Stephen Colbert & Conan O’Brien on Religion & Spirituality

Andrea Toole
11 min readApr 30, 2019

This article follows yesterday’s piece about taking inspiration from podcasts.

Last month I listened to Stephen Colbert on Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and was struck by their conversation about religion and spirituality. I clearly recall listening to it during an evening dog walk. The walk around my block takes around 15 minutes. It was dark out. I rewound and played and made my usual screenshot to capture the parts of the podcast that I wanted to reference.

Conan O’Brien has lots of friends.

Here are a few of my takeaways from this discussion:

1. The inherited feeling that one needs to suffer

Said O’Brien,

I believed that anything good had to come from suffering. I really believed that you have to be miserable.

So Colbert and O’Brien had a wonderful conversation about Catholic guilt and suffering like “Christ on the Cross.”

In expressing his agreement of O’Brien’s comments about suffering, misery and subsequent statements, Colbert replied,

I am also a Roman Catholic and 11-year altar boy, and very devout household and the image of Christ on the cross. The highest aspiration is to be able to take up your cross and to alchemize suffering into gold.

But you can’t have gold without suffering. As you know, to the point where I had a magical thinking. I had a magical thinking about suffering, and about forbearance and patience.

He continued to share that his brothers and father tragically died when Colbert was ten-years-old. He didn’t provide specific details, but I got some more information about this tragedy online:

On September 11, 1974, when Colbert was ten years old, his father and two closest brothers, Peter and Paul, died in the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 while it was attempting to land in Charlotte, North Carolina.

There was a long pause while Colbert gathered his thoughts — long enough that I wondered if there was something wrong in the playback or editing of the podcast . Then…



Andrea Toole

Digital Marketing Manager | Freelance Writer | ADHD Mentor | Available for hire.