Episode 4149 (11/17/2008)

If your ‘Colbert Report’ lasts more than half an hour, consult your physician. This is The Colbert Report!”

Cabinet Fever: “Tonight, Obama chooses his cabinet. First, he’s measuring the drapes. Now, he’s picking a cabinet? The guy sure loves to decorate. ”

  • ‘Good Morning America’ leaks Stephen’s surprise Christmas special ending.
  • Stephen picks his place in Obama’s Cabinet.
  • Tom Brokaw angling for a Cabinet position?

Desk Guest: Tom Brokaw, broadcast news legend and author, Boom! Talking About the Sixties.

Feud for Thought: “Then, a new war is tearing our country apart. Please, let it
be the Eskimos versus the Handicapped.”

  • Will Alaska’s Senator Ted Stevens break the Convicted Felon glass ceiling?
  • It’s a mud slinging slime fest between Campbell’s and Progresso

Gladwell That Ends Well: “Then, author Malcolm Gladwell says he knows why certain people become successful: it involves writing a best selling book about how people become successful. ”

  • Malcol Gladwell – author, Outliers: The Story of Success


Tom BrokawBoom!: Talking About the Sixties: What Happened, How It Shaped Today, Lessons for Tomorrow

Malcolm GladwellOutliers: The Story of Success

In closing: “[Drinking his bowl of soup through his pen] Good Night!”

Video Highlight:

Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell figures out the best year to be born in the 20th century if you want to become rich.

R.A.P.S. – Click here to talk about the episode!

NOTABLE MOMENTS — Video links and more after the fold!

More Video Highlights, courtesy of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report website

  • Intro – 11/17/08: Obama chooses his cabinet. First he’s measuring the drapes, now he’s picking a cabinet?
  • Stephen’s GMA Appearance: Stephen is mad at “Good Morning America” for giving away the surprise ending to his Christmas special.
  • Barack Obama Is Hiring: President-elect Obama says he wants to stock his cabinet with people who disagree with him, but Stephen still hasn’t been offered the job.
  • Obama’s Cabinet – Tom Brokaw: Tom Brokaw clarifies his ambition to be in Barack Obama’s cabinet.
  • Soup War: Stephen weighs in on the war between Campbell’s Soup and Progresso.
  • Stephen Drinks Soup: Stephen drinks soup through a pen.


  • I am sure you all saw my appearance this morning on ‘Good Morning America’. Hey, did you know that it’s actually light out at 6am?
  • Well, I am mad at ‘Good Morning America’. I went on with the purest of intentions – to selflessly promote my Christmas special ‘A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!’ which premieres this Sunday, November 23rd at 10pm Eastern on this very network. It is the greatest newsman hosted holiday special since ‘A Walter Cronkite Tet Offensive’.
  • It is well known that the main stream media has a war on Christmas, but today GMA went nuclear. Jim – show everybody what actually happened this morning when they ran a clip of my Christmas special. [clip from GMA interview]
  • Did you see that? They started with me dancing and then cut to a clip of a woman doing laundry. That’s the surprise ending of my Christmas special! You see, Mrs. Cratchet is washing here delicates when Santa magically flies out of the lint-trap and gives dryer sheets to all the good girls and boys. Then we all hold hands and sing ‘I’m dreaming of a White Load’.
  • Luckily, they didn’t give away every secret of my Christmas special. Like, which of my fabulous guests – Jon Stewart, Elvis Costello, Feist, John Legend, Toby Keith, or Willy Nelson – finds a dryer that gives them 42 minutes for a quarter. It’s a Christmas miracle!
  • President-elect Obama is meeting everyday with his transition team or, in Beltway lingo, his “trannies”. They are helping him pick who will be in his new government. Over 7,000 presidential appointments are up for grabs. The Obama administration is making history once again by being the only place in America that is currently hiring.
  • The President elect says he wants to stock his Cabinet with people who disagree with him. But I still haven’t been offered a job. So, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. All positions available are listed in a book called ‘United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions’ also known as ‘The Plum Book’, in memory of the 1st Secretary of Agriculture, Professor Plum – who was tragically killed in the Library of Congress with a candlestick.
  • One position I would be great for is Secretary of State. It is the highest ranking Cabinet position and is responsible for America’s foreign affairs. Everything from handling International crises to lending her credibility to instigate International crises.
  • To be Secretary of State you need to be tactful. You can’t ruin a tense negotiation by telling the Saudi Foreign Minister you won’t hold his hand. Or accidentally promise to aid a country south of the equator or giggle when you hear the word Djibouti. [Giggling] Djibouti.
  • Of course, I’d also be a great pick for Treasury Secretary. I’m really good at money – I have hundreds of credit cards under dozens of different names.
  • And then, of course, there’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. I could save the Government millions of dollars and half health care costs by implementing my ‘Walk It Off’ program.
  • I know Obama is going to want me. I mean, I’m on TV. And, as we’ve learned, the more time you spend on television, the more qualified you are to lead.
  • Unfortunately, I’ve got some job competition in the elite media. This conversation took place right before the election [Clip from Charlie Rose interview with Tom Brokaw]
  • [Shaking fist] Brokaaaaaaaaaaaaw! He’s clearly angling for a Cabinet position! Everyone knows that [in ‘Brokaw’ voice] “Obviously I would have to take a hard look at it” is just political code for “please, please make me Secretary of Veterans Affairs.”
  • Here now to tell me why Tom Brokaw has no chance of taking my Cabinet position is Tom Brokaw!
    • Tom: I want to begin by saying it’s very touching to stand backstage and to see how much they [the audience] love you and to see how much you love you.
    • Stephen: Well, we’re very sympatico that way. That’s the “rapport” we keep talking about. OK – what position have you got your eye on in the Cabinet? Secretary of Gravitas? Sec. Grav, as they call it?
    • TB: I’m not going to be a speech therapist, I can tell you that. Listen, you didn’t run the whole interview from Charlie Rose…
    • SC: I rarely do
    • TB: I know. I said that I’m running for cover; I’m not running for office. I think that public service is a noble, noble avocation and profession…
    • SC: I think so, too. That’s why I’m…
    • TB: I’m at that stage in my life when I want to stay a journalist and I think that there is honor in that and I think that it is a form of public service as well, so no. I am not like you. I am not looking for a job in the new Cabinet.
    • SC: Is that just another way of saying you didn’t pass the vetting process?
    • TB: That’s true as well.
    • SC: They found something dark in your past?
    • TB: Well, homicide – I don’t know why that would… why would that have anything to do with it?
    • SC: Obama says he wants to have people who disagree with him in his Cabinet. Why would a President want that? Don’t you want toadies and yes-men around you?
