Here’s Colbert at his best in the best and funniest clip I’ve ever seen on exposing the insane American fear of art, nudity and sex. Watch!
The clip reminds me of something that happened to me that I write about in my memoir Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back :
When How Should We Then Live? was complete we launched it with a massive and well-promoted seminar tour sponsored by Gospel Films. We projected our movies from a giant arc projector we trucked all over America. My parents and I flew from city-to-city on the private plane Billy Zeoli hired. The events were mainly held in civic arenas.
We were in fifteen cities, including a gig in Madison Square Garden. We talked to a total of over forty thousand people. They would show up for a whole day, watch each half hour episode in order, and we had discussions led by my father and, later in the tour, sometimes by me.
Our seminars were unique. The size crowds would have been nothing unusual for evangelistic crusades or Pentecostal “charismatic” shindigs. But evangelicals were coming to us to watch movies about art history and to hear Dad talk about philosophy! Each event got bigger as the word of mouth spread. By the end of the tour Dad was one of the most sought after and best known evangelical leaders in the United States.
There were memorable moments during the production and the seminars: Dad standing on a scaffolding, next to the shoulder of Michelangelo’s “David” while dusting the statue’s head for the close-up… Dad and I alone in the Sistine Chapel at night, waiting for the crew… Eating a tray of delicious lasagna at midnight in the Uffizi, with the run of the whole place… Realizing that the lights were too close to Van Eyck’s “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” in St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, and that we were about to strip the paint… Wondering again and again, how so much art in Italy, Belgium and other European countries had survived for so long given the complete indifference of so many museum guards and curators who literally turned over some of the world’s greatest treasures to my crew, then disappeared for a coffee… Stepping out alone on the platform at our Dallas seminar to launch How Should We Then Live?, and looking at a crowd of six thousand, and realizing that we were on the road to a monster success, then being introduced to Roger Staubach (the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback), who showed up with half his team and not knowing who he was, being that I was some Swiss, movie, art nerd…
One event stands out as foreshadowing one of the many reasons I would later flee the evangelical world: The best material we shot for How Should We Then Live?— genuinely historic and unique footage—was filmed in the Accademia that houses Michelangelo’s “David.” Dad was on a scaffolding we built right up next to the statue, so people would get the sense of scale. (That was when I handed him a feather duster to clean off “David’s” head! We noticed it was dusty!)
We filmed a magnificent dolly shot past Michelangelo’s “Captives” (or “unfinished works”) that line the hall up to the “David.” Then the shot continued all the way around “David” and ended on Dad.
Gospel Films insisted I cut the scene and replace it with stock footage bought from an old NBC show because our shots revealed—oh horror!—David’s genitals. The old NBC footage conveniently blacked them out.
“We can’t have this for a Christian audience,” said Billy Zeoli. “Churches won’t rent it.”
“But we have other nudes and you never said anything. What about Mary’s breast in that Virgin and Child?”
“That’s bad enough! One holy tit is okay as long as you don’t leave it on screen too long. But churches don’t do cock!” said Billy with an uproarious laugh.
I fought and lost. When I told Dad he muttered, “We’re working with fools.”
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace