Stephen Colbert Reads Flannery O’Connor’s Darkly Comedic Story, “The Enduring Chill”

A good man is hard to find… a good man who can hold an audi­ence rapt by read­ing aloud for over an hour is hard­er still.

Soon-to-be Late Show host Stephen Col­bert acquits him­self quite nice­ly with Flan­nery O’Connor’s 1958 short sto­ry “The Endur­ing Chill,” above.

The tale of an ail­ing New York-based playwright’s unwill­ing return to his ances­tral home is a nat­ur­al fit for Col­bert, raised in Charleston, South Car­oli­na by North­ern par­ents. Record­ed at the behest of Select­ed Shorts, a pub­lic radio pro­gram where­in well known per­form­ers inter­pret con­tem­po­rary and clas­sic short fic­tion, the story—hand picked by Colbert—is a risky choice for 2015.

Like all of O’Connor’s work, it’s dark­ly comedic, and rife with rich char­ac­ter­i­za­tions. It also makes repeat­ed ref­er­ence to “Negroes,” two of whom the reader—in Col­bert’s case, a white man—is tasked with bring­ing to life. In this cur­rent cli­mate, I sus­pect most white come­di­ans would’ve played it safe with O’Connor’s lurid crowd pleas­er, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” a sta­ple of high school read­ing lists, which you can hear O’Con­nor, her­self, read here.

Col­bert sails through by bring­ing his North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty the­ater train­ing to bear. (O’Connor was a favorite of the Per­for­mance Stud­ies depart­ment dur­ing his time there.)

Hav­ing spent years embody­ing a right wing wind­bag on his satir­i­cal Col­bert Report, the come­di­an clear­ly rel­ish­es the oppor­tu­ni­ty to tack­le a vari­ety of roles, includ­ing the main character’s will­ful­ly super­fi­cial moth­er, his sour sis­ter, and the afore­men­tioned pre-Civ­il Rights-era African-Amer­i­can men, work­ers in the hero’s mother’s dairy barn. The Catholic Col­bert also has fun with an unex­pect­ed­ly less-than-eru­dite Jesuit priest.

Grow­ing up in South Car­oli­na, Col­bert made a con­scious deci­sion to steer clear of a South­ern accent, but his pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the word “poem” is a hall­mark of authen­tic here.

As for O’Connor, she gets in a not-so-sub­tle jab at Gone with the Wind, as well as the sort of read­er who, try­ing to be help­ful, coun­sels an aspi­rant South­ern writer to “put the War in there.”

Some­thing tells me these two would have hit it off…I would’ve loved to hear him inter­view her along with George Clooney, Amy Schumer, and oth­er first week guests.

Col­bert’s read­ing of “The Endur­ing Chill” will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Flan­nery O’Connor: Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Ayn Rand (1960)

Stephen Col­bert Reads Ray Brad­bury Clas­sic Sci-Fi Sto­ry “The Veldt”

Rare 1959 Audio: Flan­nery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’

Stephen Col­bert & Louis CK Recite The Get­tys­burg Address, With Some Help from Jer­ry Sein­feld

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor and per­former who revis­its her low bud­get back­pack­er trav­els in the new edi­tion of No Touch Mon­key! And Oth­er Trav­el Lessons Learned Too Late . Fol­low her @AyunHalliday



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