    • TB: Well, it works in television, so why wouldn’t it work in Government?
    • SC: Seriously, why would you want anyone disagreeing with you?
    • TB: I think the lesson of the past year and a half has been that the American public is now looking for the best of all of us to come together and have some creative tension. That, in fact, both on the Left and on the Right, there has been this kind of theology – I’m going to stay with my position no matter what the conditions are – and as a result, we haven’t been able to get a lot of things done. This whole election has been about solutions.
    • SC: He has some big challenges to face, Barack Obama. OK. He’s got this Cabinet to fill out – what’s the position he’s got to fill first?
    • TB: I think the most important position he has to do this time is Secretary of the Treasury. We’ve got so much at play…
    • SC: But everything under the Treasury – it deals with more than just the Treasury, isn’t it? Because, let’s look at, like, yesterday on ‘Meet the Press’ you talked about the bail out of the auto-industry. That’s Transportation, that’s Energy, that’s Treasury. Doesn’t he need like the ‘everything bagel‘ of the Cabinet Secretaries?
    • TB: That’s where we were going… I had no idea for a long time there…
    • SC: Yea – that’s where we were going.
    • TB: Thank God for video tape.
    • SC: Exactly – ha ha! All of it goes! I win! I always win!
    • TB: Listen – during the time of Jack Kennedy they talked about the best and brightest going to Washington?
    • SC: That’s why they don’t want me!
    • TB: This time he really does… this is the toughest opening act since Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. We are in the domestic equivalent of war and we also have 2 real wars going on in Afghanistan and in Iraq. So this is going to be a huge challenge and it requires everybody out here and everybody in America to do their part.
    • SC: Your book ‘Boom! Talking About the Sixties’ is out in paperback right now.
    • TB: Which finished 2nd to your book, I’m sorry to say.
    • SC: Yes – I actually sent you a copy of my book to let you know what it was like to hold Number 1.
    • TB: Right. And as I recall, I wrote back to you saying that you may not realize this, but I also wrote the Bible which has done very well.
    • SC: That I’ve read. Tom, thank you so much for joining us.
  • The Election may be over, but not every race ended November 4th. For instance, Alaska. Who knows if Alaska Senator Ted Stevens will fulfill his dream becoming America’s first Convicted Felon Senator. If he does, the expensive glass ceiling he illegally received as a gift will finally be shattered.
  • There’s another campaign still raging out there. I speak, of course, about the mud slinging slime fest between Campbell’s Soups and Progresso.
  • I all started when Progresso hit Campbell’s right in the noodles with this full page ad in the New York Times “Campbell’s has 95 soups made with MSG.”
  • No, at first, I thought this was a pro-Campbell’s ad. I mean, look at all these pretty cans. Plus, I love MSG. In fact, my favorite soup is Campbell’s MSG with Stars! Ah – it makes my heart race.
  • Then, Campbell’s fired back with their own ad: “Campbell’s proudly offers 124 soups with NO MSG.” Now, I liked that they included more pretty cans down here, but I think that the ad is too positive. They should have said “Progresso soup: Bill Ayeres Eats It! [M’m! M’m! Terror!]
  • Which is why I was proud to see this vicious attack ad: “Progresso made with MSG. Campbell’s made with TLC.”
  • Not only are they slamming Progresso’s MSG, but they are introducing some kind of tasty new chemical. I’m hoping TLC stands for Tetrodioxin-Lithio-Chlorite. M’m! That sounds delicious.
  • Take a look at this TV spot I believe produced by Gravy Boat Veterans for Soup.
  • Very impressive, but she did not identify the factory the MSG comes from. [brings out a soup bowl and tastes] Continex Chemicals… [tastes again] Exit 17, New Jersey Turnpike. [thinking again] 16.
  • Full disclosure, Folks. I am heavily and proudly invested in Campbell’s Soup stock. Jimmy! [clip from TCR episode 4124 with Stephen counting cans of Campbell’s chicken stock, beef stock, vegetable stock.] In fact, Campbell’s recently sent me a prototype can for their newest flavour – Stephen Colbert’s Easy Street Soup
  • They haven’t told me what’s in it, but I don’t care if it’s cream of lead based antifreeze. As long as the check clears and there is MSG in it.
  • As far as I’m concerned, MSG stands for “M’m! Soup Good!”
  • Besides, what do we really know about this ‘Progresso’? Sounds European. I bet their alphabet soup has umlauts in it.
  • We’ve got to shut these Progressos down by any means necessary before they soup-board the Campbell kids.
  • We will follow this story as it simmers.
  • My guest tonight says he knows why certain people become successful. Me, too. It’s called trust-funds.
