Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Supermax: Green Arrow Story Details + Villains/Inmates Gallery

From writers David Goyer (Batman Begins) & Justin Marks (VOLTRON) comes SUPERMAX: The Green Arrow Prison Break Movie!

El Mayimbe here…

David Goyer co-wrote another Superhero movie?! I remember back in the day when I first read his Batman Begins and the immense joy I had in reading that so now when I hear his name attached to another superhero themed screenplay, it’s a must read for sure.

In Hollywood reading circles, SUPER MAX has been making a lot of noise and I was lucky enough to take a quick peek this past weekend. So what is known so far about the project?

Here is what David Goyer told Wizard Magazine when they first broke the story a little over a year ago…

“He’s Green Arrow for the first 10 minutes of the movie, and then he’s arrested and his secret identity is revealed. They shave his goatee and they take his costume and send him to prison for life, and he has to escape. It’s like ‘Alcatraz,’ and he has to team up with, in some cases, some of the very same villains he is responsible for incarcerating in order to get out and clear his name. Of course, tons of people try to kill him while he’s in there. We’ve populated the prison with all sorts of B and C villains from the DC Universe. For the fans, there will be all sorts of characters the hardcore comic book junkies will know, but they’re all going to be there under their human names and no one is wearing a costume, but there will be a lot of characters with powers and things like that.”

Goyer pretty much summarizes what is principally the first act of the script. I will elaborate a little further. For those of you who don’t know, who is the Green Arrow? His secret identity is Oliver Queen, billionaire activist of the fictional Star City. Dressed like Robin Hood, Green Arrow is an archer, who invents arrows with various special functions, such as a glue arrow, a net arrow, or a boxing-glove arrow.

I’m not a hard core Green Arrow fan, but I took a look at the book back when Kevin Smith did his run on the character. So what’s the verdict? A great script with a cool concept and really cool execution! Is it accessible to all audiences – Green Arrow fans and non fans? Again, an absolute yes! In SUPER MAX we do get the Green Arrow’s origin layered throughout the script in flashback and executed very cleverly. The script borrows from both the original origin and from Andy Diggle and Jock's recent Green Arrow: Year One.

Oliver Queen began as a wealthy playboy and rich, thrillseeking activist, who after a drunken rant at a party goes for a voyage on his yacht with his best friend and wingman WILL HACKETT. The opening scene in the script is when twenty something trust fund brat Ollie falls overboard and splashes into the ocean. He washes ashore lives like Robinson Crusoe on a semi-deserted Pacific island. Forced to hunt for survival, Queen developed his natural archery skill to a peak level. When drug-runners came to the island, he captured them and returned to civilization three years later, changed by his experiences on the island. Ollie returns to civilization full of principles and vision per the words of his buddy Hackett who is honoring him at an opulent dining hall with other society types after the opening scene.

Hackett goes on to say that over the last ten years, Queen Industries has committed almost a billion dollars towards Ollie’s principles. Whether it be fighting organized crime, corporate fraud, or government corruption, Oliver Queen (now in his 30s) is a warrior on the front lines. A modern day Robin Hood.

MARCUS CROSS is also at the dinner. Cross wants to take over Queen Industries.

Meanwhile, over at CHECKMATE WORLD SECURITY HEADQUARTERS, COL. TALEB BENI KHALID spearheads the controversial Checkmate Initiative which intends to safeguard the public from vigilantes. Khalid believes that those who don the mask and cape should not be permitted to call themselves enforcers of the law. A break-in happens at Checkmate HQ, and all of Khalid’s bodyguards are killed using Green Arrows.

Ollie learns of the breach at Checkmate HQ through his secret police band ear piece, leaves his dinner and turns into the Green Arrow by page 7.

So what does the cinematic Green Arrow look like? The Green Arrow wears a tight green leather suit, quivers attached to his ankles and thighs, and a giant COMPOUND BOW running across his back. His face is concealed by a dark hood.

Green Arrow finds Khalid dead in a warehouse – killed by a Green Arrow. He’s been set up. A SWAT unit bursts in and a cool chase sequence ensues which ends with Green Arrow getting caught by the Police Chief. Green Arrow is surrounded by an army of cops with their weapons trained on him and he surrenders – our inciting incident on page 10.

