Home > Articles > Article: Stephen Colbert Showed ‘Great Wit’ as Part of ‘80s Improv Group at NU.

Article: Stephen Colbert Showed ‘Great Wit’ as Part of ‘80s Improv Group at NU.

They knew it even then. A quarter-century ago, when Comedy Central bloviator and lushly coiffed American icon Stephen Colbert was part of a short-lived improv troupe — the No Fun Mud Piranhas — at Northwestern University in Evanston, castmates were wowed by his natural ability to bring the funny.

And not just zany funny, though he was that, but smart funny — funny that seemed to come from an intellect sharpened by far more real-world experience than the bearded and shaggy-haired dramatic actor, then 21 and a junior-year transfer, actually had. It was the start of something big.

Colbert was unavailable for an interview, but several of his fellow Piranhas shared memories of his entry into onstage comedy.

“I felt like I was young in college, I felt like I didn’t know very much,” says Marc Goldsmith, an actor and writer in Los Angeles. “But I always kind of looked up to [Stephen’s] intelligence, wondering, ‘Did this guy travel the world? How is he so smart, only being a year older than me?’ ”

——–

Piranha Jessica Hughes, a casting agent, recalls that Colbert “was supposed to be the Lyle Waggoner of the group — the straight man with a handsome face and refined demeanor. He ruined that image every time he opened his mouth and revealed his sly intelligence, great wit and impish sense of the world.”

That said, she adds, he has “absolutely no street smarts. Put him on a quiz show and he will emerge victorious. Leave him in the middle of the night on the streets of Gary, Ind., and he’s a dead man.”

Full Article: Chicago Sun-Times.

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  1. susan209
    June 15, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    My favorite quote from this article:

    “Piranha Jessica Hughes, a casting agent, recalls that Colbert “was supposed to be the Lyle Waggoner of the group — the straight man with a handsome face and refined demeanor. He ruined that image every time he opened his mouth and revealed his sly intelligence, great wit and impish sense of the world.
    That said, she adds, he has “absolutely no street smarts. Put him on a quiz show and he will emerge victorious. Leave him in the middle of the night on the streets of Gary, Ind., and he’s a dead man.”

    Well, I think he has the wits to survive in Gary, Indiana, but that image of him being so brilliant but vulnerable was, I don’t know, sweet somehow. Thanks for this post!

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