Two score and nine years ago, Stephen Colbert’s parents brought forth on this continent a new kind of comedian, dedicated to the proposition that not all Lincoln impersonations are created equal.
As part of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ ‘Learn the Address‘ project in advance of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address, the Comedy Central funnyman recorded his own dramatic recitation of the speech. His interpretation comes off as sort of an overwrought, Shakespearean Ron Burgundy, which is a naturally random outcome when you consider this is “Stephen Colbert,” trained actor, portraying Stephen Colberrr, satirist, portraying perhaps the greatest orator in the history of the presidency.
Burns’ project has a terrific backstory. It draws inspiration from the Greenwood School in Putney, Vt., an all-boys institution for students aged 11 – 17 who face a range of learning difficulties. “Yet each year they are encouraged to practice, memorize, and recite the Gettysburg Address,” the Learn the Address website states. Taking cues from this yearly tradition, Burns enlisted a number of celebrities — former presidents, pop stars, and Colbert included — to provide readings of the address.
Burns is making a related documentary about the Greenwood School, “The Address,” which is set to air on PBS in the spring of 2014.
“I was so moved by these young boys with their own learning difficulties and how hard they were working to learn, memorize, and publicly recite it — no small task,” Burns told Mother Jones. “I realized we had to [challenge] everybody to learn the Address.”
(h/t Mother Jones)