06/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Colbert Steps Into The War Zone -- And Shows the Power of New Media

Newsflash: Stephen Colbert is going to war. 

That’s no joke.  Comedy’s most serious satirist dropped yet another hint Tuesday night that he’s heading “somewhere in the Persian Gulf” soon to take The Colbert Report to the troops. In the name of operational security, Colbert remained tight-lipped about what country he is going to specifically, but he is definitely going.   And I was lucky enough to talk with him about it Tuesday night and help stoke anticipation for his big trip to everybody’s favorite sandbox. 

In the interview (see below), Colbert asked probing questions and hit on everything war-related from  “World War I doughboys” and the “War on Christmas” to Michelle Obama’s “guns” and my potential casting in the next Rambo movie.  Despite the jokes, however, Colbert deserves serious credit for being the first TV host to take his full operation to the war zone.  This modern-day Bob Hope is doing all that he can to focus America’s attention back on Iraq and Afghanistan.  He cares about our troops, and is putting his ass in the line of fire to prove it.  During our interview, he also allowed me to raise a key point:  support for our troops and veterans mean more than slapping a magnetic yellow ribbon on the back of your Chevy/Fiat.  And ahead of this much-anticipated “deployment,” he’s asking The Colbert Nation to step up in support of our newest generation of veterans.  And his Nation has responded in a huge way.

But how powerful is the “Colbert Bump” that he boasts about so often on the show?  Very. Since my interview Tuesday night, IAVA’s new website for the family and friends of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans –– has seen a 700% increase in traffic. The Bump has pushed millions of eyeballs, hundreds of donations and an avalanche of Tweets to our cause. Fans of the show are inundating IAVA’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages to watch our new television commercial “Signs.”  People from as far as Australia are writing to say they heard about us while watching The Colbert Report on  The Colbert Nation is large, engaged and mobilized like Patton’s Army in driving us toward our goal of 100,000 views by Mother’s Day. The Bump is very powerful, and this new media version of Oprah’s Book Club can move a piece of content around the world faster than swine flu.

And this juggernaut of grassroots support couldn’t come at a more critical time for our troops and veterans.  In the next year, tens of thousands will be returning home as the U.S. begins to withdraw troops from Iraq.  Yet, at a time when Bo Obama is a headline, coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-- and their impact on our troops and veterans--hardly make the news.  In making this historic overseas tour, Colbert is giving our troops and veterans a long overdue boost on America’s priority list. And we are grateful.

So ahead of his Middle East trip, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans made Colbert an honorary IAVA member Tuesday night and presented him with a very special piece of combat gear for his travels.  Watch the full interview and see how this legendary late night warrior performs under fire.

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Paul Rieckhoff
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