Random musings on past (and future?) scientist guests on “The Colbert Report”

A brief Huffington Post entry caught my eye earlier this week; it was talking about the man HuffPo blogger Gregg Easterbrook calls the “greatest living American”. No, he wasn’t talking about Stephen Colbert, he was talking about Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and most recently, the winner of the Congressional Gold Medal. Today’s Channel 8 (Dallas-Fort Worth) noted in passing that Mr. Borlaug has been invited to appear on The Colbert Report (no word on whether he’s accepted the invitation).

I, for one, would very much like to see Mr. Borlaug appear on The Report. I know all too little about him (the first time I recall hearing his name was on an early episode of The West Wing, and I went to his alma mater!), and I’d love to see what Stephen would have to say to him.

Stephen obviously enjoys interviewing scientists; in my opinion, those interviews have been among many of his best. Here is a sampling of some of them:

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson
    • Pluto, pt. 1 – Dr. deGrasse Tyson helps Stephen take down the three new planets.
    • Pluto, pt. 2 – Dr. deGrasse Tyson helps Stephen take down the three new planets.
  • Craig Venter – Dr. Craig Venter explains that he can do a better job with genetics than God because he uses a computer.
  • Michael Gershon – Dr. Michael Gershon tells Stephen there’s a brain in the gut that is just as powerful.
  • Jared Diamond – Dr. Jared Diamond tells Stephen we have about another 50 years to go.
  • Richard Dawkins
    • Part 1 – Stephen and scientist Richard Dawkins chat about natural selection and pachinko.
    • Part 2 – Dr. Richard Dawkins is a fan of intelligent design for man-made things, but not natural things.

And these are two of my favorites, whether we’re talking about scientists, or just guests in general:

  • Janna Levin
    • Part 1 – Stephen asks Dr. Janna Levin if being a theoretical physicist is like studying unicorn husbandry.
    • Part 2 – Stephen and Dr. Janna Levin chat about the Theory of Everything.
    • Part 3 – Stephen asks Dr. Janna Levin if he could be a Turing machine.
  • Peter Agre
    • Part 1 – Stephen flips Dr. Peter Agre’s Nobel Prize to settle the science-religion debate.
    • Part 2 – Stephen offers Nobel Prize winner Dr. Peter Agre a trade.


  1. cakeordeath says:

    Oh thank you for this lovely collection!I haven’t seen the interview with Janna Levin, its a lovely interview.Although she said nothing new that I didn’t know already Stephen was cute!:))
    And I must get that book now, it sounds interesting!:P

  2. Nice. I think there might be a course on Stephen and Science in the works at Colbert University … as well as one on Stephen, Science and Religion (the unholy Trinity?). Stay tuned…

  3. You forgot Richard Dawkins. :D That was an awesome interview.

  4. Ms Interpreted says:

    Good point, MC Esteban; I’ve added it. It wasn’t my intention to track down *all* of the interviews that Stephen has done with his scientist friends, but that was a pretty notable omission.

    Thanks for the comments, cakeordeath and WWG; it’s always nice to know people are enjoying the posts. :)

    That Janna Levin interview is near the top of my list of favorite interviews, ever. It’s not gimmicky, there was nothing particularly unusual in it (no Tim Robbins stage diving before the interview or Jane Fonda sitting in Stephen’s lap or John Mellencamp getting ready to throw down, anyway), but it’s just a fabulous instance of Stephen having a really interesting discussion about Levin’s work and flexing his own intellectual chops (referencing the Poincare Conjecture, casually shouting out Anselm of Canterbury’s proof of the existence of God, etc.) in the process. Just a seriously cool segment, IMO.

  5. Phil came back in the Harvey Birdman finale!! I think there was also a cartoon “Stephen” in the crowd! I know this has nothing to do with the post, just wanted to let you know.

    “Ha ha ha! Last laugh.”

  6. Yeah, I know you weren’t trying to track em all down, but the Dawkins interview is up near the top of my list of favorites. Janna Levin was really great too. Also, I know one of my friends was head over heels about the Gershon interview; he is basically her idol.

    I really like it when guests who are not entertainers can keep up with Stephen, giving and taking, making their points but also playing in the alternate reality. Anyway, cool post. *thumbs up*

    PS Birdman rocked!

  7. Ms Interpreted says:

    Why, *thanks*, MC Esteban!

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