    • Stephen: Three times a charm for you – maybe you’ll win this one. You’ve got a new book – it’s called ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’. Now, your last book, your previous book, was called ‘Blink’ which was about how we could instinctively know things without thinking them over. And that is why I did not read your book. I just went [flipping through the book] “I like it. It’s a good book.” So, what’s an outlier?
    • Malcolm: An outlier is a fancy, scientific term for something that lies outside of normal experience.
    • SC: Wait – go back. What do you mean by “outside normal experience”?
    • MG: If it had been 100 degrees today in New York, we would say that today was an outlier. It doesn’t conform to the rules.
    • SC: Oh – so statistically it’s off the chart.
    • MG. It’s off the chart. So, I’m interested in people who are off the charts; who we can’t understand using our normal theories and explanations.
    • SC: That’s why you came on my show.
    • MG: That’s exactly why I’m here.
    • SC: Are you an outlier?
    • MG: No…
    • SC: Come on…
    • MG: No, I’m a…
    • SC: Come on! We write about what we know, isn’t that it?
    • MG: I’ve had a little bit of a lucky streak, but I’m really talking about ‘big-deal’ outliers. This book is about Bill Gates, and The Beatles, and people who have really accomplished something.
    • SC: Bill Gates is often called ‘The Fifth Beatle’.
    • MG: Yes – he’s very musical…
    • SC: You say these people exist outside the statistical norms. How do we stop these people. How do we pull them back into the norm. Because, the make the rest of us look bad. I feel bad when I see somebody who seems more talented than I am and I wish them ill.
    • MG: One of the great themes of this book is that people who seem at first to be outliers actually aren’t. They are not responsible for their own success in the way that we assume and they are actually. although they are often talented, driven, ambitious people, they’ve had a series of incredibly lucky breaks. I actually had, speaking of Bill Gates, at one point I was talking to him and we went through all of the incredibly lucky things that happened to him as a kid and he really had a one in a million childhood. And he’s the first to admit that that’s a huge part of why he’s as successful as he is. And it’s not just…
    • SC: What was the luckiest thing that happened to him? Is it that Windows is so great?
    • MG: No… in 1969, when he’s 13 years old, he shows up for 8th grade and there’s a computer terminal at his school. Now, do you know how many 13 year olds had a computer terminal in 1969? One. Bill Gates. And that’s it. No one did back then….
    • SC: Maybe… do you have any theories like ‘this was ordained by God’? It seems like destiny because he’s got more money than God, now.
    • MG: That might be another book. I’m sure there are books out there that will make that argument. But I left that to those who…
    • SC: YOu said that the year you are born can indicate your success.
    • MG: Yes – I did all sorts of fun things with birthdates in the book. I figured out what the best year to be born is in the 20th century if you want to become rich – 1935.
    • SC: Because the economy was booming!
    • MG: Because it’s the smallest generation of the 20th century and you always want to be part of the smallest generation because it means that every time you try to get into a school or get a job there’s no one competing against you. And you know, the number of kids born… relatively speaking, fewer kids were born in 1935 than any other year in the 20th century.
    • SC: So, if the time that you are born is a good indicator of success, isn’t this astrology? It’s like, if you are born in the year of the rat, everything works out for you.
    • MG: Stephen, it’s very, very, high end astrology.
    • SC: What’s your sign?
    • MG: I’m a Virgo. I was not born…
    • SC: Oh! You seem like such a Virgo!
    • MG: People often say… I was born in a very unlucky year. 1963 is a really, sort of, not a great year. I also figured out what the greatest year to be born is in human history, if you want to be…
    • SC: The year Zero. What is it?
    • MG: It’s the year 1835. 22% of the 75 richest people of all time were Americans born in the 1830’s. It’s incredible. Starting in Cleopatra and going to the present day, an insane number of these richest people were born in the same decade.
    • SC: Is now a good time to be alive? Is this a lucky generation that we’re in right now, or are we screwed 6-ways to Sunday?
    • MG: We won’t know… you never know…
    • SC: I’d rather know!
    • MG: One of the themes of the book is you don’t know what an advantage is and sometimes until much later in your life and a lot of the people that I profile in the book…
    • SC: So, read this book many, many years in the future, is what you’re saying…
    • MG: Buy it now!
    • SC: Buy it now… absolutely!

    Fangirl Suit Report: Charcoal gray suit; White and gray striped shirt; Red tie with gold dot pattern.

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