Source-checking Stephen Colbert, too

Fresh off my recent stint as a source-checker for the New York Times, I’ve decided to turn my attention to the words of Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA.

During his visit to Yale University about a month ago, Colbert sat down with the Yale Daily News for a brief interview:

You are obviously welcome to watch the whole clip — the interviewee is certainly adorable, if that’s what you’re into — but I just found myself curious about one statement in particular:

I don’t know who they invite, really. I’m not sure who they invite. So I bring both guys. Honest to god. The first time I ever was invited to speak was for Knox College, in Illinois, for their commencement. I led with, “I don’t know who you invited. If you know that I’m not that guy, or whether you know that I’m me.”

Now, Colbert has a famously accurate memory — see this clip for both a wonderful example, and Colbert’s usage of one of my favorite phrases — but I had literally just read an article in the Atlantic titled How Many of Your Memories Are Fake? (spoiler alert: lots!), which got me thinking…

The article described experiments in which subjects who enjoy near-perfect memory were still found to commit numerous errors of fact when their recollections were compared to verifiable evidence. And since, thanks to Youtube, I was sure a clip of Colbert’s speech would be available somewhere online, I just had to know: Was this indeed how Colbert led off his commencement address? Was it literally the first thing he said?

If you don’t feel like watching Colbert speak, or are hard of hearing, here’s the official transcript from the top:

First of all, I’m facing a little bit of a conundrum here. My name is Stephen Colbert, but I actually play someone on television named Stephen Colbert, who looks like me, and who talks like me, but who says things with a straight face he doesn’t mean. And I’m not sure which one of us you invited to speak here today. So, with your indulgence, I’m just going to talk and I’m going to let you figure it out.

So, basically, Yes. It was the first thing Stephen Colbert said. Marginally more eloquent than, “If you know that I’m not that guy, or whether you know that I’m me,” but I think it’s fair to say he got the basic gist.

Like the Pope, Stephen Colbert is a Catholic. Also infallible.


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