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Humaphors: The Top 10 Metaphors of Stephen Colbert

"Laughter brings the swelling down on our national psyche"

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Humaphors: The Top 10 Metaphors of Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central

Putting his own spin on an old metaphor, Stephen Colbert once said that "Laughter brings the swelling down on our national psyche, and then applies an antibiotic cream."

Though he once lost to Sean Penn in a "meta-free-phor-all," the host of The Colbert Report is unquestionably a master of the humorous metaphor (and simile). Or as he might choose to call it, portmanteau fashion, the humaphor.

As the following observations make clear, Colbert knows a thing or two about drawing surprising comparisons and uncovering concealed relationships.


  1. Love
    Love is a full-length mirror.
    ("Battle of the Metaphors" on The Colbert Report, April 19, 2007)

  2. Iraq
    Trail mix. I see this as a metaphor for Iraq itself. Well, you've got the nuts and the raisins, which could be the Sunnis and the Shiites--not the same, but they can mingle together--and in between, adding sweetness and peace, are the troops, which are the M&Ms.
    (The Colbert Report, June 10, 2009)

  3. Health Care
    Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee approved their version of the health-care bill. . . . Folks, this bill is a nightmare. Thankfully, Kansas Republican Pat Roberts put the danger in terms we can all understand:
    I am terribly concerned that we are riding hell for leather into a health-care box canyon full of spending quicksand, cactus tax hikes, policy briar patches, complete with CMS regulatory rattlesnakes, scorpions, and bad-news bears. I yield back the balance of my time.
    Don't yield it! There's more to that metaphor [puts on a cowboy hat and starts chewing on a piece of straw]. You see, folks, we're on a run-away stagecoach of big government being chased by the coyotes of increased deficits and heading right into an ambush by the Comanche-in-Chief and his hope Hopis. Unless the marshal of fiscal responsibility arrives on the noon train of free-market principles to drive these saloon girls of new taxes out, the pick-up truck of high premiums will get eaten by the death-panel prairie dogs, and the Boot Hill tumbleweed sarsaparilla varmint six-shooter cattle-rustling you-think-you've-used-enough-dynamite-there fistful of dollars--yeow!
    (The Colbert Report, Oct. 14, 2009)

  4. Jesse Jackson
    Jesse Jackson is here. The Reverend--a very challenging interview. You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants at the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.
    (White House Correspondents' Dinner, April 29, 2006)

  5. Metaphors
    Stephen Colbert: Let's talk about meaning for a second. Okay, metaphors. What's the difference between a metaphor and a lie? Okay, because I am the sun, you are the moon. That's a lie--you're not the moon. I'm not the sun. What's the difference between a metaphor and a lie?
    Elizabeth Alexander: Well, that was both a metaphor and a lie, so the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A metaphor is a way of using language where you make a comparison to let people understand something as it relates to something else. That's how we use the language to increase meaning.
    Stephen Colbert: Why don't you just say what you mean instead of dressing things up in all this flowery language like the great Romantic poets--"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day"? Why don't you say, "You're hot--let's do it"?
    (The Colbert Report, Jan. 21, 2009)

  6. Change
    Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, "Oooh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.
    (White House Correspondents' Dinner, April 29, 2006)

  7. America
    Talk of immigrants always makes me hungry. It's partly because of the term "melting pot"--the delicious racial fondue. Then a few years ago I started hearing people call America a "salad bowl," which is still a pretty good metaphor if you toss in enough bacon bits. Today our country is neither a melting pot nor a salad bowl. What is it? The answer is tonight's word: Lunchables. Yes, Lunchables. Like the vacuum-packed snack tray, America should be patriotically divided into sanitary compartments of like-minded citizens, and we're well on our way. We already know if we live in a red state or a blue state. Now you can know if you live in a God state or a gay state. Take the new town of Ave Maria, Florida, which is being built specifically to attract those who follow the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. . . .

    But Lunchables America doesn't have to be just for religious groups. There's a serving size for every lifestyle. For instance, it is now legal for gay couples to get married in Massachusetts but only if they stay in Massachusetts. . . . For all of us it's a win-win. Now, traditionally I've been against gay marriage, but by attracting all the gays to one state, we can protect the sanctity of marriage in 49 others. Massachusetts will become like a gay Israel--a Gaysrael. The point is, like crackers and juice boxes, Americans may have their differences, but I believe we can come together by living hermetically sealed apart. If you disagree with your neighbor, just find a new neighbor--one just like you. And eventually we'll each be in our ideal communities. And that's the word.
    ("The Word: Lunchables," The Colbert Report, May 15, 2006)

  8. Accountants
    An accountant is a manila envelope yellowed with age that fell between the filing cabinet and the wall. Trapped, alone, parched.
    ("Battle of the Metaphors" on The Colbert Report, April 19, 2007)

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