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Stephen Colbert's 'Playboy' Interview: Super PAC, Family and Jon Stewart

Stephen Colbert

In a wide-ranging interview, the political satirist reveals details about his show and opens up about personal tragedy.

Thoughtful, measured, kind... Stephen Colbert?

Absolutely.

The Peabody-winning comedian/political satirist is largely seen through the prism of his character, the massively popular and wildly inappropriate Comedy Central host, "Stephen Colbert." A pastiche of the most air-headed, rightwing politics and nonsense, he is Colbert's satirical puppet, used to point out the flaws of the political system by embracing and exacerbating them. But as outrageous as the character is, his creator is the inverse, intensely normal and reserved. In a new interview with Playboy, the real Colbert speaks about his political comedy, his family and his friendship with Jon Stewart.

Here are five revelations from the interview:

1. He got advice from Bill O'Reilly:

He said, “Watch your guest list. If you book the same kind of people over and over—Al Franken, Keith Olbermann—people notice that pattern.” I told him, “Oh, Bill, I toy with those guys. I’m slapping them around.” He said, “I know, but not everybody is watching your show as closely as I am.” I was like [clasps hands and holds them to his chest], “I’ve totally made it!” That was about five, six months into the show.

PHOTOS: Backstage at the Stewart/Colbert Rally

2. He's actually afraid of bears:

I don’t dislike bears, but I am kind of afraid of them. There was a time when, if I had dreams about bears, something bad was going on in my life.

3. His Super PAC was super sucessful.

We’ve got somewhere between $850,000 and $900,000 left [out of $1.4 million]. We’ve spent about half a million dollars of it so far. Because running for president—or not running for president, whatever it was we did—is expensive. But I can spend it on anything I want. I could use my super PAC money to buy a private jet, and I have to justify it to no one.

STORY: Stephen Colbert to Make 'Hobbit' Cameo

4. The ride home from his father and brothers' funeral -- they died in a plane crash when he was 10 -- inspired him to do comedy:

One of my sisters, I think it was Mary, made a joke to Margo. Or it could have been Lulu to both of them. I don’t remember. One of them made Margo laugh so hard, she snorted and fell on the floor. There was enough room between the seats to actually fall on the floor of this limo.

5. He really is good friends with Jon Stewart, whom his wife actually knew first.

We’ll talk about the news. We also talk about our families. We talk about anything friends talk about. That’s grown over the years. I’m an ardent admirer of his. I would say the thing that has kept me from being as good a friend to Jon as I would like is just that I am such a fan. I am gobsmacked by his abilities. But that being said, we go out to dinner, and we sometimes pick up the phone just to say, “How are you?” Or, “Do you mind if I tell you how I am? I had a shitty week.”