Apparently, at the police station, the DA has a hard-on for Ollie and has been wanting to bring him down for years. Hackett comes to the station to talk to Ollie who believes he has been set up by Cross who is staging a ninety billion dollar takeover of Queen Industries. If Queen’s expenditures get marked as criminal activity, this takeover just got that much easier.

It’s obvious that weeks later, Queen is found guilty. The Judge believes that since he has no confidence that a conventional lockup will be able to contain a man of Mr. Queen’s abilities, it is the recommendation of the court that he spends the remainder of his life in the only place in the world that could lock him down…the SUPERMAX PENITENTIARY FOR METAHUMANS. Ollie is surrendered to the custody of the Checkmate Initiative. The Alcatraz for super villains, no one has ever escaped SUPERMAX.

Since Queen is now a prisoner, he gets injected with a computer chip – A Parallax Device. We will come to learn that the Parallax Device is how the prison keeps the inmates and their abilities in check. Ollie meets the warden, AMANDA WALLER (black, 40s) who gives him his introduction to SUPERMAX and the Parallax Device. Col. Khalid was a friend of hers. It’s safe to say that Ollie is fucked. In the baptism gallery, Ollie gets the shit kicked out him by guards led by PENOTTI. Ollie gets a green jumpsuit and is given his number: 9242.

Want to know how cool SUPERMAX is? The prison changes shape, cells rearrange, and reconfigures every night to disorient the prisoners from breaking out. A transforming super prison! Cool.

At the end of Act I, Ollie hooks up with SPLIT, a teleporter and one of the DCU villains who gives him the lowdown in the recreation yard and becomes Ollie and the audience’s liaison. I will be presenting the rest of the rogues gallery shortly. Here is something else really cool - THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, and THE RIDDLER are inmates at SUPERMAX! They make cool cameos but I won’t spoil how.

The prisoners are divided into groups. First the mortals like Ollie – Green suits. Then geniuses – Blue Suits. Finally, the green suits – metas, superpowers. The other inmates that can’t be controlled are class five. Their powers are too much and are in permanent lockdown in the cells.

BLOCKBUSTER seems to be prison gangster running the show being the biggest and strongest fucker there.

How do the stakes go up for Ollie in prison? The takeover of Queen Industries gets legally complicated so in order for his estate to get released to Cross, he has to be declared dead!

Now the Green Arrow is a marked man in prison.

Overall, I had a hell of a time reading the script. I read the first part, rushed over to the Indiana Jones screening and rushed back to finish the rest. The script delivers on all levels and I think, Goyer has himself another winner here. The studio would be on crack not to make this. The script alones deserves it’s own graphic novel in the least. I heard a rumor somewhere that Matt Damon was in negotiations to star as Ollie Queen/Green Arrow. He certainly has the physicality and chops for the meaty role considering how bad ass Damon was in the last Bourne film. I think a solid choice. Will Ollie and his band of metahumans break out of SUPERMAX? We will just have to wait and see if and when Warners pulls the trigger.

In the meantime, I leave you with this treat – all the DC universe B and C list villains/inmates at SUPER MAX! Enjoy because some of these characters were so obscure that it was a bitch to get these pics.

You can follow me and my updates on Twitter.

  • SHOCK TRAUMA: A Japanese assassin able to generate short range but lethal blasts & jolts of electricity.
  • GEMINI: She can take any shape she wishes at will
  • Cameron Mahkent aka ICICLE
  • SPLIT: A teleporter




  • Hartley Rathaway aka PIED PIPER
  • Arthur King aka MERLYN
  • Abel Tarrant aka TATTOOED MAN

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First Netflix Streaming Box Review, $100 and Unlimited Downloads!

Netflix's first streaming box is finally here and it's pretty damn brilliant of a setup. First of all, the box is 99 bucks, and designed by Roku. It's fanless and quiet; has HDMI and optical outputs; and is about the size of five CD cases stacked together. Any Netflix disc mailing plan over $9 gets you unlimited streaming of almost 10,000 titles. Unlimited! 10K titles! Take that Apple TV and VuDu!

