Comedian Stephen Colbert is the cover star for the latest issue of Instyle magazine.
In an interview with Instyle, the comedian opens up on everything from performing in his earlier days to the top secret trip he and his team took to Russia.
Performance has been Colbert’s food for 30 years. He got his start in 1987 with Chicago’s famed improv group Second City, answering phones before working his way up to understudying for fellow troupe member Steve Carell. He bounced through TV and writing gigs for the next decade, joining The Daily Show as a trial hire in 1997.
Though Colbert was earning his improvisational stripes, it wasn’t easy.
“In my late 20s, early 30s, I had a nervous breakdown,” he told Instyle. “I was subject to panic attacks and stuff like that except when I was onstage. I would curl up in a ball on a couch backstage, and then I’d hear my cue coming up, and I would uncurl, go onstage, do the show, and then go offstage and curl up again.”
This went on for a while. “Just a few months of fetal,” he says, laughing wryly. “And then it changed. I went to write a new show—I guess it opened a door in my brain, and it was over. I woke up one morning, and it didn’t feel like my skin was on fire. But then I thought, ‘Well, I can’t ever stop doing this because that skin-on-fire is always right behind the door.’ ”
Before his Russian invasion, Instyle shot Colbert for this issue—the concept being something of a corporate centerfold (think Burt Reynolds crossed with Paul Ryan). Colbert arrived with his very own cut-off suit and white T-shirt and the sexiest possible dad jeans. As he grabbed a printout of abdominal muscles and tucked it into his pants, he hooted, “This is so dumb!”
“Dumb” is, in fact, one of Colbert’s highest forms of praise. “That’s so dumb,” he repeats, pleased. “Often when we are in the rewrite room, we don’t know how to write a joke about something, and there will be silence. Then someone will come up with an idea, and it’s just dumb enough. It’s a compliment. It takes a lot of mental provender to come up with something truly dumb, which is why I think Donald Trump must be a genius,” the star told the magazine.
See more photos from his shoot below:
Read the full interview here.