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Stephen Colbert announces presidential bid, but is it the truth or truthiness?

Comedian announces on his show that he'll try to get on the primary ballots for both parties in his home state of South Carolina. Is he joking?

The dashingly handsome Stephen Colbert, self-proclaimed 'favorite son' of South Carolina
Comedy Central

The thought of a comedian running for president might have been the plot of a tepid Robin Williams movie until recently, but now there are signs that faux pundit Stephen Colbert may actually want to dip his patriotic toes in the (shark-infested) campaign pool.

Colbert formally announced on Tuesday's episode of his spoof talk show, The Colbert Report, that he intends to run for president. More specifically, he aims to get his name on the ballot for both the Democratic and Republican primaries in his home state of South Carolina as a "favorite son."

"And not my mother's favorite son," Colbert explained. "She is much too fair-minded to ever show a preference between the eight of us. Right, Mom?"

It's no surprise that Colbert, with his over-the-top blowhard-egotist act, would make jokes about wanting to end up in the Oval Office. He's been talking about it for weeks on shows like Larry King Live and even in a New York Times op-ed column. But here's the shocker: After Tuesday night's show, people are starting to get the idea that he might not be kidding.

Earlier that evening on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, on which Colbert used to play a (fake) reporter, he formally announced that he would, well, be making a formal announcement. "I, Stephen Colbert, am officially announcing that I will officially consider whether or not I will announce that I am running for president of the United States."

But on Tuesday's Colbert Report, which occupies the time slot after The Daily Show on the Viacom-owned Comedy Central, Colbert made it less fuzzy. "I have heard the call," he declared. "Nation, I shall seek the office of the president of the United States!" He then erupted into a sort of reverie as red, white, and blue balloons cascaded from the ceiling.

Neither Comedy Central nor Colbert's personal publicist have issued statements on whether the comedian will actually attempt to get on the ballot, which has left many--including South Carolina's major political parties--on the edge as to whether the announcement should be taken seriously.

"If Stephen fulfills the requirements met in our delegates' election plan and he actively campaigns in South Carolina, we welcome him to compete," said Joe Werner, executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, in an interview with CNET Werner added that representatives from The Colbert Report had placed calls to the state party's headquarters several weeks ago but that the party thought it was all a joke at the time.

Fulfilling the requirements, however, will be the tough part. Party regulations, Werner said, prevent Colbert from attempting to run on both the Democratic and Republican tickets. "It's in our rules somewhere that you can't be on two ballots," he explained. "He'd have to pick one party."

Representatives from the South Carolina Republican Party were not readily available for comment.

At 43, Stephen Tyrone Colbert would be the youngest contender in the major parties' candidate roster. (Barack Obama is 46.) Colbert would additionally be the first presidential candidate to be banned from Wikipedia (which, ironically, has named his buzzword "truthiness" as its article of the day for October 17), have a mass-market ice cream flavor named after him, and have an extensive repertoire of YouTube videos in which he prances around with a Star Wars lightsaber. Currently, he's riding high on the bestseller lists with his book I Am America, And So Can You!

It could still be a huge joke on all of us. The late comedian Pat Paulsen, after all, was using "I'm running for president" as a stand-up routine in the mid-20th century, over the course of multiple election cycles.

But considering Colbert's prominence as a geek hero, there's no question that fast-spreading buzz on the Web would only add to the anticipation over whether he'll run. Rumors floated in 2005, stemming from the appearance of an "official" Web site that turned out to be a hoax, that oddball actor Christopher Walken would be running for president. (In the words of one CNET commenter, "Too bad. America's got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!")

Colbert, like Walken, would likely be an instant Internet favorite.