Two Colberts

by Kieran Healy on April 14, 2008

Here is a Stephen Colbert interview with Bill O’Reilly from last year. A friend drew my attention to an intriguing exchange they had. Eary in the interview O’Reilly gives Colbert some stick for the slient ‘t’ in his surname, saying “You’re French” and that “You used to be Stephen Colbert.” Colbert claims he’s even more Irish than O’Reilly. The conversation moves on, then at 5’45” this happens:

BO’R: Now, your middle name is “Tyrone.”
SC: It is.
BO’R: How could that possibly happen?
SC: Because I’m Irish, Bill. Have you ever been-
BO’R: You’re French.
SC: Have you ever been to Tyrone?
BO’R: There isn’t one Irishman …
SC: Have you ever been …
BO’R: … on earth named “Col-bear.”
SC: Have you ever – Colbert! Con Colbert of the Easter Rebellion of 1916.
BO’R: Oh, now you’re Colbert again!
SC: I thought you had researchers.
BO’R: WHO ARE YOU? Are you Colbert or Col-bear?
SC: Bill,…I’m whoever you want me to be.

And, indeed, Captain Con Colbert was a participant in the Easter Rising, and was executed by the British for his efforts. That seems like a very obscure thing for him to know off the top of his head. I suppose maybe Colbert has very good researchers (unlike O’Reilly), and they fed him this to bash O’Reilly with. But he does come from a large Irish family, so maybe he knew it himself. He also (again unlike O’Reilly) knows how to pronounce “Tyrone” properly.



washerdreyer 04.14.08 at 10:07 pm

Based on my insight into the “real Stephen” gained by having been in the studio audience while he warmed up the crowd one time, I’ll suggest that he’s a giant geek who certainly might know that off of the top of his head. If memory serves, he brought up polymerase chain reactions as an example of something he’s interested in and his character wouldn’t be. Of course, that could very easily be another character he’s playing for the studio audience


Minivet 04.14.08 at 10:25 pm

Huh? It’s not odd to know about semi-famous people with the same last name as you (assuming your name isn’t a common one). I myself can quickly reel out information about a Nobelist medical researcher, a Middle English poet, and an early American historian with my last name.


Vance Maverick 04.14.08 at 10:37 pm

How do you pronounce “Tyrone”?


P O'Neill 04.14.08 at 10:57 pm

I credit the Simpsons writers with a way more obscure Irish reference, an episode after Maude Flanders was written out of the show, and Ned says “Now wait just a Maude-gone minute”.


Lad Litter 04.14.08 at 11:09 pm

It’s difficult to fathom how O’Reilly is still on the air. Radio is the usual domain of the shock-jock. Here in Australia, whenever they’ve tried to transfer them to TV it’s been a miserable failure. And research is honoured far more in the breach than the observance with O’Reilly’s type.


Gene O'Grady 04.15.08 at 12:01 am

Based on my experience, any (even vaguely) Irish- American with a connection to someone shot in 1916 is likely to know all, or more than all, the details. I once knew a fellow named MacBride, who may or may not have been a distant relative of John MacBride, and his knowledge of Irish history basically consisted of a very detailed knowledge of his potential relative.

Although it hardly needs to be stated, O’Reilly is being silly. I can confirm that one can be named O’Grady without being Irish, and seem to recall people named de Valera and Markievicz who may have been.


lawrence L. white 04.15.08 at 12:23 am

Second Vance’s request: how are we supposed to pronounce “Tyrone”?


Kieran Healy 04.15.08 at 3:48 am

The way Colbert pronounces it around 5’50” is pretty much it, given that he’s American — he lengthens the second syllable a bit but that’s just because he has a newscaster’s intonation.


No one 04.15.08 at 6:54 am

I can’t believe that was a serious topic of discussion. just reading that snippet made me a bit sick. How on earth has this fellow O’Reilly gotten himself on TV?

Am I innocent or what?


abb1 04.15.08 at 7:27 am

What Washerdreyer said in #1. I haven’t been in the audience, but judging by live interviews I’ve heard (also, IIRC, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and other impromptu appearances) the guy isn’t your typical comedian; he’s an erudite and rather brilliant fella.


jay bee 04.15.08 at 7:49 am

Kieran – as I started reading this piece I assumed you were going to finish with the Myles na gCopaleen/Flann O’Brien piece about watching the Louis -v- Baer fight and shouting “Camembert, Camembert”


bad Jim (Suibhne) 04.15.08 at 8:09 am

Wikipedia gives us “Thír Eoghain”, which looks like it might be pronounced “teer owen” where “w” could represent anything between a gargle, a spit or a snort. So Colbert lengthens the second syllable: just how many syllables are there in the name?


mollymooly 04.15.08 at 1:38 pm

If you’ve ever driven in Dublin towards Heuston Station along the N4 [poor you], the last bit of Dual Carriageway is called Con Colbert Road. Often featured on AA roadwatch reports as being “bumper to bumper”. A fitting tribute to a great patriot.


Steve LaBonne 04.15.08 at 3:33 pm

Well, I’m proof that an Irish-American (with just a a little bit of French-Canadian mixed in) can be named LaBonne…

I take it Colbert is a Hiberno-Norman surname?


Uncle Kvetch 04.15.08 at 3:44 pm

How on earth has this fellow O’Reilly gotten himself on TV?

He’s tapped into the apparently sizable portion of American public opinion that finds Rush Limbaugh too subtle and cerebral.


Jon H 04.15.08 at 4:29 pm

Colbert is an admitted former D&D player. I can see him being a history buff.


Ralph Hitchens 04.15.08 at 5:03 pm

Colbert is remarkable. No one has high expectations for a spinoff, and he did have a bit of a rocky start finding his assertive voice, but he has grown into a unique TV personality, the comic pundit. Far eclipses his friend and mentor Jon Stewart in this regard. Some of his shows have been truly affecting, as when he hosted Andrew Young and they both paid tribute to Colbert’s father, who (with a much younger Young) helped end a nasty racial labor dispute back in the 1960s. This was a show he capped off by singing “Let My People Go” with Young, Malcolm Gladwell, and the Harlem Gospel Choir, in honor of his writers then on strike. Exceptional television.


alias 04.15.08 at 10:21 pm

read a piece a ways back that said col-bert changed the pronunciation to col-bear in a flourish of poetic license when he was in college at northwestern. you know how those drama students are…


westwood 04.16.08 at 5:36 am

My favourite story of a non-Irish name was Bob O’Billovich, former head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. His background was Hungarian, but when his grandfather immigrated to Canada, he was admitted by an Irish immigration officer. Obillovich became O’Billovich and has remained that way.


simon 04.16.08 at 11:09 am

She was English married a pole and took his name

Colbert station is the train station in Limerick,

I think I remember reading once Bill O’Reilly has relatives in Cavan bordering Tyrone (pronounced TieRown) not sure if anything to the ballyjamesduff Reilly’s :)

Love the Maude Gone quote.


Darren 04.16.08 at 2:26 pm

Tyrone – pronounced Ter-own. Run the two syllables together as almost 1 1/2 syllables.


Maria 04.16.08 at 5:57 pm

Does anyone want to tell them how the natives pronounce Cavan?


mollymooly 04.17.08 at 11:17 pm

Or as O’Reilly calls it, “Tyrone among the Bushes”

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