Stephen Colbert’s Staff Sent the Most Ruthless Rejection When He Was Asked to Return to ‘The Venture Bros.’
Long before Colbert was a late-night legend, the veteran sketch and improv comedian had a handful of gigs working as a voice actor on animated comedy shows like Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law and, of course, The Venture Bros., one of the longest-running shows in Adult Swim’s history in terms of years — but certainly not seasons. Beginning in 2004, the notoriously slow-moving production of Chris McCulloch and Doc Hammer’s cult-beloved action-comedy series about a family of eccentric adventurers coincided with Colbert’s meteoric rise from alt-comedy icon to mainstream TV megastar. The two-person creative team of McCulloch and Hammer often took multiple years between seasons crafting the next set of episodes, which left their voice actors plenty of times to move on to bigger and better things while Venture Bros.’ die-hards fans demanded to see Season Three before their unborn children went off to college.
Back when McCulloch and Hammer were finally putting the pieces together for that third season in 2007, they tried to recruit the rest of the Venture Bros. voice actors to return to action, but they received a particularly rude response from the management team of the secondary supervillain Professor Impossible. As McCulloch wrote in his blog at the time, a representative of Colbert responded to McCulloch’s request for a repeat performance, “Stephen has neither the time nor the interest in participating in your project.” I guess it was Impossible to let McCulloch down easy.
“One sour note from the past month (aside from my car getting hit yet again),” McCulloch wrote in a now infamous post from the 2007 holiday season, “is that Mr. Stephen Colbert has decided not to reprise his role as Professor Impossible this season, for reasons which probably have something to do with him being all super-famous, super-busy, and no longer in need of a few hundred bucks here and there.”
The Venture Bros. creator and star voice actor clearly understood the possibility that the demands of a nightly satirical news show and the pressures of being one of the most popular political comedians on the planet may have made Colbert’s return to his Reed Richards parody character a long shot, but that didn’t stop him from trying to secure a third season appearance from Professor Impossible anyway. “We figured this would happen eventually, considering his monumental success in the years since our first season, but we held out hope that the WGA strike would leave him with enough bored free time on his hands that he’d have a go at it,” McCulloch wrote.
However, McCulloch found the manner of his rejection at the hands of Colbert’s handlers distasteful, detailing how he was “shuffled around from (Colbert’s) assistant to his assistant’s assistant to his agent to his manager.” McCulloch opined on their eventual reply, “Was the ‘nor the interest’ really necessary? I would have bought the ‘time’ part without question, but man... you gotta kick a guy when he’s down like that?”
Ultimately, McCulloch and Hammer decided to recast the Professor Impossible role — McCulloch took over voice duties on the surly supervillain for a couple seasons before none other than Bill Hader offered to take the reins in Venture Bros. Season Four. Thankfully, the bad blood between Venture Bros. and the Colbert media empire only extended to the comedian’s assistants, and, in 2015, fresh off the finale of The Colbert Report, Colbert returned to the role for the two-part special, “All This and Gargantua-2.”
Maybe Colbert found the “time” to be “interested” again because he left his a-hole assistants behind when he quit his day job.