You boot up the box, set the network to wireless or Ethernet connectivity. You get a five digit code, head over to netflix.com/activate using a browser on a PC or other device, log into your Netflix account and enter the code. The Roku box gets your queue and the movie/show cover art. There are HDMI and optical connections on top of the standard video outs, but those cables are not included.

The box itself doesn't have menus. No, instead, you use Netflix's brilliant website to load up your queue. You just use the remote to scan through your instant viewing queue (now separate from the disc queue) select a movie and play. It starts streaming. (Remember, there's no download/purchase program here and the device has no HDD, just 64MB of buffer.) The box is completely quiet, again, due to its fanless design. Movies stream in at different VC-1 bitrates of 500kbps, 1Mbps, 1.6Mbps and 2.2Mbps, depending on connection speed. Quality is not great, even at 2.2 Mbps, but I'm happy enough considering viewing is instantaneous. Note: Unlike Apple TV, scrolling between cover art is not done in an animated way. HDMI res is 480p, while all the other outputs are 480i. Fast forwarding is handled by key-framing movie content every 10 seconds, so you can FF to parts of the movie that haven't been downloaded yet, at three speeds. Once you hit play, the movie buffers for a few seconds and resumes. Speaking of resuming, the player itself does remember where you left off last in a movie and will continue playing from that point. One nice touch: You can score movies from the movie detail page. One bad thing: You can't search the Netflix website specifically for instant titles.

While appearing to have double the collection of Apple TV or Vudu, what do you get in Netflix's 10,000 movie collection? Basically, you get a lot of back catalog (classic movies) and a lot of TV shows (unheard of in rental situations!) right as they hit the market. But you don't get the same blockbusters on day one release that you'd get from Apple TV or Vudu. That makes the Netflix box and disc system a great supplement to those systems, which seem to specialize in new releases. (Kudos to Saul from the NYTimes for discovering this initially.) The business model behind a flat rate unlimited streaming system is unheard of. Sure, they're taking a lot of older content, which is inherently cheaper. But think of it this way: For a nine-dollar-a-month account, you can hold off on buying older DVDs or watching TV shows. A box set of Ghost in the Shell or 30 Rock costs over 50 bucks on DVD or by renting individual downloads, but you can stream many of these episodes for nine bucks a month. Buying the Karate Kid, an old movie not on many download services, costs a few bucks on DVD, but I can just watch it whenever I want as long as I'm a Netflix customer. (And consider that the number of great back catalog titles like that will probably outpace new releases you'd find on Vudu or Apple TV.) It's basically the same as Netflix's current model, but instead of being limited by the postal service, you're limited by your spare time and interest in older titles. (And don't forget Netflix's disc-by-mail service, which still covers new titles.)

The Future
Netflix is planning HD streaming, and this box will support it. When Netflix gets HD streaming content, they'll update the box by firmware to support HD resolutions at higher bitrates of 4-6mbps, including 5.1 surround (everything is stereo now). The menus will also be upgraded to HD res, too. In the future, the Roku-branded box will be upgraded to accept non-Netflix content, too. (And btw, the update on the Mac client situation is that they're just trying to sort out the DRM issues, or lack of a suitable system they can stream to Macs on.)

The box will be sold on Roku's website directly. Worth buying if you're a Netflix customer (or thinking of becoming a Netflix customer) and can find enough titles for Instant Viewing on their site. [Roku and Netflix]


Priced at Just $99.99 and Available Starting Today,
The Netflix Player by Roku™ is Compact,
Easy to Set Up and Intuitive to Use

LOS GATOS and SARATOGA, Calif., May 20, 2008 - Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), the world's
largest online movie rental service, and Roku, Inc., an innovator in digital media streaming
technology, today announced the introduction of The Netflix Player by Roku™, a device that
enables Netflix subscribers to instantly stream a growing library of movies and TV episodes from
Netflix directly to the TV. Priced at just $99.99, the player is available for purchase starting today at

The player is simple to install, easy to use and gives Netflix members instant access to more than
10,000 movies and TV episodes.

"We're excited to bring the first Netflix ready device to the market, " said Anthony Wood, CEO and
founder of Roku. "The seamless integration of the Netflix service into our player has resulted in
true ease of use for the consumer. Now, streaming video isn't limited to people sitting in front of
the PC; it's ready for the TV in the living room."

"The key breakthroughs of The Netflix Player by Roku are simplicity and cost," said Reed Hastings,
chairman and CEO of Netflix. "First, it allows consumers to use the full power of the Netflix Web
site to choose movies for their instant Queue, and then automatically displays only those choices
on the TV screen. That's a major improvement versus the clutter of trying to choose from 10,000
films on the TV. Second, there are no

- more -

extra charges and no viewing restrictions. For a one-time purchase of $99, Netflix members can
watch as much as they want and as often as they want without paying more or impacting the
number of DVDs they receive."
About The Netflix Player by Roku
The Netflix Player by Roku is surprisingly compact - roughly the size of a paperback book - and
can integrate easily into any home entertainment system. All it takes is connecting the player to a
TV and to the Internet. For homes with wireless Internet connectivity, the player is Wi-Fi enabled
and offers the ultimate in placement flexibility.

From the Netflix Web site, members simply add movies and TV episodes to their individual instant
Queues, and those choices are then displayed on the TV and available to watch instantly. With
the player's accompanying remote control, members can browse and make selections right on
the TV screen and also have the ability to read synopses and rate movies. In addition, they have
the option of fast-forwarding and rewinding the video stream via the remote. In all, the Queue-
based user interface creates a highly personalized experience that puts members in control.

Additional features of the product include optimization of the Netflix video streaming technology,
which eliminates the need for a hard disk drive associated with video downloads, and built-in
connectivity for automatic software upgrades, which will keep the device current with service
Technical Details
In the Box
• The Netflix Player by Roku set-top box (approximately 5"W x 5"D x 2"H)
• Remote control (including 2 AAA batteries)
• A/V Cable (Yellow/Red/White RCA)
• Power Adapter
• Getting Started Guide

- more -

Video and Audio Connections
• Component Video
• S-Video
• Composite Video
• Digital Optical Audio
• Analog Stereo Audio
Network Connections
• Wired Ethernet
• Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
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Top 8 Werewolf Movies

Finally, a list we can really get our teeth into – the best-ever films about werewolves.

You only need look at the excitement caused by Benicio Del Toro’s new film The Wolfman to realise how much we love stories about lycanthropes.

But why are we so fascinated by movies about people who change into man-eating wolves every full moon? It can’t be because we think we could all do with more hair, sharper teeth and a dog-like snout. Although, it’s a look that hasn’t done Sarah Jessica Parker’s career any harm at all. It’s probably something to do with unleashing the beast – something the hecklerspray crew tries to do every Friday night without fail. Of course, Hollywood has tried to tap into this curiosity on many occasions. However, very few filmmakers get it right.

Werewolves are slightly more demanding on special effects artists than zombies or vampires. While all you have to do with the other two is slap on some white make-up and you’re halfway there, changing into a half-man, half-beast demands a little more work. And let’s face it, most of them get it wrong. Even Jack Nicholson couldn’t save Wolf.

Anyway, here’s the list. Enjoy!

8. The Company of Wolves (1984)

Neil Jordan’s 1984 re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood has little to do with the folklore of werewolves and more to do with Catholic anxiety over adolescent sexuality. Although the Gallagher brothers are visible proof you can never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.

7. Wolfen

If you’ve never seen this film, get it out now. Simply brilliant.

6. Ginger Snaps

Possibly the most misleading title of a film ever, but, then again, The Girl Who Had An Horrific First Period (you have to see the film to understand that reference) wouldn’t have sold many tickets. One of the best cult movies of recent years.

5. Teen Wolf

We had no idea werewolves were good at basketball until we saw this film.

4. Underworld

OK, this is just another excuse to stick a leather-clad Kate Beckinsale on the site.

3. The Howling

Even to this day, Joe Dante’s film is genuinely scary.

2. Dog Soldiers

Only just pipped to the top spot by An American Werewolf in London. Delivers frights and laughs in equal measure. Our favourite bit: “I hope I give you the shits.”

