Stephen Colbert’s bid for the presidency may have fallen short, but he’s still determined to influence the race.
On Monday, “The Colbert Report” will begin a week of broadcasts in Philadelphia, where the all-important Democratic Pennsylvania primary is looming. Colbert hopes the relocation will return him to center stage in the election.
“I don’t need to be president. I don’t need to be president,” repeated the comedian in a recent interview, as if trying to convince himself. “If somebody else needs that, if Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama need that title to make themselves feel good, that’s fine.
“I just want the power to decide who will be president and I’m going to Philly to help exercise that.”
It’s the first time the Comedy Central show (11:30 p.m. EST, Monday-Thursday) has broadcast anywhere but its snug Manhattan studio. Taping at the University of Pennsylvania’s 900-seat Zellerbach Theater will be a drastic change for the program.
“It’s like doing the show all over again,” said Colbert. “It’s like October 2005 because it’s a new set, new graphics, coming up with a new opening every night, trying to give everything special touches.”
Among those touches will be a filmed tour of Philadelphia and hometown guests including John Legend (who will sing the “Star Spangled Banner”), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Governor Ed Rendell and rap group the Roots.
This is Colbert’s most notable foray into the thick of presidential politics since his failed bid to be added to the South Carolina Democratic primary ballot last fall. Though at the time Colbert was polling ahead of several candidates, party officials voted 13-3 to keep him off the ballot, claiming he “serves to detract from the serious candidates.”
Advertisements for the upcoming shows have come with typical Colbert bravado. In one, he announces: “Philadelphia, you’re about to get a new brother to love. No tongue.”
“The Colbert Report” recently won a Peabody for broadcasting excellence. To Colbert, the award is further proof of his sway.
“I’m a king maker,” he said. “It’s not a dirty word.”