Stephen Colbert opens up about tragic death of father, brothers
James Colbert Jr and his sons Peter and Paul were killed in an Eastern Air Lines crash on September 11, 1974 while en route to enrol the boys in school.
In a new interview with Oprah's Next Chapter, Stephen cited the family tragedy as the defining event of his adolescence.
"For years, I sort of thought that that was my secret name… That the loss was my name, if you know what I mean... [the experience] is who you are," he explained.
Colbert continued: "I didn't really feel the loss until I was in college. Then, I was in bad shape... I was just so sad about it.
"I was 10 when they died. It's only eight years later when you go to college ... It seemed like a long time at the time, but now, at age 48, it seems like the blink of an eye."
The comedian also revealed that he keeps a sign on his desk which reads "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God" in order to keep his life in perspective.
Colbert took time away from his Comedy Central series earlier this year when his mother Lorna suddenly fell ill.
He ultimately paid tribute to Lorna when returning to The Colbert Report days later, saying: "Evidently having 11 children makes you tough as nails… Confidential to a lovely lady!"
The Colbert Report airs Monday through Thursday at 11.30pm ET on Comedy Central.