Catholics who think their values are underrepresented in the media are probably right, but that’s not for a lack of baptized Catholics in front of the cameras — at least in latenight TV.
Recently, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert was named as host of CBS’ “Late Show,” replacing David Letterman, who announced his retirement.
Since, on “The Colbert Report,” the Second City alumnus was playing a parody of a right-wing talk show host (sort of a Bill O’Reilly-lite) and not himself, it’s hard to say exactly what we’ll get when he settles into the CBS host chair.
But one thing we do know for sure about the real Stephen Colbert is that he’s a practicing Catholic. He’s discussed his faith on his show and in several other venues (this story lists a bunch of those), he’s taught catechism classes, and he even lovingly roasted both Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Pope Francis at last year’s Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
When Colbert got the CBS gig, Jesuit priest Father James Martin tweeted, “Congratulations to my friend Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome on his new gig. Couldn’t have happened to a better Catholic!”
Apparently, according to an article in Time magazine, Martin has been praying for Colbert since at least 2010 and is the official chaplain of “The Colbert Report.”
Colbert was also the subject of Feb. 3, 2014 feature in the Jesuit magazine America, called “Truth and Truthiness: What Catholic Catechists Can Learn From Stephen Colbert” (“truthiness” is one of Colbert’s catchphrases).
And who could forget this?
You may say, ‘Finally, we have a Catholic in latenight TV instead of all these godless heathens!”
Someone hasn’t been paying attention.
Catholics own latenight and have for a while. Now, nobody’s saying these guys are all bastions of piety and orthodoxy. In some cases, far from it. All we know for sure is they’re baptized Catholics and were raised, to one degree or another, in Catholic culture. And we also know for sure that no Catholic, no matter how far they’ve strayed, is beyond redemption and reunion with the Church.
Obviously, I’m not talking about David Letterman or Jay Leno, who’ve never shown any particular affection for organized religion, but here’s what we have right now on Team Catholic Latenight.
Conan O’Brien (“Conan,” TBS): Briefly host of “The Tonight Show” before being ditched when NBC reverted to Leno, O’Brien was raised in a strongly Irish-Catholic family in Massachusetts, and was a Mass-going youngster. No word on where he’s at as an adult, but he has been married since 2002 and has two children.
Jimmy Kimmel (“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, ABC): Raised Catholic in Brooklyn, New York, and Las Vegas, Nevada, this former altar boy told US Weekly in 2012 that his second marriage to longtime girlfriend Molly McNearney would “mostly be a family affair, and there will be a Catholic priest officiating.”
What we know for sure is the final prayer was delivered by Kimmel’s boyhood priest and longtime friend, Father Bill Kenny of Las Vegas’ Holy Spirit Catholic Church.
Kimmel has two children with first wife, Gina, whom he divorced in 2004 after a 14-year-union (no word yea or nay on whether there was ever an annulment, but let’s think good thoughts). Then he reportedly had a five-year relationship with comedian Sarah Silverman (who attended his wedding). After marrying in July 2013, Kimmel and his wife announced in February that they were expecting their first child. Waiting for that birth and baptism news!
Jimmy Fallon (“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” NBC): Leno’s successor is a cradle Irish Catholic raised in Brooklyn and Saugerties, New York, who attended St. Mary of the Snow Catholic elementary school, public high school, and then the Catholic College of St. Rose in Albany (he even returned there in 2009 to finish his bachelor’s degree in communications).
In a 2002 NPR interview quoted right here in CatholicVote, he admitted “I wanted to be a priest.”
He went on to say, “I just, I loved the Church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved, like, how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was – I loved the whole idea of it.”
But when Fallon tried to go back to Mass in Los Angeles, it was an unfortunate experience (as it often is in L.A.). And listening to him, I’d put dollars to donuts he went to St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, but I could be wrong. Honestly, it could be almost anywhere.
He said, “There’s a band there now, and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole Mass now, and I don’t like doing that. You know, I mean, it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other. Now, I’m holding hand – now I’m lifting people. Like Simba…
“I’m doing too much. I don’t want – there’s Frisbees being thrown; there’s beach balls going around; people waving lighters, and I go, ‘This is too much for me.’ I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know. That was my favorite type of Mass, and the grotto, and just like, straight-up, Mass Mass.”
When it was announced that Fallon would be doing “The Tonight Show” from New York City, Patheos Catholic blogger Katrina Fernandez and several folks on Twitter made it their mission to alert Fallon to all the traditional Masses available in Gotham.
Married since 2007 to film producer Nancy Juvonen, Fallon is the father of a daughter born in 2013 via a gestational surrogate.
Carson Daly (“Last Call With Carson Daly,” NBC): A Irish-American native of Santa Monica, Calif., who attended Loyola Marymount University, Daly reportedly briefly pondered the priesthood. As quoted on Backstage.com, he says, “That’s been a bit overpublicized; it was just something I thought about. It’s an interesting story when a young kid who thought about seminary ends up at MTV playing Marilyn Manson videos.”
At the election of Pope Francis, he joined other celebrities in reacting on Twitter, writing, “I like the new pope. Opted for silence before he first spoke. Pray for me before I pray for you. Humble. #goodstart.”
Daly currently has two children his fiancé, Siri Pinter. No word yet on a wedding, alas.
Greg Gutfeld (“Red Eye With Greg Gutfeld,” Fox News Channel): Raised Catholic in San Mateo, Calif., and another former altar boy, the irreverent, smart and fearless Gutfeld — author of several books, including the recently released “Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You” — used to occasionally say he was Catholic on his very-latenight pop-culture/comedy roundtable show, while also espousing his libertarian views, including strong support (and an endless string of jokes about) same-sex marriage. He currently describes himself as an “agnostic slash atheist” (it would seem you should be one or the other, but OK) saying that his religious beliefs have “faded away.”
And I haven’t heard the Catholicism mentioned in a while. He and wife Elena currently have no children. But Gutfeld does love his mom, so there’s that.
Larry Wilmore (“The Minority Report With Larry Wilmore,” Comedy Central, premieres in January): A correspondent for “The Daily Show,” the newly announced replacement for Colbert will be bringing the perspective of an African-American Catholic to latenight.
Growing up the son of a doctor around Los Angeles, Wilmore answered the Wall Street Journal’s 2012 question about whether he’s a practicing Catholic with, “I go to church every Sunday. I don’t agree with everything the Church says or does, but I like its traditions. But then I’ve been at odds with the Catholic Church since I was a kid.”
Well, hey, at least he still goes.
So there you have it, a representative sampling of the mixed bag that is modern American Catholicism, from devout to out and everything in between. Let’s keep all these guys in your prayers.