Game Changers 2014: Stephen Colbert

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“I never dreamed I’d follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead,” Stephen Colbert said in his first official statement after news broke that he’ll be replacing David Letterman as host of the Late Show in 2015. “I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.” 

Colbert has two big sets of shoes to fill: obviously, those of the venerable Letterman; but also those of his own satirical on-air persona. In 2010, Colbert was asked to testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration. He accepted, on one condition—that he stay in character. Congress acquiesced. “I’ve got no business doing something like that,” Colbert told Meet the Press in 2012. “But my character thinks he does. And through him, hopefully I can say things in a more palatable way than I could.” 

Colbert has a knack for that. “Comedy just helps ideas go down,” he says. And they go down smooth: A study released by the Annenberg Public Policy Center in June revealed that people who followed Colbert’s continued coverage of the formation of his own super PAC were better educated on campaign finance and the role of money in politics than viewers of any other news source. Though Colbert the character will be missed when TCR ends its 10-year run, it’s impossible not to be excited about what the man has in store for us next. 

FIT FACT: Aboard the International Space Station, scientists work out on a NASA-designed, specially modified piece of exercise equipment called the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or C.O.L.B.E.R.T., for short. (Google it.)

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