Stephen Colbert and 'House': The funniest relationship on TV?

Stephen Colbert accepts the award for best comedy album at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, in Los Angeles.

Matt Sayles

Stephen Colbert accepts the award for best comedy album at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, in Los Angeles.

Stephen Colbert accepts the award for best comedy album at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, in Los Angeles.

Matt Sayles

Stephen Colbert accepts the award for best comedy album at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, in Los Angeles.

Kal Penn and Hugh Laurie, from left, are shown in a scene from the Fox series 'House.'

Photo by AP Photo/FOX, Adam Taylor

Kal Penn and Hugh Laurie, from left, are shown in a scene from the Fox series "House."

— The funniest relationship on TV might be the clandestine, cross-network affair between “The Colbert Report” and “House.”

If you look carefully, you can spot a small, framed photograph of Hugh Laurie, the star of Fox’s “House,” on the set of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” “House” has reciprocated the gesture with a photo of Colbert that sits on Dr. Gregory House’s desk.

On Monday’s “Report,” Stephen Colbert said House’s photo sits on his shelf because he’s a huge fan of the TV doctor.

“House and I have a lot in common,” Colbert, in mock pundit character, said on the show. “We both refuse to play by the rules, never consider the consequences of our actions, and are horribly abusive to our staffs.

“In the end, we’re both always right.”

The shelf behind Colbert’s C-shaped desk contains a collection of odd objects that he has found reason to keep by some twist of the show’s bizarre comedic meanderings. The House photo currently rests, Colbert noted, “in a place of honor next to my coin purse made from a bull scrotum.”

Colbert first placed the photo on his set in June 2006 after Colbert (the real one) received an honorary degree from Knox College. This made him a doctor, Colbert claimed, and next to his degree, he placed photos of three other TV doctors: House, Noah Drake from “General Hospital,” and Dr. Cliff Huxtable from “The Cosby Show.”

The House photo (now more visible because “The Report” broadcasts in high-definition) has stuck around, Colbert said in a recent interview, because the show noticed it would frequently show up on camera over his shoulder.

“We said we’ve got to keep that — we can’t get rid of the picture of House,” he said.

When he saw that “House” responded in kind, Colbert said he was “honored because I’m such a fan.”

In an e-mail Wednesday, Laurie said he was “hugely flattered by Mr. Colbert’s tip of the hat.”

“People sometimes ask whether I have anything in common with the character I play, and I answer as truthfully as I can: House and I are the same height and we both have a worshipful obsession with Stephen Colbert,” said Laurie. “That’s it. And even the height part isn’t quite right. I am actually one inch taller than House. But it seemed to us completely and satisfyingly consistent for House to curl up in front of Colbert after a hard day’s healing.”

The connection between the two fictional characters is fitting because it mirrors a real-life link. Both are comedians with a fondness for wordplay and an extraordinary talent for embodying a character.

In an e-mail Wednesday, Laurie said he was “hugely flattered by Mr. Colbert’s tip of the hat.”

“People sometimes ask whether I have anything in common with the character I play, and I answer as truthfully as I can: House and I are the same height and we both have a worshipful obsession with Stephen Colbert,” said Laurie. “That’s it. And even the height part isn’t quite right. I am actually one inch taller than House. But it seemed to us completely and satisfyingly consistent for House to curl up in front of Colbert after a hard day’s healing.”

The connection between the two fictional characters is fitting because it mirrors a real-life link. Both are comedians with a fondness for wordplay and an extraordinary talent for embodying a character.

American audiences are less familiar with Laurie’s earlier sketch comedy work on British television, including the beloved, acclaimed series “Blackadder” and “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” and his portrayal of P.G. Wodehouse’s empty-headed Bertie Wooster in the PBS series “Jeeves and Wooster.” Colbert says he’s particularly a fan of “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” which co-starred Stephen Fry (also Laurie’s co-star in “Jeeves” ).

“I love it when people say, ‘Oh, I saw Hugh Laurie on “SNL.” He was funny!’” said Colbert. “Yes, there was something he did before ‘House.” ’

But that’s background that Colbert — or Laurie — would never even wink at on TV. No, instead Colbert continues to play up his character’s love of “House.”

“I spend a lot of time praising the larger-than-life figures who shape our nation, be they President Bush, Vice President Cheney or House,” Colbert said on a 2006 show. “When will that hospital learn just to trust his instincts? They already give him the hopeless cases.”

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Fox is a unit of News Corp.

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On the Net:

www.fox.com/house

www.colbertnation.com

Get Copyright Permissions © 2010, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
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