Comedian Stephen Colbert broke character only briefly during a two-and-a-half hour congressional subcommittee hearing on Friday morning at which he testified on the plight of migrant farm workers.

Despite having submitted a serious written statement to the committee prior to the hearing, Colbert gave most of his testimony as the character of the blowhard conservative pundit, also named Stephen Colbert, whom he plays on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." 

At 9:30 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee hearing room in Rayburn was packed, and about 100 people stood against the walls in the hallway outside the hearing. 

As Colbert entered, two demonstrators from the anti-war group Code Pink stood up and one yelled, "Thanks for the corn, Stephen!" 

Early in the hearing of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) asked Colbert, who was one of four expert witnesses, to excuse himself from the hearing as soon as he had made his opening statement.

Colbert was visibly confused by the request and said he would stay as long as the subcommittee's chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), preferred that he stay. Lofgren chimed in to say she wished Colbert would stay and testify. 

The comedian's appearance has been ridiculed by some members of the committee as pointless. Conyers, in his statement, praised Colbert, but said the intense media attention might make it necessary for Colbert to leave.

The media circus surrounding Colbert's appearance was enough to cause Lofgren to remark that the committee hadn't seen this much press coverage "since impeachment." Even Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) attended the hearing and took some photos of the comedian, despite having complained on Wednesday that Colbert's testimony was "a joke."

After opening statements by professor Carol Swain, farmer Phil Glaize and United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez, Conyers formally withdrew his request.

Colbert gave a comedic opening statement in which he took repeated, satirical shots at Congress and at U.S. immigration policy. 

"I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican, I want it picked by an American," Colbert said, appearing to parrot statements made in the past by Republicans. But then he continued, "And sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan, in a spa, where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian." 

Speaking about his experience picking vegetables on a farm in upstate New York, Colbert concluded, "Maybe it's better to have fruits that pick themselves." 

Much of the hearing was taken up with testimony from the other three witnesses about immigration reform, but Colbert had a memorable exchange with ranking subcommittee chairman Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

King was unaware of Colbert's show before the hearing and tried to make a joke about Colbert's corn-picking skills, which were broadcast on Thursday night's "Colbert Report." 

"In Iowa we know corn," King said. "In watching you on YouTube, and watching you handle corn, I thought it was curious that I watched you unload a crate, while everyone else was packing them. Was the camera going backwards?"

Colbert fired back, "I definitely packed corn. I was a corn packer, and I apologize, because I know that is a derogatory term for a gay Iowan, and I didn't mean any offense." 

Following the hearing, King declined to discuss the remark with reporters, choosing instead to address current U.S. unemployment and illegal immigration.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) also spoke directly to Colbert, asking him if he spoke to migrants on the farm about working conditions.

"They seemed very busy, and I tried to get them to sing field songs but they didn't seem to have any. They seemed to be working the entire time. It was very, very hot. Hotter than I like to be."

Only at the end of the hearing did Colbert briefly break character when Chu asked him why he was appearing before the committee.

"I like to talk about people who don't have any power, and migrant workers are some of the most powerless I know. We still invite them to come here and then tell them to leave. It's a paradox," Colbert said. 

"Migrant workers suffer and have no rights."

The hearing adjourned at 11:44 a.m. and Colbert left Rayburn out the back door in a black SUV shortly afterward.