Sean Penn’s Strange Appearance On Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show Raises Eyebrows

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Actor Sean Penn stopped by Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” on Monday night, and although he spent a fair amount of time delivering serious praise to the students-turned-gun-control activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, all anyone could talk about was his appearance and behavior.

Penn, who appeared to be disheveled and tired, initially attributed his obvious fatigue to the sleep aid Ambien, saying, “You’ve inherited a little of the Ambien I had to take to get to sleep after a red-eye last night.”

Penn just nodded and smiled as Colbert asked whether he might still be “on the Ambien train.” Colbert then asked, “how do you tell the difference between Sean Penn on Ambient and Sean Penn not on Ambien, because during interviews, you lay back in a big way. You’re very low-key.”

Penn then pulled a cigarette pack from his jacket. He shrugged, saying, “eh, I think it’s pretty much the same,” and lit up. He proceeded to smoke throughout the interview as he discussed his new book, “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff: A Novel.”

Twitter responded to Penn’s appearance in real-time, most voicing concern for his health and the fact that he was smoking on live television.


Several raised the question of legality, since Colbert’s show is filmed in New York and therefore subject to some of the strictest smoking laws in the country.

Even Colbert asked Penn to stop smoking, more for Penn’s health than because he was bothered by it. “Please don’t smoke anymore. I don’t mind. My parents smoked when I was a child so it gives me happy memories to smell cigarette smoke, but you know we want you to be around for a long time and those things are bad for you.”

Penn just shrugged it off, calling his habit “job security for oncologists.”

But as the interview came to a close, Penn turned the conversation about his dystopian novel to a conversation about the cultural change he sees coming in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS.  “You feel like there are reasonable people who have been on the other side of this conversation who will listen to these kids.”

Watch a clip of the interview below, via CBS: