Stephen Colbert's rare out-of-character appeal for his sister's campaign

The Comedy Central host steps out of his conservative-pundit persona to plug the House candidacy of a Democratic family member

Elizabeth Colbert Busch
(Image credit:<a href="">ColbertBuschForCongress</a>)

Stephen Colbert became a Comedy Central star thanks to his portrayal of a tone-deaf conservative pundit. And over the years, Colbert has shown an amazing commitment to keep up the act almost everywhere he goes. But Colbert made a rare exception this week, breaking character while stumping for his sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who is running for Congress in South Carolina.

"Some of you may know that I have a television show and not only am I Stephen Colbert, but I play one on TV," he told a cheering crowd.

Colbert talked up his sister, whom he referred to as "Lulu," describing her as tough, hardworking, and a self-made success. Colbert took a jab at House Republicans, citing their refusal to vote on the Violence Against Women Act as evidence of the need for "more women and more sensible legislators in Washington." Plus, the comedian said, Colbert Busch has a quality rare in South Carolina politics — "she's sane! I love South Carolina, but we're a crazy state!... All the way, you know, from John C. Calhoun's Nullification Act in the 1840s up to the jaw-dropping fact that it is possible that Lulu's opponent will be the former governor of the Appalachian Trail, Mark Sanford. It's a crazy state!"

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Well, that's "something you don't see every day," says MSN Now. And Colbert is right — if Colbert Busch wins the Democratic primary, she really might "face philandering former governor (and Appalachian Trail enthusiast) Mark Sanford." Sanford is trying to make a comeback after leaving office scarred by an extramarital affair that was discovered in 2009 when he was caught sneaking off to Argentina to meet his mistress, after telling his staff he was going on a long hike. "Oh, man, would her brother have fun with that."

In the end, though, having a famous brother likely won't be enough to put Colbert Busch over the top, says Reuters. Stephen Colbert has a history of winning laughs by bringing "his antics into South Carolina politics." That doesn't mean he can win votes for a Democrat who will have to face a Republican in a May 7 election in this very red state.

The conservative district has sent a Republican to Congress since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. So most political analysts in South Carolina expect Sanford to eventually win back his old congressional seat despite his scandal and a celebrity presence on the Democratic side. [Reuters]

Yes, Colbert Busch will "face an uphill battle given that the congressional district skews heavily Republican," says Josh Voorhees at Slate. This is, after all, Sanford's former seat, which is vacant because Tim Scott gave it up when he was appointed to take a vacant seat in the Senate. Still, Colbert Busch's "family connection clearly gives her an unusual advantage, and makes the race mighty hard to predict at this point."

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.