Duke President Richard H. Brodhead got some laughs and the humanities got some love during his appearance Thursday on Comedy Central's popular "The Colbert Report."
Brodhead traded wit with the comedian Stephen Colbert while delivering a serious message: The humanities are an essential part of a strong education, but they need support. Colbert brought Brodhead on to discuss the recent report "The Heart of the Matter," produced for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) by a committee co-chaired by Brodhead.
"There's a hunger for the things the humanities supply, but people haven't paid it much attention," Brodhead said.
Playing his faux blowhard news commentator, Colbert humorously challenged Brodhead on the meaning and value of the humanities not only for humanities majors but the wider public. Along the way, he set up Duke's president for his own comments that brought audience applause.
"Even the president of MIT (a member of the AAAS committee) said engineers need to do more than engineer; they need to be able to communicate," Brodhead said.
When Colbert noted the wide margins of the report, asking if that was to make it seem more thick and meaty, Brodhead even got Colbert laughing with his response: "All serious readers know that margins are to keep your notes in."
The segment ended with Colbert noting Brodhead was a Melville scholar and throwing out a question:
"Is Moby Dick a metaphor for the struggle of trying to read Moby Dick?" Colbert asked.
"You missed your calling as a literary critic," Brodhead replied.
The full segment can be viewed below following a short advertisement.