An unusual comedy team took to the stage at Fordham University on Sept. 14 when comedian Stephen Colbert and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan entertained more than 3,000 cheering students with grace, wit, and a few memorable zingers.
The show got off to a great start when Colbert extended his hand to Cardinal Dolan who decided to kiss it rather than shake it – “a disarming role reversal for a big prelate with a big job and a big ring,” the Times describes.
Cardinal Dolan was then introduced as a man who could one day be elected pope. “If I am elected pope, which is probably the greatest gag all evening, I’ll be Stephen III,” Dolan quipped.
Colbert used his time with the cardinal to air his complaints about the new Mass translation.
“Consubstantial!” he exclaimed about the new verbiage in the Nicene Creed. “It’s the creed! It’s not the SAT prep.”
At one point, the Cardinal introduced Colbert’s wife, Evelyn, and invited her up to the stage. He put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek, to which Colbert feigned offense. In a remark the Times described as “bringing down the house,” the Cardinal quipped, “I can kiss your wife. You can’t kiss mine.”
The idea for the show came from two theology professors at Fordham and when university president Father Joseph McShane invited the pair, they both agreed.
Colbert made some surprisingly candid admissions about himself and how he manages to remain faithful to the Church even while making fun of his own religion and almost everyone else’s.
“Are there flaws in the church?” Mr. Colbert said, “Absolutely. But is there great beauty in the church? Absolutely.”
The youngest of 11 children, Colbert was raised by Catholic parents. His inspiration to become a comedian came at an unlikely time in his life – on the day his father and two brothers were buried after being killed in a plane crash. Colbert, who was 10 at the time, said one of his sisters made another sister laugh so hard that she fell on the floor. At that moment, he said he become resolved to one day be able to make someone laugh that hard.
He is now raising his children as Catholics and teaches Sunday school at his parish in New Jersey. “The real reason I remain a Catholic is what the church gives me, which is love,” he said, and later admitted, “I love my church — warts and all.”
Colbert went on to explain that while many people in comedy make jokes at the expense of religion, he tries to make jokes about people’s misuse of religion in politics or other arenas.
Still, he said, “If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble.”
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