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The Colbert Countdown begins: the man behind the character

Stephen Colbert hosts Comedy Central's
Stephen Colbert hosts Comedy Central's "Indecision 2008: America's Choice" in November, 2008.
Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central

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Fun fact: searching "Stephen Colbert" on Wikipedia will give you pages for both "Stephen Colbert" and "Stephen Colbert (Character)." It speaks to just how well Colbert has been able to actualize his TV persona and also blur the line between his real self and his character.

This week we'll be highlighting our favorite things from the show every day up until the last episode of "The Colbert Report" airs on Thursday, December 18. Today's episode includes a conversation with Vulture's Jesse David Fox about Colbert the character and Colbert the man.

In 2005, the show began with Colbert's character as a tongue-in-cheek parody of Bill O'Reilly and other Fox News hosts. In his initial episode, Colbert gave his mission statement in the very first instance of what became the recurring segment, "The Word." The word of the day was "Truthiness," which was eventually named word of the year by the American Dialect Society and Merriam-Webster.

The gospel of truthiness not only found its way into dictionaries; Colbert brought it with him to the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Now widely praised as a landmark moment for contemporary satire, Colbert's segment received icy glares and occasional nervous laughter. 

Colbert performed as his TV persona, "praising" George W. Bush and his approval ratings, his anti-intelligence spin, and the American government in Iraq, before "turning" on the press in the room. Really, it's a stunning routine. Watch below.

Over the course of "The Colbert Report," the two identities of Stephen Colbert would occasionally dovetail — his ability to geek out about "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars" stand out as characteristics that belong to both Colbert the man and Colbert the character. But the most poignant and potentially "real" moment on the show occurred after Colbert's mother died.  It was a moment that Vulture's Jesse David Fox says brought both the man and the character into one being. Colbert returned from a week-long absence to honor his mother, Lorna, and it's one of the most touching and emotional things ever seen on TV.

But there are other, more gleeful moments in which Colbert breaks character. Comedy Central made a super-cut of Colbert dissing Hanukkah in which he breaks character five times. Other topics that prompted him to break character: colonoscopies, flying rabbis, and a Colbert SuperPAC donor named "Suq Madiq." Stephen, never change.

Tuesday we'll be looking at Stephen Colbert — uber-geek and "Lord of the Rings" aficionado.

You can follow our Colbert coverage on Twitter: #ColbertCountdown @TheFrame

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