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Stephen Colbert opens up to Oprah about losing father, brothers in plane crash

Oct. 1, 2012 at 10:56 AM ET

Earlier this year, Stephen Colbert put "The Colbert Report" on hiatus as he -- reportedly, never confirmed -- headed home to his ailing 91-year-old mother, Lorna. On his return, Colbert told his audience, "Evidently having 11 children makes you tough as nails. Confidential to a lovely lady."

And he went on with the show. But on "Oprah's Next Chapter" Sunday night, Colbert put aside that "Colbert Report" persona and had an intimate chat with the former Queen of Daytime. They talked about many things, most poignantly about how losing his father and two teenaged brothers when he was 10 in a plane crash affected him for years afterward.

"That was my secret name," he explained to Oprah, saying that the loss was something he kept inside himself. "That loss was my name.... I liked the idea that you have a secret name. ... And that's a name that no one can ever really pronounce, you know, because it's who you are. There's a magic to your secret name."

He had a hard time grieving, and the fallout followed him all the way to college, where he dropped 50 pounds in his freshman year. "I was in bad shape," he said. "I was just green ... I was so sad about it."

But he also talked about joy in his life; Oprah reminded him that he'd called "The Colbert Report" "the joy machine" once. Both agreed that happiness might be overrated, but joy was something else entirely. 

So what brings Colbert his deepest joy today? "To be with (his) wife and children."

Be sure to check out the video above, and go here for more clips from Oprah's chat with Stephen Colbert!

What did you think of the interview? Were you surprised to see Stephen Colbert show his serious side? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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