“I *teach* Sunday School, motherf*#ker!”

As we suspected, Dr. Zimbardo had one or two things to say about The Lucifer Effect that he didn’t *quite* get to during the interview on Monday.

From The Hero Workshop:

Dear fans of the Hero Workshop

I was hoping to lead Colbert around to the subject of everyday, or ordinary heroes, and how our society desperately needs to be building a nation of young heroes ready to take on evil and conquer or prevent it.

He got too hung up on the Lucifer “myth” and at the end was really agitated when I said maybe God was wrong and Lucifer was right in not honoring Adam given he ended up as so easily corruptible by a snake in the garden. When I chided him as likely doing well in Sunday School, his retort was, “I TEACH SUNDAY SCHOOL, MOTHER (***edited out for the kids in the audience)!” Partially blipped but it is there, and hardly becoming of a Catholic lay Sunday School Teacher, for sure.

. . .

Read the full post here

I sympathize with Dr. Zimbardo’s frustration at not being able to get his point across … but then, I’d also know better than to tangle with Stephen on theology if I wanted to steer the topic toward anything else. To quote The Princess Bride, “You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” Think up a suitable equivalent regarding sparring with Stephen on religion, and I think you’ll know what I mean.

If you’d like another look at Zimbardo’s interview with Stephen, watch it here:

For a more substantive discussion of The Lucifer Effect, check out Dr. Zimbardo’s 2007 interview with Jon Stewart here or go to www.lucifereffect.com.

And just one tip, Dr. Zimbardo? If you ever decide to visit Stephen’s show again, don’t bring up God unless you want to debate the Bible for the rest of the interview. At which point you’re likely to get [Sunday] schooled.


  1. somuch2kno says:

    As great as this interview was – is there anything better than Stephen at full passion pitch?! – I’m sorry Dr. Zimbardo didn’t manage to steer the conversation the way he’d have liked. I think it would be just as compelling to hear Stephen discuss the makings of an “everyday hero”. He has certainly proven to be one, time and again, as much as he may demure.

  2. He “was hoping to lead Colbert around…” That may have been his first mistake, not realizing who was in charge of the interview.

  3. Gotta love the Princess Bride quote!

    And you’re right – guests should know to expect this sort of thing to happen. Plus, the interview is Stephen’s, really, not the guest’s, so the guest shouldn’t be bad about what direction it’s led in.

    I like your [sunday] schooled pun. :)

  4. Yay, Princess Bride!!!

    His last two guests have looked like they’re breathless trying to squeeze words in to get their points across. They come in with a set list of stuff they want to say & get totally derailed by the master of diversion :-)

  5. somuch2kno says:

    oops. I hit ‘send’ before finishing my thought. I also think “Stephen” would have a field day with the heroes concept. Right, Nation?!

  6. Hi, I’m the owner of the Hero Workshop blog where Phil explained his side. I talked to him before he went on the show and we were both well aware that the interview would be far from normal. I actually wrote on my blog earlier in the week that I thought he could well end up talking about the mating habits of whales in Greenland.

    Either way, we’re happy with getting the word about everyday heroism out whenever we can.

  7. IMHO, I thought Stephen let this interview get away from him. Sometimes the belligerence of his character takes over at the expense of the subject at hand. I prefer interviews where he is charmingly misinformed or giving his ridiculous opinion with deadpan delivery (including eyebrow)… the Bill O’ shouting-interrupting thing starts to wear me down after a while.

    But yes, I absolutely busted out laughing at the m-f line. Love the man with all my heart.

  8. I thought this interview was particularly interesting, because I felt like the real Stephen was coming through a little bit. When Zimbardo said his bit about Lucifer perhaps being correct, my Catholic alarm totally went off (I’m an atheist, raised Catholic… I have a Catholic alarm :P). That kind of statement totally goes against everything the Catholic, probably even Christian church as a whole, teaches. I can’t honestly imagine a person who considers themselves a Catholic hearing that and not getting a little ticked off or upset.

    And then Stephen, as you said, (Sunday) schooled him, and it was all sorts of awesome. I love it when he does that :)

  9. I was raised Catholic and I have a degree in religion, and even so, I wouldn’t argue theology with Stephen. I would not win. He is just plain smarter than I am, and his mind is sharper and quicker than mine.

  10. Ms Interpreted says:

    @ Matt Langdon,

    As it happens, it took me longer to get this particular post up on the site than usual because I wanted to make it clear that, while I enjoyed the interview on many levels, I did realize that there were important things that Dr. Zimbardo was trying to say about the content of his book.

    Blogging on this site, I sometimes forget the extent to which things that seem obvious to me (i.e. try to steer clear of Biblical — or even Miltonian — references unless you’re prepared to risk Stephen steamrolling over the rest of the conversation) are less so to the show’s guests. So it goes. I love nearly all of Stephen’s interviews; some of them really highlight the work various authors have done, others engage me for different reasons. This definitely fell in the latter category, which is why I linked back to the interview Dr. Zimbardo did on The Daily Show, etc.: so people interested in the book’s contents would have a link or two to play with.

    Anyhow, thanks for posting the follow up to the show and for commenting here. I hope people who enjoyed the interview as much as I did will also take some time to look further at Dr. Zimbardo’s work.