1. An American Werewolf in London

Simply the best-ever horror film ever made. It’s incredible that even with all of the advancements in technology in recent years, the transformation scene is still head and shoulders above anything else that has come since. So what’s our favourite bit? Well, it’s either the Slaughtered Lamb (we’ve all been in pubs where everyone stops what they’re doing to look at you) or the Nazi dream sequence.

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The Hulk's CGI Finally Gets Upgraded!

Bruce Banner

The revamped version of The Incredible Hulk hits theaters in exactly four more weeks, however almost everyone seems much more curious than excited for it. We all know that the production ran into quite a few issues, primarily a "feud" between Edward Norton and Marvel (read more on that here), as well as last minute marketing snags. Now I've heard that the press junket has been cut down to nearly nothing because the film won't be done by the originally scheduled date. On that note, I ran across a new TV spot today and noticed some freshly upgraded CGI. Not that this wasn't expected, but there are some enormous differences between now and two months ago. Care to take a look?

This is really much more of a fun thing to point out than it is a problem. I'm not that worried about the film, I just think they need to take their time to finish it properly. Obviously they pushed out the very first teaser trailer in mid-March with half-finished visual effects because audiences and fans were getting restless. In the two examples below, you can clearly see the differences in the CGI. Considering I'm a very optimistic guy, I'm looking at this situation as if the glass were half full - which just means that the effects are going to look much better completed than we've seen so far.

The Incredible Hulk CGI Comparisons:

Hulk CGI Comparison

The first image (on the top) is a screen capture from the very first teaser trailer released on March 12th. This exact image was also released individually as a promo photo. The second image (on the bottom) is a screen capture from the latest TV spot released today, which can be viewed in its entirely further below. Notice that Hulk's hair is a lot more detailed and he has pieces of ripped clothing left on (which can be clearly scene when you watch the new TV spot).

Check out the brand new TV spot below (courtesy of IGN) that features just a few scenes of extra footage. Even at this moment, with multiple trailers and TV spots, I still don't know what to expect. I guess I'm just imagining that the movie will feature fighting or action in some fashion almost the entire time. That could be cool, but it could also be an exhausting mess that feels more like The Transporter with a big green guy instead of Jason Statham. Anyway, I'm still going to go in with my fingers crossed, hoping for the best. Maybe we will find the golden ticket inside of this one?

Watch the new TV spot for The Incredible Hulk:

Knowing that the CGI is improving as they put the finishing touches on, I've got to say I'm looking forward to this much more than I am worrying about it. My confidence lies solely in Edward Norton and him alone. William Hurt looks terrible and Louis Leterrier hasn't convinced me that he was really the perfect guy for this. But only time will tell! We'll be anxiously awaiting our first opportunity to check this out in June. Will these CGI differences make an impact on your opinion of The Incredible Hulk?

The Incredible Hulk is directed by French filmmaker Louis Leterrier of The Transporter, Unleashed, and The Transporter 2. The script for the film was originally written by Zak Penn (Behind Enemy Lines, X-Men 2, X-Men 3), but after joining the film as the lead character Bruce Banner, Edward Norton himself took over the reigns and re-wrote the screenplay. The Incredible Hulk arrives in theaters on June 13th.

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Stephen Colbert: the second most powerful idiot in America

His attacks on greens, pinkos and people who want to destroy Christmas have won him friends across the States - and enemies in the White House. Meet Stephen Colbert, host of a satirical news show that tells it like it is - sort of. By Steven Daly

It's 11 am, in a small conference room on the west side of Manhattan, and a group of bright-eyed twentysomethings are gorging on complimentary breakfast cereal and scanning the day's news media. At the back of the conference room, a bookshelf is stacked with literature to be mined for ideas for tonight's edition of the television show they all work on: The Colbert Report, one of the most original, highly acclaimed comedic creations on American television. The title of the political tome sitting on top of the pile - Lessons for the Poor - provides a quick, accurate clue as to what kind of show this is.

