The Colbert Report

The Cardinal on Colbert: Dolan Does Comedy Central

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says Mass in Madrid in 2011, Jeffrey Bruno / Shutterstock

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says Mass in Madrid in 2011, Jeffrey Bruno /

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the most famous funny man in the American hierarchy, went on The Colbert Report Tuesday night to trade quips with another funny guy — and another well-known Catholic — host Stephen Colbert.

Indeed, as Colbert — inhabiting his onscreen persona as a blowhard rightwing pundit — said in welcoming Dolan: “You’re the second most famous Catholic in America – after myself.”

But it was actually Dolan who got the first gag, and giggles, as he walked onto the set and ostentatiously bowed and kissed Colbert’s hand as if he were greeting the pope.

“I’ve got to get a nice big ring if you’re going to be kissing my hand!” replied Colbert, who seemed — uncharacteristically —  unsure of how to play the exchange.

In fact, while Colbert was in full faux bloviating mode, he seemed to let Dolan set the pace of their chat; Colbert didn’t poke too hard on topics that could have prompted controversy.

Part of the relative deference may stem from the fact that Colbert is a serious Catholic who has taught Sunday school at his New Jersey parish. Or perhaps it was because Colbert knows Dolan personally, having appeared — out of character — at a forum on faith and humor last year at Fordham University. Or maybe Colbert was a bit out of practice: This was his first show after a two-week summer break, part of which he spent in Rome.

The Jesuit Jester

Between Heaven and Mirth by the Rev. James Martin

Between Heaven and Mirth by the Rev. James Martin

For years, I've liked to call the Rev. Jim Martin, author of the new book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, "my favorite Jesuit."

I'm certainly not alone in my fondness for Martin and his wry spirituality.

Stephen Colbert is so enamored of the exceptionally clever cleric's wit and wisdom that he made Martin the official chaplain of the Colbert Nation. (Click HERE to see some of Father Jim's past appearances on "The Colbert Report.")

Martin, culture editor of America magazine and a prolific writer whose previous books include My Life With the Saints, A Jesuit Off-Broadway and last year's The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, has an uncommon gift for making faith — and even religion — both accessible,  genuinely hip and if not fun, exactly, at least enjoyable.