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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

A couple of years ago, Stephen Colbert, who was known then only as a contributor to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," came on the air here to discuss his forthcoming new program, "The Colbert Report."

He said at the time, it's going to be a program that - with its will toward justice - will slowly change the great ship of destiny. With a gift for prose like that - not to mention good ratings - a book was inevitable. And Stephen Colbert has now written one. It's called "I Am America (And So Can You)."

And he's joining us once again from New York.

Welcome back.

NORRIS: Hello. Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: And are you still trying to get the great ship of destiny to change course?

NORRIS: Oh, we have. At this point, we've actually driven the great ship of destiny aground.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NORRIS: I mean, we stormed the beach.

SIEGEL: Now, on the principle that the best way to judge any book is by its cover...

NORRIS: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...I'd like to talk with you about the cover of your book, which is quite remarkable, starting with the, sort of, silver foil seal that's on the front of the book.

NORRIS: Yes. My book, I'm proud to say, won the first annual Stephen T. Colbert award for the literary excellence. It wasn't so much of a shock as it was an honor. But the stars aligned, and I won the first one. But that doesn't mean I'll necessarily win the second one.

SIEGEL: Does this - I'm trying to make out the representation. Is it a book on fire?

NORRIS: It is a burning book. That is the representation on the foil seal.

SIEGEL: Now, the blurb on the back cover of the book, you...

NORRIS: Oh, this was a huge, huge get for us. The blurb says, a great read. I laughed, I cried. I lost 15 pounds. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Stephen Colbert.

SIEGEL: Stephen, so you got Stephen Colbert to do the blurb.

NORRIS: I did. Again, what are the odds? I want to make sure everybody knows that they should only buy authorized copy of the book, by the way. There are a lot of Chinese knockoffs out there.

SIEGEL: Yeah. Mine actually has a little one like - it's like in a pack of cigarettes: warning, several reportages of illegal produced issues of this book from glorious People's Republic of China stealing into bookstores.

NORRIS: Yeah. Actually, I think it says waning.

SIEGEL: Oh, waning, you're right, you're right. Not warning. Yes.

NORRIS: It says waning.

SIEGEL: And that...

NORRIS: If yours says warning, then you probably have a Chinese knockoff...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NORRIS: ...and I would get my money back and tell me where you bought it because that man is a pirate. He might as well have a parrot and an eye patch.

SIEGEL: Well, not to finish with the cover, on the inside flyleaf as where we...

NORRIS: You could finish with the cover, by the way. I don't expect anyone to read this book.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NORRIS: If they buy it, well, my job is done. I'm not a huge fan of books. I am a huge fan of sales.

SIEGEL: In a wonderful use of this new medium for you, which I gather you despise, in your chapter on old people...

NORRIS: Yeah.

SIEGEL: I want you to explain what you've done.

NORRIS: Did you go to that one first?

SIEGEL: No. I actually began at the beginning.

NORRIS: Okay.

SIEGEL: But I read that with special interest.

NORRIS: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

NORRIS: Did you like the large print?

SIEGEL: I did like the large print. I want you to explain what you've done with the large print because it's easy to read for older people.

NORRIS: Well, there are sections of the book in the old persons chapter that are in large print because we know that the elderly cannot read anything below 36-point type. So they're just parts of that chapter that just celebrate the elderly. For instance, it is the duty of all Americans to respect and cherish our elders. It's the visual version of yelling at old people. Our elders are a precious resource, and I love you, mom. Things like that are in large print. My actual feelings about the elderly are in a much smaller font, just for their own feelings' sake.

SIEGEL: They look like lizards, for example, is something that you say in that smaller font.

NORRIS: I'll take your word for it. I'd rather not say that on the air.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NORRIS: But that's alarming that you would be willing to say that about old people on national radio, National Public Radio.

SIEGEL: There's a chapter about animals, where you, you know, this is not - you're not about sentimentalizing animals here.

NORRIS: No. And I mean, if the roles were reversed, they would cage us. Do you think they wouldn't neuter us if they had the opportunity?

SIEGEL: I hadn't thought of it that way, actually.

NORRIS: Think about it for that way for just a minute. Take a moment.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. No, I don't...