In enemy territory: Colbert at the White House last year

The Colbert Report is news parody of the first order. The show's titular host offers a funhouse-mirror reflection of the bellicose Right-wing opinionisers of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel (among others) who dominate and dictate the political discourse in the States with lengthy and obnoxious opinion-slots that are somehow passed off as 'news'. Since this particular day happens to be Earth Day, it is Stephen Colbert's duty - his patriotic duty - to belittle the event in a similar manner. Colbert's production staff discuss the practicalities of giving the host a little balloon globe to wave at the end of a stick as he rants against America's tree-hugging contingent.

Upstairs, past various ludicrous portraits of Stephen Colbert - including an oil painting of him as Napoleon on a rearing white steed - the boss-man sits behind his desk under a framed poster for Richard Nixon's 1972 election campaign. The host of The Colbert Report (both words pronounced à la Français) is thrilled that he got show guest George McGovern, Nixon's defeated opponent, to sign the poster. 'I've always been a news junkie,' says Colbert, 44, whose formative memories include after-school television programmes such as The Munsters being interrupted by the Watergate hearings.

It's mildly disconcerting to find America's favourite faux-conservative dressed not in his trademark preppy Brooks Brothers armour, but in black T-shirt, black shorts and Hi-Tec trainers. Colbert has just driven in from his home in suburban New Jersey, where he dropped the kids off at school (he has three) before doing a session at his local gym. Still, even in his baggy gym gear, he somehow maintains the immovable Republican hair that makes him so perfect for his strident on-screen role.

It was back in 2005 that Colbert broke away from Jon Stewart's ratings-grabbing Daily Show, after eight years as Stewart's suavely buffoonish Right-wing correspondent. The Colbert Report, which airs on the same Comedy Central Network as Stewart's show, has since been three times nominated for Emmy awards; last year Colbert himself received the prestigious Peabody Award for journalistic excellence (to go with the two he won at The Daily Show). Recently, he came third in Time magazine's poll of the 100 most influential people of the year, and shortly after that he was named 'Internet Person of the Year' in the web's equivalent of the Oscars. And for a while earlier this year, thanks to a campaign by his fans, his was the first name to appear when you typed the words 'greatest living American' into Google.

While developing a spin-off based around this character, Colbert and his writers took great care in honing his on-screen persona to fit what they saw as a glaring gap in the comedy market for an obnoxious, editorialising political host just like the ones who had come to dominate the US airwaves.

'What the character expresses in specific reference to American television is the post evening-news, personality-driven, single-camera shout-fest interviews,' says Colbert. He's referring to hosts such as Fox-bred entities like Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough, and mildly less offensive CNN presenters Lou Dobbs and Anderson Cooper among many others.

Colbert's clearest role model would be Fox News figurehead Bill O'Reilly, who takes great pride in shouting down 'unpatriotic' (dissenting) guests and occasionally having their microphones switched off mid-sentence. 'The emotion of the moment is assumed and amplified by a single voice and regurgitated back to the country at the lowest common denominator,' says Colbert. 'It can be swathed in idea, but it's essentially an emotional event. I'm regurgitating back to you how you feel about it - I am you. I am you!

'At the heart of this is America as the chosen country of God. It's a conflation of the Statue of Liberty and the crucifix: American religiosity and American destiny are one and the same. That's why George Bush was chosen by God to lead the world. Manifest destiny is an old idea, but now it's just expressed in different ways.'

The Colbert Report is a giddy, four-times-weekly celebration of the host's overweening ego and preposterous belief system; when Colbert introduces his latest guest, the luckless individual must wait on a set on the other side of the studio until the host jogs over to meet them, pumping his fists and soaking up the audience's noisy approbation.

'The odd thing about the triumphalism of the character is that it works best in an atmosphere of victimhood,' says Colbert. 'These characters say people have personal responsibility and they attack people for playing victims. But an ongoing theme with the Christian Right in the US is the "War Against Christmas". That somehow there are sinister forces - read Jews, Muslims, lesbians - that wish to destroy Christmas. It ignores the fact that Christianity is more dominant with our culture than in any other Western society. In a way, they're very much in line with language an Islamic fascist might use, talking about the decadence of the West.'

Ironically enough, the guest booked for that evening's show is Susan Jacoby, the author of The Age of American Unreason, a new book that addresses the same pathology that Colbert embodies. In his on-air role as the very embodiment of 'bullet-headed, patriotic incuriosity', he decries every aspect of Jacoby's theory with smug righteousness. For instance, she talks about the hypocrisy of Ivy Leaguers such as Clinton and Obama faking affinity for lower-class culture, and mocks the way in which 'elitism' has become a code-word used to frighten 'ordinary Americans'. Exactly, says Colbert: 'Knowing things that other people don't know is the definition of elitist!'

Offstage, Colbert explains exactly what his character trusts instead of so-called 'knowledge' and 'facts'. 'Manifest destiny and the invisible hand of the free market,' Colbert declares, easing into his television persona. 'The market will take care of poverty. I call it dribble-down economics. The rich eat everything - and don't get me wrong, I'm rich - and some of it crusts on their beard, and the poor are allowed to feed on their beard. You can't say they're not being provided for - that's class warfare.'

One notable antecedent for The Colbert Report would seem to be Chris Morris's mid-1990s series The Day Today, but although Colbert remembers seeing and enjoying part of one Morris episode, he says it had no particular influence on his current show. He also knows about Alan Partridge, but has yet to see the man in action.

Another obvious transatlantic comparison, at least in terms of Colbert's reality-warping interview technique, would be Ali G, but although Colbert Report head-writer Rich Dahm is an Ali G Show veteran, Colbert points out that there is a clear difference between the two: The Colbert Report does not ambush its interviewees. 'Everybody knows what they're in for with me,' says Colbert. 'I say exactly the same thing to everyone before the interview: "I'm not an assassin. I do the show in character - and he's an idiot; he's wilfully ignorant of everything we're going to talk about. Disabuse me of my ignorance. Don't let me put words in your mouth".'

Unlike his fulminating role-models on Fox News, Colbert's character never bullies or shouts at his guests. 'The emotion of the shouting would shut the guest down,' he observes. Perhaps it's this kinder, gentler approach that regularly leads to the remarkable sight of apparently sane guests getting sucked into the parallel universe of Colbert's famous neologism 'truthiness', that is, feelings-as-logic. On The Colbert Report one regularly sees real politicians getting so bamboozled that they can barely respond when Colbert blithely insists, 'I'm not making this up - I'm imagining it!' Or when he bellows forth the victorious non-sequitur, 'I accept your apology!' Even with guests who 'get' the joke and come to play along, Colbert has more than enough improvisational skills to keep the show afloat; there's just one thing that will kill an interview, he says, which is when the guest insists on 'dropping joke bombs'.

'There was one person who did completely shut me down,' he recalls. 'Jane Fonda. She got on my lap and nibbled on my ear. She was playing a virago, you might say; she took control with a character that was more powerful than my character at that moment. Never underestimate the power of a woman. She used her feminine wiles, albeit her septuagenarian feminine wiles - pretty impressive, I've got to say - to grab the status away from me.'

Stephen Tyrone Colbert was raised in South Carolina, the youngest of 11 children. In 1974, when he was 10, his father and two of his brothers were killed in an aeroplane crash. Colbert withdrew from his peer-group at school, and retreated into a private world, immersing himself in Tolkien books and the geek-centric role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. By his late teens, he had emerged from his shell to discover some latent desire to become a performer, briefly fronting a Stones-like cover band. 'We just played a handful of little local gigs for beer,' Colbert recalls. 'I can't remember what song we did; maybe Jumpin' Jack Flash... to be honest I was a little...' - Colbert makes the gesture of toking on a joint.

When he enrolled in college in Chicago, Colbert became involved in the famed Second City comedy-improvisation troupe. He still takes his craft extremely seriously, and he'll quote chapter and verse from the influential (and admittedly short) book Impro by Englishman Keith Johnstone.

The 'Colbert Nation', as the host calls his 'strange little group of fans', was large enough to put his book I Am America (And So Can You!) at the top of The New York Times best-seller list at the end of last year, and keep it on the list into 2008. The book is a graphics-intensive primer on Colbert's absurdly idealised vision of the States. 'It's how to be an American, and how America thinks,' says Colbert, in host mode. 'I embody America.'

