Stephen Colbert Commissions JR Mural, Claims to Be Banksy

Stephen Colbert discusses JR's mural of his eye, installed on the roof of the studio where The Colbert Report was filmed. Photo: screen shot via Comedy Central.
JR, mural of Stephen Colbert's eye on the roof of the studio where <em>The Colbert Report</em> was filmed. Photo: screen shot via Comedy Central.

JR, mural of Stephen Colbert’s eye on the roof of the studio where The Colbert Report was filmed. Photo: screen shot via Comedy Central.

Stephen Colbert may be ending his popular satirical nightly news program The Colbert Report to take over for David Letterman on The Late Show, but he’s leaving his mark on the building that has housed his studio for the past nine years, thanks to a new mural from French street artist JR.

“Just because I’m going doesn’t mean I’m gone,” Colbert announced during the opening monologue of last night’s episode, the series’ penultimate airing. “Now, thanks to JR, there will always be a little something special here on top of my studio to catch your eye—specifically, my eye.”

Colbert meant exactly what he said, as the roof of the rectangular building has been plastered with a giant blown-up image of his eye, or, as he put it, “super-giganto roof vision.”

A “friend of the show” (Colbert’s term for any of the program’s guests), JR stopped by the Report over the summer to discuss the photographic murals he’s known for installing around the world (see “JR Tours Abandoned Ellis Island Hospital” and “JR Spruces Up Paris Scaffolding with 500 Faces“). The artist specifically focused on his series of images of Israelis and Palestinians designed to demonstrate the similarities shared between the two groups, despite political and religious differences.

Colbert, of course, thought that JR would be better off working with celebrity photos since “people love looking at us.” Sure enough, the French photographer has clearly obliged in this latest work.

Stephen Colbert discusses JR's mural of his eye, installed on the roof of the studio where <em>The Colbert Report</em> was filmed. Photo: screen shot via Comedy Central.

Stephen Colbert discusses JR’s mural of his eye, installed on the roof of the studio where The Colbert Report was filmed. Photo: screen shot via Comedy Central.

In announcing the newly commissioned roof mural, Colbert praised JR as “one of the most important street artists working today,” adding that “he could even be the next me” as a graphic of Banksy‘s Flower Bomber appeared on screen. The faux-pundit feigned dismay at the “slip,” covering with a quick “I mean Banksy—ooh, shit. Whoever Banksy is.”

The mural may be difficult to see, but a disappointed Colbert Nation is sure to appreciate the lasting homage to the Fox News-esque character as Colbert sheds the persona to host late night.

As for the piece’s aesthetic value, Colbert seemed to take a more self-interested approach to the mural. “I understand that giant unblinking eyeballs of powerful beings on top of buildings have gotten a bad rap lately” (cue image of the eye of Sauron), “but I just wanted to leave you the nation my watchful gaze that protected you for so long against threats that you could not see,” Colbert concluded with a characteristic wag of the finger. “Also I wanted to freak out people stuck in a holding pattern over LaGuardia.”

A tip of the hat to both the artist and the actor on a successful collaboration.

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