NORRIS: Have you thought about it?

SIEGEL: No, I don't think they would neuter us.

NORRIS: Come on. All right. Because I'm thinking about it right now.

SIEGEL: You are - okay.

NORRIS: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. It's not good. It's a nightmare landscape.

SIEGEL: But some animals are endangered. Some animals are...

NORRIS: Well, some - if animals are endangered, I mean, God made everything and God don't make no trash. And so if some animals are endangered, that just means that God doesn't love them.

SIEGEL: Yeah, you have a chart, actually, which says endangered animals and why they are unloved by God. For example, the Hawaiian monk seal. Despite name, not really a devout member of a monastic order.

NORRIS: Are you disputing that point?

SIEGEL: No. I've got to concede it to you actually.

NORRIS: Yeah. Bighorn sheep?

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

NORRIS: The wool can only be washed on delicate cycle - if you catch my drift.

SIEGEL: And that should be it for the species as far as you're concerned.

NORRIS: Well, I mean, it's not my call.

SIEGEL: Yeah.

NORRIS: It's God's call.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

NORRIS: If that species was supposed to survive, they would survive. I mean, I feel about - in terms of the animal kingdom, mankind is to animals as the United States is to other countries. Mankind number one, mankind number one. You can't see on radio, but I have a huge foam finger on right now.

SIEGEL: I've seen you're waving on.

NORRIS: I'm waving it right now.

SIEGEL: Number one, yeah.

NORRIS: Number one, yeah, at the microphone.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. By the way, you're on the program the same day as Paul Krugman.

NORRIS: Krugman's on your program today?

SIEGEL: Same day, yes.

NORRIS: I'm going to crush him. He had the temerity to release his book the same week as mine. This is unconscionable and cannot stand. It is go-time, beardy.

SIEGEL: No sense of fraternal solidarity with your fellow...

NORRIS: With someone who works for the New York Times?

SIEGEL: ...author, fellow pundit, you know? You're broadly speaking in the same business.

NORRIS: You know what? I've had him on my show. I gave him the Colbert bump, and yet he comes out and releases a book the same week as mine. In terms that New York Times readers can understand, is it Paul Krugman or Paul Betray Us?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: You're not a big fan of the New York Times?

NORRIS: No.

SIEGEL: No.

NORRIS: I mean, I read it because I have to. I have to understand what the enemy is doing. And I call it the juice because, like steroids, it makes me very angry and it shrinks my testicles.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NORRIS: So I understand that's one of the side effects of reading The New York Times, is you lose your cojones.

SIEGEL: And what do you have against NPR?

NORRIS: It's the public part. How come you people don't have to compete in the open marketplace? MORNING EDITION has a measured barbituate vibe that I just don't - just doesn't jibe with the idea of a morning zoo. Where's the craziness? Where's the Mike and the Mad Dog? Where's Consuela and the Cheetah? Where's the calling up old people and asking them the last time they had sex? How come you people don't have to pull those stunts? You get just to talk about things every day, things you care about.

SIEGEL: Did you say where's Consuela and the Cheetah?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NORRIS: Do you not listen to Consuela and the Cheetah?

SIEGEL: I have to confess - I have to confess I have not...

NORRIS: It's 95.7 The Killer Bee. Consuela and the Cheetah.

SIEGEL: But MORNING EDITION - and I'd like to think our program, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED - well, they're programs that are a mix of several things, but they're essentially news programs.

NORRIS: And you don't have any sort of agenda?

SIEGEL: Well, to tell people the news.

NORRIS: And what do you say the news is?

SIEGEL: Well, what strikes a great many people here as the most important things going on in the world in a given day.

NORRIS: And let me guess, that involves facts.

SIEGEL: I hope so, yes, I hope so.

NORRIS: Mm-hmm. Well, I'm on record as saying that reality has a well-known liberal bias, and you guys are just another example of that.

SIEGEL: Well, Stephen Colbert, thank you very much for talking with us about you.

NORRIS: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: New book, "I Am America (And So Can You!)."

NORRIS: Goodbye.

SIEGEL: And you can find out why Colbert says that his book is the truth at our Web site, npr.org.

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