For Stephen Colbert, Chicago Roots Run Deep

(CBS) — The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has started this week on CBS 2 with much fanfare. Many of you may not know that Stephen got his start right here in Chicago.

In fact, he spent more than a decade learning the ropes of comedy before heading to New York. We caught up with a few of the folks who knew him back then to tell us how the man behind the laughs spent his time in Chicago.

In a matter of minutes, Stephen Colbert had us laughing hard about life, his new show and his days back in Chicago.

We told him, “Welcome back. This is where it all started for you.”

He told us it was good to be back. But meeting him got us wondering, what was he like before he was Stephen Colbert, when he was just a guy working in comedy in Chicago, hanging out with people like actor David Pasquesi.

“He’s really just so bright that I think that makes him unusual,” Pasquesi remembers.

Many people don’t know that Stephen Colbert came to Chicago in 1984 and studied at Northwestern, learned the art of improv at Improv Olympics and later Second City.

His start was modest, even working the counter at Evanston’s Blind Faith Cafe.

“He loved engaging with people,” says owner David Lipshutz.

But it was clear says Lipschutz that he was not destined for a career in food service.

“After about a month or so we both agreed that it really wasn’t the best fit. I said to Stephen, ‘you should go out and you should find something you really have a passion for,’” Lipshutz says.

And he did. Originally he wanted to be a dramatic actor, but his drama teacher at Northwestern, Ann Woodworth, says his talent for making people laugh was undeniable.

“The thing that I really appreciate about the comedy that he does is that it’s always about ideas,” she says.

Without question, his brand of comedy leaves you thinking. And he has fond memories of learning his craft in Chicago with a group of other talented comedians.

“You’re all struggling, you’re all young and thin because you can’t afford food,” Colbert says. “But, you were doing it together, that was the greatest thing about Chicago.”

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs every week nigh right here on CBS at 10:35. Thursday night we will look in depth at his time at The Second City.

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