Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper interview guests from politicians to film stars to royalty as their lives’ work. But when the two met in August 2019, they soon realized that they had more in common than their nightly talk shows. Clips of the interview quickly went viral, with social media users praising both men for the raw emotions they expressed.
Life Is A Gift
Colbert was the youngest child in a large Catholic family, with 10 brothers and sisters. In 1974, Colbert’s father James and brothers Peter and Paul perished when the plane they were on crashed. Cooper, son of Vanderbilt heir Gloria and writer Wyatt Cooper, grew up in the spotlight, both on his mother’s hip and as a child model. His father died in 1978 during open-heart surgery, following a massive heart attack, at the age of 50. Like Colbert, Cooper also experienced the loss of a sibling when his brother, Carter, committed suicide in 1988.
In the clip of the interview that has seen the most traffic, Cooper chokes up upon asking Colbert about his gratitude over grief. Colbert’s response is that “if you are grateful for your life, which I think is a positive thing to do — not everybody is and I’m not always — but it is the most positive thing to do. Then you have to be grateful for all of it. You can’t pick and choose what you’re grateful for.” According to CNN’s Twitter feed, the exchange has been viewed more than 10 million times, with commenters offering their own comforting words. Said @rosemary918, “@StephenAtHome absolutely beautiful, intimate interview. Touched me and brought tears to my eyes. And thank you @andersoncooper for continuing to speak about grief and loss.”
Both men also lost their mothers when they were well in the public eye — Colbert in 2013, and Cooper just a month before he sat down with Colbert. Both men have acknowledged separately that their mothers were their biggest fans in loving tributes on their respective shows. (In 2013, Colbert still hosted The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.) Of his mother Lorna, who was 92 at her passing, Colbert told Cooper, “I realized in that moment [she died], oh, [darn], I wonder if I want to still do comedy because I kind of was doing this for her still enjoying it and having the love and friendship and camaraderie of it. But I realized oh the secret it was to make her laugh.”
In Cooper’s tribute to his mother on 360°, he said, “Her private self, her real self, that was more fascinating and more lovely than anything she showed the public. I always thought of her as a visitor from another world, a traveler stranded here who’d come from a distant star that burned out long ago. I always felt it was my job to try to protect her.”
Both men remarked that experiencing loss in these ways has opened their eyes to the grief and loss we all share, and has made them more aware of others’ suffering. Additionally, both will use the lessons they’ve learned as inspiration to continue to do their jobs in a way that makes their lost loved ones proud.
Facebook user Annette Goodman commented, “This interview is profoundly personal and touches the heart and soul of all who grieve. We need more about men and grieving. Well Done!” One clip in which Colbert discusses being “personally shattered” after the death of his father and brothers has been viewed nearly two million times on Facebook alone.
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