NEW YORK — The funniest relationship on TV might be the clandestine, cross-network affair between "The Colbert Report" and "House."
If you look carefully, you can spot a small, framed photograph of Hugh Laurie, the star of Fox's "House," on the set of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." "House" has reciprocated the gesture with a photo of Colbert that sits on Dr. Gregory House's desk.
On Monday's "Report," Stephen Colbert said House's photo sits on his shelf because he's a huge fan of the TV doctor.
"House and I have a lot in common," Colbert, in mock pundit character, said on the show. "We both refuse to play by the rules, never consider the consequences of our actions, and are horribly abusive to our staffs.
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"In the end, we're both always right."
The shelf behind Colbert's C-shaped desk contains a collection of odd objects that he has found reason to keep by some twist of the show's bizarre comedic meanderings. The House photo currently rests, Colbert noted, "in a place of honor next to my coin purse made from a bull scrotum."
Colbert first placed the photo on his set in June 2006 after Colbert (the real one) received an honorary degree from Knox College. This made him a doctor, Colbert claimed, and next to his degree, he placed photos of three other TV doctors: House, Noah Wyle from "ER," and Dr. Cliff Huxtable from "The Cosby Show."
The House photo (now more visible because "The Report" broadcasts in high-definition) has stuck around, Colbert said in a recent interview, because the show noticed it would frequently show up on camera over his shoulder.
"We said we've got to keep that — we can't get rid of the picture of House," he said.
When he saw that "House" responded in kind, Colbert said he was "honored because I'm such a fan."
Laurie didn't respond to requests for his perspective on the gesture.
The connection between the two fictional characters is fitting because it mirrors a real-life link. Both are comedians with a fondness for wordplay and an extraordinary talent for embodying a character.
American audiences are less familiar with Laurie's earlier sketch comedy work on British television, including the beloved, acclaimed series "Blackadder" and "A Bit of Fry and Laurie," and his portrayal of P.G. Wodehouse's empty-headed Bertie Wooster in the PBS series "Jeeves and Wooster." Colbert says he's particularly a fan of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie," which co-starred Stephen Fry (also Laurie's co-star in "Jeeves").
"I love it when people say, 'Oh, I saw Hugh Laurie on "SNL." He was funny!'" said Colbert. "Yes, there was something he did before 'House.'"
But that's background that Colbert — or Laurie — would never even wink at on TV. No, instead Colbert continues to play up his character's love of "House."
"I spend a lot of time praising the larger-than-life figures who shape our nation, be they President Bush, Vice President Cheney or House," Colbert said on a 2006 show. "When will that hospital learn just to trust his instincts? They already give him the hopeless cases."
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