The book begins with a helpful set of instructions on 'How to Read this Book,' and has chapters dealing with all aspects of American life, from the wholesome - the family, religion - to the problematic - 'Hollywood (Lights! Camera! Treason!)' and 'Race (Fact or Fiction?)' It makes for a breezy read, packed with calorie-free McNuggets of 'truthiness'. But what does Colbert the author think about his book's recent publication in Britain, a nation whose present government has a suspiciously socialist tinge?

'Anything that makes you more like America has got to be a positive thing,' he says. 'We broke off from you guys in 1776 - just in time. Since then you've spiralled; we're carrying the torch of imperial ambition for you. You guys did create an empire - so you obviously at least have the capacity to be dangerous.'

Colbert is undoubtedly a star, revered by millions. But he doesn't quite accept that. 'There's something antithetical to stardom with my character,' he says, 'because he has to seem like an underdog. You can't quite love me - I'm a little prickly.'

'A little prickly' is one of the nicer descriptions that might have been used to describe Colbert on 29 April, 2006, the evening that made him a global phenomenon. The event was the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, and he had been chosen as the keynote speaker, who is expected to administer a good-natured ribbing to members of the political elite. Colbert had other ideas: he was going to remove their ribs one by one, with no anaesthetic.

He claims that he mounted that prestigious stage unburdened by trepidation. 'I was looking forward to doing my jokes,' he says. 'They were the magic carpet I could ride over my fear. Besides, I couldn't even see anyone because of all the lights.'

In his 16 minutes in the spotlight, the man who once addressed a Hollywood audience as 'Godless sodomites' breezily delivered one vicious back-slap after another to the Bush government: 'Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the President's side and the Vice-President's side.'

He pretended to defend Bush and his well-shod junta to the audience of 2,500 Washington insiders: 'This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.' There were sideswipes at the media, as well, regarding Iraq's mythical weapons of mass destruction: 'We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out.'

The guests on the podium - including the President and his wife, Laura Bush - started off squirming and ended up scowling. As the minutes ticked away, the comedian seemed to be embracing the old adage, 'It's not funny till they all stop laughing.'

As one would expect, the mainstream American media were less than eager to highlight a jaw-dropping performance by this ungracious interloper, and of the few published accounts of Colbert's appearance, most simply dismissed his performance as not funny. George W. Bush may not have been chuckling along, says Colbert, and 'on TV it may have sounded like I was tanking, but there were 1,000 people at the back of the room laughing.' Colbert had the last laugh, as the footage of his speech became such an internet phenomenon - topping YouTube's 'most viewed list and soaring to number one on iTunes - that the press could no longer suppress it. The influential New York Times columnist Frank Rich went so far as to declare that Colbert's performance was 'the defining moment' of the United States' 2006 mid-term elections.

For all the palpable cultural impact that Colbert's work has had, he does not imagine that he's had any effect on the kind of deluded demagogues he lampoons nightly. Nor does he believe that he is having any real effect on 'the age of American unreason'. 'Making jokes doesn't always mean doing something about it,' Colbert says. 'It's doing something...'

Colbert does not need big-name guests to drive his show, but there are times when big names need him. On the eve of the recent Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, he commandeered a Philadelphia theatre for the week, telling his bosses, 'Build it and they will come.' And come they did: the final Philadelphia programme was bookended by mildly comic cameos from both leading Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

As it happens, Colbert is a registered Democrat, as well as a practising Catholic - which makes it surprising that he fired off so many Pope jokes during the pontiff's recent visit to the States. 'I've earned it,' Colbert retorts. 'I go to church on Sundays; and I will continue to go if only it allows me to do Pope jokes with a clean conscience.'

Colbert bolsters his Catholic karma by teaching at a local Sunday school. 'In what I do there's not a lot of people who go to Catholic church,' he says. The children he addresses at Sunday school are too young to recognise the television star in front of them, which he is delighted about. 'So I get to actually talk to someone who will take me seriously when I talk about religion - albeit I have to find somebody who's seven to take me seriously.'

  • 'The Colbert Report' is on FX every weeknight at 11. 'I Am America (And So Can You!)' is published by Virgin Books, £14.99

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