Recently, I sat down with my friend Dieter to watch The Best of the Colbert Report. While I've enjoyed the several dozen or so episodes that I've managed to watch, I haven't been keeping up with the show, nor did I start watching when it first aired. On the other hand, Dieter is a long-time fan and regularly quotes Colbert. Watching it with him meant that I had someone to help me place these clips into their proper context. As it turns out, that's only useful if one is writing a review. The collection is entirely enjoyable as it stands, and no one needs an intimate knowledge of the context and history to "get it."
Many people don't quite "get" The Colbert Report. The show was spun off of Comedy Central's The Daily Show to allow the character of Stephen Colbert to have his own O'Reilly Factor type show. Colbert reveres Bill O'Reilly, and regularly refers to him as "Papa Bear." However, his satirical take on the political pundit talk show genre results in a more universally appealing and entertaining show. Despite his extreme patriotism, right-wing, and often absurd stance on issues, Colbert is appreciated by both liberals and conservatives alike.
The box art claims that the DVD contains "over 2 hero-inspiring hours" of content, which is not quite accurate. Clocking in at 175 minutes, it's a little less than three hours. That's right — three hours of Stephen Colbert. Unless you have the stamina of a horse and strong mental facilities, I do not recommend watching it in one sitting.
The first clip is from the first episode, and it begins with Colbert noting that while his name is displayed several times on several set pieces (and his desk is shaped like a C), the show is really about the people; as in, the people who watch the show. He then goes on to what would become a daily segment of the show: "The Wørd." This is the moment that made TV history, and created a new definition for an old word: truthiness. To this day, Colbert is still best known for always providing the viewer with truthiness rather than facts.
The collection includes several "Better Know a District" clips, in which Colbert interviews Congressional Representatives from various districts around the country. My personal favorites are his encounters with District of Columbia representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, one of the few interviewees to aggressively take on Colbert. While I enjoyed the other "Better Know" segments, I think I would have enjoyed them more if they had been mixed in with the other clips on the disc rather than lumped together near the beginning.
Also included in the collection are some of the most memorable guests on the show, such as Jane Fonda, Bill O'Reilly, and Willie Nelson. And yes, both the "Cooking with Feminists" clip and the interview with Fonda are included, and those may be the only two times I have noticed Colbert struggling to stay in character.
Colbert has created several challenges or feuds, and several of the most talked-about clips are included in the collection. The story line of "Rock and Awe: Countdown to Guitarmageddon," the green-screen feud between Colbert and The Decemberists is given a sizeable portion of the disc, as well as the green-screen challenge featuring George L. (Lucas) with his entry placing Colbert's fumbling antics with the light saber into a rendering of the Star Wars universe.
There are no extras besides a few trailers for other Comedy Central offerings, but aside from the clips, I can't think of anything else I would want; certainly not any sort of behind the scenes, unless Colbert stayed in character. Part of the mystique of the show is not quite knowing when he is serious and when he is satirical.
This collection is sure to please fans, although some will be disappointed that even with nearly three hours of content, a few of their favorite segments will have been left out of the collection. For viewers who have not yet caught on to the show, this collection is a good introduction; however, I recommend watching it only a little at a time in order to build up a tolerance.