Stephen Colbert was raised in South Carolina to be a Southern gentleman. But he spends his days being a jerk. It must be tough.
Not really, says the Comedy Central star.
"I was taught to be nice, so it's not in my nature to be a jerk," he told a crowd of fans over the weekend at the New Yorker Festival. "But I do enjoy it."
Colbert figures that's because he's embarrassment-proof. "There's an essential embarrassment to being a jerk, and I just don't get embarrassed about things," he explained.
The host of "The Colbert Report" spent 90 minutes out of character, regaling interviewer Ariel Levy about how his career was launched and deconstructing the process of playing the right-wing blowhard pundit named Stephen Colbert.
Before every interview, he said, he explains to his guest exactly what he's doing. "I tell people, 'He's an idiot,'" Colbert said, referring to his alter ego. "I say, 'Disabuse me of my ignorance.'"
Still, there have been a few people who didn't quite get the joke — or at least didn't laugh. Colbert says he knows he has offended Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and early in the show's run, Bob Kerrey, the former governor of Nebraska who is now president of The New School, a university in New York, didn't seem to get that he was fake.
The comedian added that he does care about how people feel they're treated on the show.
"I don't care what they think of ME, but I am worried about their feelings," he said.
Colbert, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and kids, also touched upon one of his hobbies: teaching Sunday school. He's done it in the past and hopes to again next year.
"The great thing about teaching Sunday school is that these kids ask questions that even in college we thought were so deep," he said. Examples: What's beyond time? What came before God?
Then again, he said, sometimes they're just asking to go to the bathroom.
"And I say no."