The Colbert Bump is a phenomenon which strikes people who appear on The Colbert Report, a television show broadcast by American network Comedy Central. Supposedly, individuals who make guest appearances on the Colbert Report experience an uptick in public interest after the show is broadcast. Several statisticians have investigated the Colbert Bump, and they have discovered that there is in fact some truth to the theory: using objective comparative measures like campaign donations, researchers found that a Colbert Report appearance did indeed result in increased popularity for many politicians.
Politicians are not the only ones affected by the Colbert Bump, although the impact on them is easiest to measure, thanks to the fact that political success is regularly measured with tools like polls. Authors who appear on the Colbert Report have experienced rises in book sales, and musicians have noted increased interest in their albums after appearances on the Colbert Report. Critics of the Colbert Bump theory have, however, pointed out that many of the people who appear on the show are already popular, so it's hard to say how much influence the Colbert Bump really had.
This phenomenon is clearly related to the popularity of the Colbert Report itself. The show regularly receives high ratings, and younger Americans especially have stated that they get a great deal of their information about American politics from the Colbert Report. The show has won a number of awards, and it has had a significant cultural impact; “truthiness,” a term from the show, was named the Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster in 2006.
Politicians are certainly well aware of the Colbert Bump, and the topic has even come up on the Senate floor. Stephen Colbert, the host of the show, also regularly references the Colbert Bump in his segments, and after an appearance by Presidential candidate Ron Paul in 2008, Colbert even did a segment specifically on the Colbert Bump, using Ron Paul's sudden gain in the polls after his appearance to illustrate the phenomenon.
Although the truth of the Colbert Bump has clearly been illustrated, statisticians stress that it should not be taken too seriously. By tracking public response to people who have appeared on the show over the long term, the Colbert Bump has been shown to be primarily temporary, with public interest returning to pre-show levels within a few weeks. However, the Colbert Bump could potentially influence the outcome of an election or an appearance on the best-seller list, if a guest spot was well timed.