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To help out a local film festival, Stephen Colbert did something rare: He made a public appearance out of character.

The comedian and “Colbert Report” host, who rarely speaks in public outside his blowhard right-wing pundit persona, participated in a benefit for the Montclair, N.J., film festival on Friday, sitting for a Q&A with Newsweek scribe Jonathan Alter.

Now a resident of New Jersey, the South Carolina native credits an early festival experience with putting him on the path to fame and cable TV fortune. When a teenage actor dropped out of a local play at the last minute, Colbert auditioned and got the part.

“When I was asked if I would help in any way (with the Montclair fest), I just immediately thought back to when I was 13 years old and they started Spoleto Festival USA in my hometown, and what a difference it made to the culture of my hometown, to the economy of my hometown and to the possibilities of what young people could be exposed to,” Colbert told Variety.

Fest, which is skedded to run May 2-6, will screen about 25 feature films representing fiction, documentary and international content as well as a competition for comedy feature films.

“A highlighted competition of comedy films really speaks to the strengths of talent on the board and the concentration of comedy writers who live in Montclair,” said fest director Thom Powers.

Powers, who was recently hired as fest director along with wife Raphaela Neihausen, join a board that includes Kahane Corn Cooperman, co-executive producer of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”; and Jeff Cooperman, managing producer of “The Colbert Report.”