A Stephen Colbert Portrait Returns to the Smithsonian, With Even More Stephens

As the Comedy Central host’s show ends, his likeness(es) head to the National Portrait Gallery

Following the end of "The Colbert Report," the National Portrait Gallery will hang Stephen Colbert's portraits-within-a-portrait. (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)
smithsonian.com

Following last night's final episode of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, the National Potrait Gallery announced this morning that it will put the portrait of Colbert featured on his show on display. The portrait, updated every so often with versions of the previous portraits in the background, will occupy prime placement in the museum's "historic alcove"—just above the water fountains between the men's and women's restrooms on the second floor. 

Smithsonian magazine once asked Colbert what, other than his portrait, he wishes were at the Smithsonian. "Cheap, hollow food....a twinkie," Colbert responded.

In 2008, the comedian featured a segment on his show in which he tried to convince the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History to consider him a "national treasure" and display an earlier version of the portrait. The Institution eventually obliged. "My portrait has more portraits than any other portrait in the National Portait Gallery," Colbert said on his show at the time, adding, "There has never been a better time to take a whiz in Washington." The work hung briefly at the Portrait Gallery before moving to the National Museum of American History, and came down for good in August 2011.  (The portrait, along with Colbert's jumpsuit, that he wore to the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on October 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C. are held in the collections of the American History Museum.)

A Smithsonian Channel segment from 2008 joked that the multiple Colberts portrayed were "some of the most controversial and powerful people in the world." A passerby was quoted as saying, "Colbert is essential to our existence, just like restrooms."

The new portrait contains at least twice as many Stephens as the previous one did. "In recognition of the end of Stephen Colbert’s decade-long persona for Comedy Central’s 'The Colbert Report,' the museum has borrowed Colbert’s portrait, which was created for the final season of the show," said a Portrait Gallery press release. "As with many other items that bore the Colbert stamp of approval, the museum experienced [what the host calls] a 'Colbert bump'—crowds lined up to get their picture taken with Colbert’s portrait."

The portrait goes up at 4 p.m. today and will be on view through April 19, 2015.

About Max Kutner
Max Kutner

Max Kutner was the editorial intern for Smithsonian. He is now a staff writer at Newsweek and has contributed to Boston magazine and other publications.

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