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Feel Free to Try Stephen Colbert’s Handy Trick to Destroy Embarrassment

Nearly a decade ago, John Hodgman appeared on SiriusXM’s Unmasked and shared a “thirdhand story” about how Stephen Colbert “trained himself to stop feeling embarrassment.” As the story goes, a younger Colbert would repeatedly do ridiculously silly things in public, like crossing the street while doing a “funny walk,” as a form of immersion therapy until he no longer felt embarrassment — a technique Hodgman said was clearly apparent in Colbert’s comedy. It’s an anecdote that Hodgman found very inspiring, and one that Colbert confirmed on his late show last night in more detail, alongside guest Alan Alda.

At one point during the interview, Colbert told Alda that, early in his days at Second City, he got stuck playing high-status roles, which are like “wearing armor all the time.” So in order to rid himself of that armor, Colbert would “make myself do things onstage and off that were embarrassing to my dignity” and “breathe in how embarrassing and how humiliating it felt to do that and have everybody judging me and wishing I would stop.” The “funny walk” originally described by Hodgman, it turns out, was specifically Colbert crossing the street while “pretending to be a squirrel pooping.” There is maybe no better full-circle comedy moment than Colbert, now a highly successful late-night host, demonstrating his squirrel-poop walk in front of Alda and a cheering audience. Colbert’s embarrassment immersion therapy: It works!

Stephen Colbert’s Handy Trick to Destroy Embarrassment