"I am the default American," Stephen Colbert solemnly told Nell Irvin Painter, who wrote The History Of White People, on his show last night.

Things got decidedly kooky from there, perhaps because Painter's responses were a bit eccentric. Or maybe critical race studies are a tough and nuanced fit for Colbert's schtick.

Colbert has heritage on the mind, having just appeared on Henry Louis Gates' Faces Of America series. He volleyed with Painter about the difference between Irish and Scots-Irish, and a more pressing question — whether Barack Obama is a beautiful man.

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Related: Faces Of America: Stephen Colbert [PBS]