Sunday, June 2, 2013

An accurate transcript of the greatest poem ever written.

It is a source of annoyance for me that the transcripts of the greatest poem ever written all seem to be wrong.

One example is that  "and hail" is often replaced by "inhale" the Toxic waste and Ayatollah line gets messed up in all sorts of bizarre ways largely because people can't figure out that the "or" was an "or".  (Some people don't even realize it was a conjunction.)  So on, so forth, the problems are there left and right.

So, hopefully, this is an accurate transcript:


The Greatest Poem Ever Written:

Are You Sure?
Copyright two thousand and ten by the Reverend Sir Doctor Stephen T. Colbert DFA

Did you hear that?  No?  You're probably going deaf.
    It's your kids back home cooking up some crystal meth.
Did you turn off the oven? Did you set the alarm?
    They still haven't caught the man with one arm.

Look around at these people. How safe do you feel?
Your car, when you parked, did you lock it?
    Thinking reasonably now, what are the odds that nobody here's a pickpocket?
That guy who just coughed down your neck, could he have an infection?
    The restaurant where you went to brunch, did it fail its health inspection?

A mad man could set loose a virus for which there isn't a cure.
    And while these things may be unlikely, ask yourself: Are you sure?
And can you be sure that you won’t get Ebola from a tainted diet cola,
    Toxic waste or getting chased by a bearded Ayatollah?

Funnel clouds and hail, anthrax in the mail.
    Your lover will discover your vestigial tail.

Someone's robbing your house.
I can see through your blouse.
Your mother was right, you chose the wrong spouse.

Unlabeled Drano, tornadoes, torpedoes.
    The horrible sight of some Guidos in Speedos.
STDs, PCBs, SUVs, UV Light.
    A giant pimple on your face, you have a date tonight.

Choking on a biscotti.
Being whacked by John Gotti.
Getting trapped over night in a full port-o-potty.

And I have one final fear to drop in your bucket
    About a friend of a friend of a friend of the man from Nantucket:

There once was a man from Eau Claire
Who no one was able to scare.
He wouldn’t join panics
About the Hispanics
And later he was killed by a bear.

True story.


Exactly how to divide up the lines and stanzas is subject to some question, the poem is built on a rhyming couplet base, but it isn't afraid to deviate from it.  A very clear example is that it ends with a limerick (AABBA) followed by a single, short, stand alone line that is rhymed with nothing.

The line, "Look around at these people. How safe do you feel?" is rhymed with nothing instead serving as an introduction to the next two couplets.

Some people make "And can you be sure that you won’t get Ebola from a tainted diet cola," into two lines:
And can you be sure...
That you won't get Ebola from a tainted diet cola

which would make "And can you be sure..." an unrhymed line that, like "Look around at these people. How safe do you feel?" serves as an introduction to the following string of couplets.

Two couplets with three rhymed words (Ebola cola / Ayatollah // hail mail / tail) set the stage for the three line rhyming group that follows (house / blouse / spouse) but it opens the question of whether the three rhyme couplets were really intended to be couplets and whether the three line rhyme groups were really intended to be three lines.


  1. Once again, you have enriched my life.

  2. Thanks for posting this! I was at the rally, but couldn't understand about half of what was being said because I couldn't see and have a little bit of a hearing comprehension delay. As a result, I have no memory of this poem whatsoever. Do you know if Colbert wrote it and Bill Watterson read it? Because my husband remembered Bill Watterson reading a poem and we're just guessing this was it.

    1. I think you're confusing your Wattersons and Waterstons. It was Sam Waterston who read it.

      If you'd like to hear the reading, I made use of this video to double (triple, quadruple, and so forth) check the version I've posted: