Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, joined Stephen Colbert, the popular host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report,for a conversation about humor, faith, joy, and the spiritual life, at Fordham University in the Bronx on Sept. 14.
“The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life,” was moderated by James Martin, S.J., a Jesuit priest and author ofBetween Heaven and Mirth. The multimedia discussion, which included taking questions via Twitter, touched on the relationship between humor and faith, framed within Catholicism.
It was equal parts pep rally, comedy show and religious revival, and drew more than 3,000 spectators to the Rose Hill Gymnasium and Keating Hall, where it was simulcasted.
Throughout the night, there were a fair number of zingers, (Dolan: “Do you feel pressure to be funny all the time?” Colbert: “Do you feel pressure to be holy all the time?”), but the theme that emerged was quite serious: After all he went through for humanity, Jesus had the last laugh.
Christine Firer-Hinze, Ph.D., theology professor and co-director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies, introduced the participants.
“We really didn’t know what to expect from the conversation, but it turned out to be very funny, but also serious,” she said.
“We knew that Stephen Colbert knows a lot about Catholicism, but tonight he revealed a side of him that was very deep and very thoughtful.”
Sara McDonough, a sophomore communications major at Fordham College Lincoln Center who was one of the 3,000 attendees, said that even though she had never seen Colbert’s show before, she wondered whether his reputed humor would be dulled in a conversation about religion.
“I’m definitely religious, but I was still a little nervous when Stephen wasn’t talking whether I would be entertained,” she admitted. “But I was entertained throughout the whole event. It was really funny—I loved it.”
Her friend Natalie DeVaughn, a sophomore international studies major at Lincoln Center, agreed.
“I think it’s important that people know that religion isn’t all about reprimanding and guilt, that it’s supposed to give you happiness,” she said. “I think this was definitely about happiness.”
Colbert is the host and executive producer of the multiple Emmy and Peabody award-winning programThe Colbert Report on Comedy Central, which the The New York Times called “one of the best television shows of the year.” The show parodies the hyper-political conventions of television news broadcasting.
His book, I Am America (And So Can You!), spent 29 weeks on The New York Times’ best-seller list in 2007, debuting at and occupying the number one spot for 13 weeks. Last Spring, Colbert released a children’s book titled I Am A Pole (And So Can You!), which documents a pole’s quest for identity, and on October 2, 2012, he will release his third book, America Again: Rebecoming The Greatness We Never Weren’t.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan was appointed as the tenth and current archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. He also serves as the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
An articulate defender of Church teaching, Cardinal Dolan is known for his charisma and outgoing personality. He combines an engaging personality with an articulate and passionate proclamation of the Catholic faith.
Father Martin has been a frequent guest on The Colbert Report since September 2007. In 2008, Colbert promoted him from “friend of the show” to “Official Chaplain of the Colbert Nation.”
The event opened with an animated cartoon (featured below) created by Fordham senior Tim Luecke, a visual arts major.