  11. *quick un-related question*
    Is there a way you guys could make that “This Week on The Colbert Report” intro line thing into a widget? I’d love to put it on my MySpace or LJ… :]

  12. @ Ms Interpreted

    I thank you for linking to my post. I enjoy Colbert a lot, that’s why I emailed Phil to ask what his plans were and whether he knew what he was getting into. I cracked up at the closing comment. Even though I was on the edge of my seat to see if the heroism work was going to squeeze in. Colbert is like a force of nature.

  13. ColbertFaninChicago says:

    I agree, Tina. Mr. Ford (with the book about the Race Card) seemed particularly ill at ease, trying to get out all his points. Far better to let Stephen do the driving … he’s better at riffing off the impromptu.

  14. I just loved the debate between Stephen and Dr. Zimbardo — it was hard to tell where “Stephen” ended and the real Stephen began, which always gets the fans all fired up. Religion is always a juicy topic for debate on the show, and despite the tangent Stephen may have went on, I thought it was fantastic.

  15. Thanks Hero Workshop bloggers for your feedback and insights:
    I knew Colbert was a practicing Catholic, as I used to be, so knew I could push his button by declaring Lucifer was right and God was wrong in the confrontation over Lucifer’s alleged disobedience to authority– and It worked!

    In a 5 min segment, I did not pretend to debate deep theological issues with him or anyone, the purpose was to make it an interesting interview and to have people remember to associate Zimbardo with The Lucifer Effect and buy my book.

    PS, we will soon be selling those T shirts that I gifted to Colbert, on my web site, with all profits going for site maintenance. The reverse side is even more interesting than the front– which I designed.
    see WWW. LuciferEffect.com

    Phil Z.

  16. I like when the real stephen comes out. It’s nice to see that.

  17. Well you did a very good interview Phil. I don’t think anybody knew what you were really doing with Stephen. I didn’t know that you were purposely trying to push his buttons. I don’t think anyone wil forget that interview. Nice job!

  18. Perhaps the lesson here is: never underestimate a skilled psychologist.

  19. I am the co-moderator of the Theology Blog on Phil Zimbardo’s Lucifer Effect website. I hold both Phil and Stephen Colbert in very high esteem (I once delivered a sermon on “truthiness” and talked at some length about Stephen). I have to say that I had mixed reactions to the interview. It was highly entertaining, which means that it was a success in terms of its primary purpose. But, it was also a bit disappointing that Phil did not have the chance to present some of his concepts on such a wonderful public forum. Given the way that Stephen (justifiably) chops so many of his interviewees into tiny bits, Phil came off quite well just being able to hold his own. Maybe I am a latent masochist, but I would love to debate theology with Stephen. I believe that, underneath that wildly successful parody of tough-guy TV pundits, there is a lot of depth when it comes to faith and religion and it might be quite enlightening to get more of the “real Stephen” on this topic.

    Rev. Curtis Webster

  20. @Rev Webster –
    When you refer to chopping the interviews up, those are prerecorded interviews – such as Better Know a District – where an hour long interview is condensed to a few minutes for comic effect.

    When the interviews are done on the show, in front of the live audience, there is little editing done unless necessary for time. Thus, Stephen would not have edited Dr. Zimbardo’s interview much, if at all.

    I thought it was a disappointment as well that the interview seemed to go off course, but now the good Doctor has said that he wanted to do it that way.

  21. Jennie:
    Allow me to clarify: my reference to chopping interviewees up into little bits has to do with the people themselves. Stephen can grind people into the dirt and leave them gasping for air. So, what I was saying was that Phil did a great job withstanding Stephen’s withering style.

  22. One of the Heroes says:

    @Rev. Curtis Webster
    I agree with both of your posts. I would love to see an out of character Stephen Colbert debate theological issues with someone like yourself or Dr. Zimbardo. Stephen’s character and the fact that an interview is 3-5 minutes long can be limiting when there is a topic that SC is passionate about. I have heard Stephen state in interviews that he sometimes wants to ask more intelligent and complex questions than his character does.

    I respect Stephen’s ability to nail people and I enjoy his interviews quite a bit but there have been a handful of occasions when I wished Stephen had backed off a bit, and allowed the guest to talk more.

    I loved the Zimbardo interview. Both men held their own and I love it when Stephen is discussing something that he cares a lot about.

  23. Cory Nickerson says:

    I’d TiVo’d this episode, along with all TDS and Report episodes, and at the end of this interview I was standing up, hitting the back button several times. This wasnt a case of Colbert the character going overboard, it was a case of the real Stephen being offended by the mischaracterization of his religion. Thank god for the ensuring commercial break or this could have continued. This is an intelligent passionate man about many issues, and while he does a remarkable job maintaining character and humor, my favorite moments are the ones when he “loses it” for a moment. Stephen wipes the floor with Tim Russert as an interviewer.

  24. Can someone direct me to a non-Comedy Central based clip of this interview? Either they’re blocking international ISPs again or my connection is just too slow, but when I try to watch it just goes straight to “Play again or check out more videos from comedycentral.com.” Thanks for the help…

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