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About (Late) Last Night: Watch James Franco geek out with Stephen Colbert

April 6, 2011 |  6:49 am


The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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For the last week, James Franco has dutifully been making the late-night rounds promoting "Your Highness," his new fantasy-cum-stoner-comedy. He's already sat down with David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon, but in his Tuesday night interview with Stephen Colbert, it seemed the multi-tasking actor/author/graduate student/model/Oscar host had finally met his intellectual soul mate.

Like Colbert, Franco is someone whose name is often demarcated by ironic quotation marks: There's James Franco, and then there's "James Franco." And like Colbert, it's hard to tell when, if ever, Franco is being "for real."  So it's probably little surprise these two appeared to be such instant chums.  Appropriately enough, the episode began with a skit (see clip above) in which Franco starred as his evil twin,"Frank Jameso," itself a spoof of his recurring role as the murderous  "Franco" on "General Hospital." (Got that?)

But in his sit-down with Colbert, Franco was anything but ironic. Gone was the air of detachment that tainted his Oscar gig. Instead, the actor was at ease, articulate and -- of all things -- earnest. Franco defended himself to skeptics who claim that he's using his celebrity to collect prestigious degrees the way that Kim Kardashian racks up goodie bags -- i.e., easily and without working for it. Franco wasn't ready to declare himself a Renaissance man, but he did explain his need to pursue so many creative and intellectual endeavors. Acting, he claimed, is merely an "interpretive art," unlike writing and painting, which are purely creative ones.

Somehow, Franco managed to say all of this without seeming pretentious; If anything, he was endearingly humble."You are an artist," he told Colbert."you've created this thing where you can go anywhere and you can be both serious and comedic. That is contemporary art." The two then engaged in a spirited and somehow lighthearted discussion of aesthetics. Quotes from James Joyce were lobbed with ease. To cap it all off, Colbert and Franco bonded over their mutual love of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Needless to say, it was a more stimulating conversation than you find most nights on late-night television, and it felt more organic too, free of the canned anecdotes and dull platitudes characteristic of most celebrity interviews. Franco even confessed to feeling out of shape, and cracked jokes about smoking pot backstage. If only every weeknight were more like this.

What do you think? Has James Franco "cornered the brain market," or does he have at least one peer?

--Meredith Blake

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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