Rounding out his first week of hosting the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, viewers were treated to the most earnest Stephen Colbert he has allowed himself to be Thursday night when he interviewed Vice President Joe Biden. It was a vulnerable conversation shared between two men who both have experienced deep loss and found solace in their Irish Catholic faith. It was the type of candid conversation not usually seen on late night TV, and demonstrated exactly what the “real” Stephen Colbert, outside of his former conservative pundit persona, is capable of in his new host role.
In the nearly 20 minute interview, the two discussed the recent death of Biden’s son Beau, his faith, Biden’s advice from his mother and father, his role as VP and his relationship with Obama, and a potential presidential run (Colbert repeatedly advised him to). Biden even joked about Colbert running again: “You should run for president again, and I’ll be your vice president.”
But the majority of the interview held a solemn tone. Colbert, whose Irish ancestry you can read about in this genealogy report by Megan Smolenyak, lost his father and two older brothers in a plane crash 41 years ago that day. In addition to the recent death of his son, Biden, whose Scranton, PA Irish roots have similarly been traced by Smolenyak and who was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2013, lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972.
By the end, the audience was reportedly in tears:
Missing from this: Biden talking at length about Beau’s courage and modesty. The whole theater was in tears. http://t.co/VQEnc3bjN4
— Rachel Zarrell (@rachelzarrell) September 11, 2015
Asked about his faith, Biden responded that he felt a little strange having the spotlight on him and his loss.
“First of all, it’s a little embarrassing, this being about me,” he said. “There’s so many people, maybe some people in the audience, who’ve had losses as severe or worse than mine, and didn’t have the incredible support I have. I have such an incredible family, and so I feel self-conscious. The loss is serious and it’s consequential, but there are so many other people going through this.”
He went on to talk about how he views his Catholicism in times of stress and need. “For me, my religion is just an enormous sense of solace, and some of it relates to ritual, some of it relates to just comfort of what you’ve done your whole life,” he said.
“I go to Mass and I’m able to be just alone. Even in a crowd, you’re just alone. I say the rosary and I find it to be incredibly comforting. So, what my faith has done is it sort of takes everything about my life – my parents and my siblings – all the comforting things and all the good things that have happened, have happened around the culture of my religion and the theology of my religion.”
And, regarding Biden’s possible run for president? He continued to remain undetermined:
“Look, I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, one, they know exactly why they want to be president, and two, they can look at the folks out there and say, ‘I promise you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy, and my passion to do this. And I’d be lying if I said I was there.”
It’s clear the two men care about speaking with each other, and it’s refreshing to see such an exceptionally candid interview. You should watch the whole thing. ♦