Lori Lippman Brown on Colbert

By Phil Plait | September 3, 2008 3:03 pm

My friend (and newly minted skeptic) Lori Lippman Brown was on Colbert last week talking about religion and politics. I’ve met Lori a few times in the past, but got to know her a lot better last week at DragonCon (I know, I know, the wrapup will come soon, but dangit I’m busy). She’s a riot! I was really happy to see her shine in panels and talk to her offline. Of course, in the Stephen Colbert clip he does tend to step on her. That’s to be expected — it’s Colbert, after all. But she does get in some good stuff, and it’s a funny bit.

Here’s the clip.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Religion, Skepticism

Comments (32)

  1. Todd W.

    Oh, Charles Darwin!

  2. I realize Colbert’s show is a humor show and he is the star. However, I really hate how he, as you say, “steps on” his guests. His babble, although funny, often totally distracts from what his guests are trying to communicate. I saw him do that with Ken Miller a while back, and was pretty irritated. Anyone wondering what the evolution/ID debate is all about, and tuning into Colbert’s show to get some useful info from his Miller interview would not have gleaned anything useful at all. Why have interesting and educational guests on if all they are allowed to do is be the setup for Colbert’s next gag?

  3. complex_field

    OMG I laughed so hard i got a (insert rap beat here) hadron to collide! While the stepping gets to be a bit annoying (albeit hilarious), I think the point is to show that there are interesting people out there without being heavy-handed. Those who are already sufficiently motivated can find resources on their own . However, comedy allows the non-motivated to see the other good stuff in life and, if it piques their interest, go find out more.


  4. Some Guy

    People don’t (or at least shouldn’t) be going to Comedy Central for news. Colbert is just doing his job by making people laugh. Also, he’s supposed to be a parody of Bill O’Reilly who does the same thing.

  5. Miranda

    Unfortunately she allows Colbert to lead her down all sorts of ridiculous paths that were completely off the mark, like that bit about accounting for how “belief in god has lead to the worlds most stunning achievements”. A bit of a non sequitor, at the very least totally irrelevant, but she follows his line of question like a lamb to the slaughter … granted, I expect Stephen is quite disarming, and since it’s a comedy show, you want to go along with being funny, but still …

    Also, I actually didn’t find this bit that funny, although I often find Colbert very humourous. Especially when he launches into God Bless America. I actually found it kind of uncomfortable. Admittedly, she did a great job of holding her own regardless of where he lead her.

  6. gengenger


    First, I would say that a Comedy Central program is not where you go to get some useful info. It’s like going to the green grocers and asking “where’s the beef?”

    Secondly, as to why have interesting guests on, he needs a straight man. It’s the old pratfall status shift theory of comedy. The more status the target has, the funnier the joke.

    As Complex_field points out, the value of all this is that people tuning in to see some smart comedy (a rare commodity these days) get to be introduced to a few people who are worth google-ing. And these guests know what they’re in for – and they know they’re going to reach a lot of people they never would anywhere else. So they are happy to appear on the show.

  7. John Powell

    “Why have interesting and educational guests on if all they are allowed to do is be the setup for Colbert’s next gag?”

    It sells books! And Doritos!

  8. Robbie

    That was hilarious. Some of the previous 6 posters just do not get Colbert.

  9. Miranda


    I “get” him just fine, thank you very much. The fact that I didn’t find this particular bit funny has nothing to do with not “getting” it. It has to do with my NOT FINDING IT FUNNY. There are lots of jokes that I also don’t find funny, although I “get” perfectly well what it is about them that makes other people laugh. Maybe you just don’t “get” humour! (sorry, that’s cheeky, but at some level, the accusation is the same as yours)

  10. Brandon

    Hey Miranda. Lighten up. The Brown interview had the same spirit as every other one of his interviews. Not finding it funny is one thing. But your original comment was a critique of it as if it were a serious interview. Have you ever watched the show?

  11. Astro_logic

    A Hadron to collide? That’s not funny no matter how you hear it… Well… I guess it kinda is. Anyway I digress, I saw this episode/interview thingie, and I thought it was awesome. Colbert is just plain funny IMO. And I agree, if you’re looking for serious news then Comedy Central isn’t the place to find it.

  12. LilLeaguer

    OT, but thanks for restoring the complete articles in the RSS feeds.

  13. Andrew

    Mrs. Brown is amazing (and made a great showing, she said she adored doing this piece). I was almost sad I had to miss this live but the fact that I was around her in person instead was kinda making up for it.

  14. Blu-Ray-Ven

    why would she lower herself by going to colbert

  15. KC

    If you go on Colbert’s show – you know what to expect. I say let the Skeptics go on – they certainly won’t get as much airtime anywhere else. Most ‘real’ news shows are too busy chasing fire trucks and taking pictures of Jesus appearing in bowls of soup.

    If you can’t laugh at yourself – who can you laugh at? Let the ID folks, UFO nuts and Bigfoot groupies be the humorless jerks no one wants to talk to!

  16. On the Richard Dawkins site, Dawkins himself started a whole discussion about how he couldn’t see the fun of it and at some point started to sound like someones grandfather complaining about all that rock and roll rackett… In the beginning I thought it was someone using Dawkin’s name and was actually just trolling.
    Oh well, to each his own I guess, there are whole hordes who don’t find Monty Python funny. Dawkins seems to really find Julia Sweeny humourous… I on the other hand find her hysterical, in a not funny kind of headache inducing way.
    I crinched during this clip but that is sort of the point, it just really gets funny if you look up some clip of O’Reilly after watching Colbert.

