Because you seem to care. ... You’re 19; you’re legally an adult. Why are you still living at home? If you don’t feel like you’re ready to be out on your own, maybe you’re not ready to be out on your own. ... It might be an act of humility. ... Maybe it’s not too much to ask to also accept their help in terms of relationship advice.”

Charlie, 17: “There’s this boy, he’s kind of mean to me, and he lies to me a lot. Then others times, he’s a really great guy. He says to me he likes me and he treats me really well. How do you think I should proceed in this relationship?

Colbert: “I would not waste my time with somebody who lies to you. Even the ‘mean to me’ is easier to deal with than somebody who lies to you a lot. Because if he lies to you, how do you know he really likes you? ... I would give this person one last shot and say, ‘don’t ever lie to me again.’"

If you want more of the real Colbert, check out his powerful commencement address to Northwestern University in 2011 or his 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner performance, in which he decimated the Washington, D.C., press corps and former President George W. Bush in ways that sent shockwaves through the navel-gazing establishment.

Follow Eric Pfeiffer on Twitter (@ericpfeiffer).