With a fast-moving mixture of comedy and seriousness, an interview on The Colbert Report is something of an improvisational flying trapeze act. “Stephen Colbert is an amazingly good interviewer,” writes physicist Sean Carroll, “managing to mix topical jokes and his usual schtick with some really good questions, and more than a bit of real background knowledge.”
Beneath the humor there is a sense that Colbert understands and respects science. The sad thing, writes Carroll, “is that more people are exposed to real scientists doing cutting-edge research by watching Comedy Central than by watching, shall we say, certain channels you might have thought more appropriate venues for such conversations.” But the exposure is all too brief. An interview on The Colbert Report typically lasts only a few minutes.
So it was interesting when Colbert stepped away from his comedic character for a more in-depth conversation with one of his frequent guests, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The interview took place last year at Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, New Jersey. Earlier this week Tyson uploaded the video to the website of the Hayden Planetarium, where he is director, but the server was overwhelmed by the resulting surge in traffic. So someone placed the version above on YouTube. It’s an interesting, and witty, one-hour-and-19-minute conversation. For more of Tyson with Colbert, you can watch his appearances on The Colbert Report at the Hayden Planetarium site.