  17. If God does not want Colbert on the air, then may lightning strike him dead!
    BUT, It maybe that God has a sense of humor. Go figure.

  18. Bigfoot

    I guess I get Colbert, because this was absolutely hilarious. Colbert is an absolute genius, and if anyone thinks atheism was being mocked there, well, something got lost between the screen and your frontal lobe.

    Anyway, we humor-loving types live happier, anyway, so join us!

  19. Brown got off easy compared with what South Park did to their “Dawkins” character, who was painted as being so sex obsessed he fell for Mr. Garrison post-sex change.

  20. PJE

    The link won;t play for me, just tells me to go to comedy central . com…


  21. Todd W.

    So, Phil. When are you going to be on Colbert?

  22. Mike

    This is definitely classic Colbert. I was just happy to see an atheist on TV!

    About the “stepping on” comments, that is how he usually handles these congressman & lobbyist interviews.

    There are certain guests which he allows to speak more, such as the historian lady he had on tonight and Neil deGrasse Tyson. His style works especially well when the person being interviewed has a quick wit and can get in their comments between his lines of sarcasm.

  23. Autumn

    Okay, I think that a lot of folks in my general generation (thirty-ish) have gotten a little addled by the existance of the satirical news.
    I think it started when we realised that Jon Stewart was asking political guests questions that other, “legitimate”, journalists were not, and that the questions a comedian was willing to ask were more relevant and important than those questions which network journalists seemed obsessed by.
    However, comedy is still just comedy, and the joke is always going to be the main goal. Stewart’s serious interviews are not funny. They are intelligent and incisive, but only because he is never going to be regarded as a source to be cited in serious discussion. He is only able to have guests who tolerate his questions because he is not a journalist.
    The above statement is as much an idictment of the state of journalism as it is a commentary on comedy, but my point remains: we now have higher standards for our comedians than we do for our journalists.
    Man, I feel dirty.

  24. madge

    Hey it made me LAUGH. That’s what I look for when I watch Colbert. And sometimes humour can be used to shine a light in dark corners where MS “journalists” dare not go.

  25. I read something somewhere once that quoted some survey that pointed out that there is more “actual” news or information in the average Jon Stewart show than in any “news” show from the major networks. Sorry I can’t cite my source.

  26. Andrew

    Ey, Miranda.

    If you didn’t find it funny then, by the definition of the term, you didn’t get the humor.

    Doesn’t mean you’re stupid. You just didn’t get it. If I were to hazard a guess I’d say you didn’t get it because the issue being satirized was one you feel strongly about and so it made you uncomfortablet. Yeah?

  27. Gary Ansorge

    Steven made a point about christmas: the government IS trending toward being religion based.
    He is the best satirist I’ve heard of since Ambrose Bierce.
    HAving said that, I note, he has had some really good interviews, when his opponents,er, I mean, “guests”, are quicker on the uptake than he is, such as his interviews with Neil DeGrass Tyson.

    It takes a genius to nail a genius. Any takers out there? Phil Plait? Phil Plait?

    I watched Gary Kasparov hand Bill Mayer his butt on a platter. I like Bill, though he is sometimes just as woo-wooish as any right winger, such as when he became hysterical about the decline of honey bee populations. Apparently, Bills research staff missed references to similar declines in bee populations in the late 19th century. We’re not the ONLY cause of environmental disruptions. Sometimes it’s a natural consequence of crowding(viral origin).

    Even mosquitos (male) have some pollinating capability, so we’re not all going to starve because bees are having difficulties.

    I really like Steven, but maybe that’s because I really appreciate his extremist parody.

    The more a guest can pull the rug from under Steven, the more they get to be serious. So, Phil, if/when you get on his show, be VERY, VERY quick,,,
    ,,,and laugh a lot,,,

    GAry 7

  28. “hit the harmony”

  29. madge

    “Key change” LMAO!

  30. Miranda


    I see your point. I can say that I did understand why it was supposed to be funny, but I just wasn’t humoured by it. I feel the same way about fart jokes too, and the Three Stooges (an old Cheers reference, if anyone’s old enough to remember it!) And I concede that the fact that I sympathize with the person and the subject matter probably didn’t help :)


    I watch Colbert almost every night, and find him hilarious most of the time. I wasn’t critiquing Lori’s interview like it was “real”, I was critiquing the fact that she could probably have done a better job at responding to his humour. To be fair, his interviews have never been my favourite part of the show (his extremes feel a little awkward to me), although some are excellent. In fact, some of his best interviews are with people who can keep him off base a bit with their own humour .. Richard Brandson, Neil Young and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are few.

  31. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    But the contrast to O’Reilly must be among the third iteration or so of the basis of Colbert’s funniness (and a sad statement on US social scene); I rather appreciate him for his sarcastic wit. Which shines the more the victim doesn’t know how to answer it, so it’s a win-win for Colbert, the victim and the audience.

    That said, it is truly enjoyable when Colbert becomes befuddled by, say, a quicker wit. Brown was far from that, instead it was a fair show all around.

    Btw, conflating/rejecting personal taste of fun with/for an understanding of humor is much the same as rejecting cuisine for fast food joints – “it’s food, so it must be good”. But luckily taste differ.

  32. Autumn wrote: “(…) my point remains: we now have higher standards for our comedians than we do for our journalists.”

    That’s profound. You dirty, dirty boy/girl.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar