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Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring Break 2007 & The Colbert Report

Four days in NYC and a ticket to see the Colbert Report (on Stephen Colbert Day no less). What could be better than this for finals detox?


Yeah, no, seriously - I can't think of anything better.

Though, I suppose I should rewind just a tad bit ...

Basically I got insanely lucky and managed to get tickets for the middle of Spring Break (my tickets for Winter Break fell through). With the savings I had held on to from the summer I snagged a great plane deal and designed a trip around the show date. On the day of, March 20, we got to the studio around 2 in the afternoon. Just walking towards the studio and seeing the "Colbert Report" awning slowly growing larger was a fantastic experience. We had been walking around New York all that morning and event though I was tired and it was rather chilly out, my energy shot through the roof. Willie Nelson (!) who was the guest for that evening, had his massive tour bus parked outside, and staffers were buzzing around the entrance -- this was just too cool!

DSC05167 DSC05165

Left: Willie's bus and a security guard. Right: photographed by a staffer.

The line was tucked away along the side of the building, and though we were fourth in line, there was still much waiting to be had before the doors opened. Two memorable moments occurred when 1) Willie Nelson finally walked into the studio (though I don't have a photo) and 2) when Mark Malkoff, the amazing audience director, came out to prep everyone. I got to talk to him for a bit and let him know how much I loved his work. He really was as positive (and amazingly helpful) as I had read.

The time in line inched by, but finally we were ushered inside. We were assigned seating numbers and left to wait a little while longer in a large-ish room just outside of the main studio. Apparently Stephen was still taping his toss with Jon, so while we waited I got a good look around.


The most striking thing in the room was the Colbert Nation flag, sent in by the Colboarders - a nice tribute to the fandom (plus I'm probably up there).

Finally, after a bit debriefing by the stage manager, another Mark, in which we were told to cheer as loudly as possible and reminded that Stephen fed off of our energy, we were let into the studio. While you couldn't take photos inside, my memory of that moment remains crystal clear. The lights for the set were dimmed and there were only a few people there, but the overwhelming character of the set, coupled with my immense familiarity with it, created an intense sensation. Suddenly this set that I had known so well gained another dimension and I veered as close as I could to the stage itself in order to peer more closely at the bookshelf and the doo-dads place just out of frame. Fourth in line, meant I had a seat almost right in front of the desk and as I sat down I couldn't help but realize my legs were wobbling.

Image via colbertpics.com (RIP wonkyear.com)

Thankfully, all of this excess energy was channeled by the stand up comic who ran out and got us excited for the show. He picked on different people in the audience and generally had us practice screams and bellowing laughs at the slightest notice. He was out for something like 30 minutes, but finally it was time for Stephen to emerge!

He bound into the studio as we were at the height of our cheers, his energy seemingly endless as he ran back and forth between the two tiers audience seats with a gigantic grin plastered onto his face. While I had mused that he might be somewhat less animated in person, if anything, he was more alive and charismatic than I had ever imagined. His intensity, which easily dominated a television screen, engulfed the entire room and the audience was more than willing to throw the energy right back at him.

There was a quick Q&A session once the cheers had died down and I actually got to ask the man a question. I rambled out something on the topic of this video and asked him if he ever got his revenge on Jon Stewart for making fun of the Alphabet All-Starts. Stephen grinned and said that Jon had done a lot of embarrassing work in the past (he sang with Elmo), but then went completely deadpan and mentioned that he had also put a pipe bomb in his car after the toss. Fun times.

The actual show began soon thereafter. Seeing Stephen slip into character so effortlessly was really quite impressive. During the commercial breaks he could put on his producer hat & do some last minute edits, play with his glow pen while jamming to the music playing overhead, or with the prompting of the audience suddenly initiate the Threatdown. Soon enough watching him felt just like watching the regular show ... if of course, one watched the show while on some sort of wonderful drug.

You can check out a full recap of the show at the link below, as well as a video of the interview with "Weedy" Nelson ...

Episode 3038 (3/20/2007) summary c/o No Fact Zone

Despite Willie & Richard Hollbrooke's best efforts to get Stephen to taste the Country Peach Cobbler, it would seem that Stephen would not budge ... right?

Well - I have a shocking revelation.

The interview was pretty drastically edited down for time and unfortunately one of the things that was cut was a really comical exchange between Willie/Hollbrooke and Stephen in the midst of their diplomatic deliberation. Even though the interview above ends with Stephen as victorious, he actually did give in and nibble on the Cobbler Ice Cream Willie was pushing. Hollbrooke was really trying to get Stephen to give in and I don't think Stephen's improv experience could let him say no. Plus it actually would've made for great TV, since Willie crossed himself rather comically right afterwards and Stephen remained ever-defiant (though defeated). What's more Holbrooke looked really happy -- happy enough even to hand me the prop carton of ice cream Stephen had just eaten from. Not too bad.


A delicious end to the night?

Well, I should be wrapping this post up, but from the image at the top I think it's pretty clear that I wound up waiting to meet Stephen. It was pretty cold by that point, so a Dunkin Doughnuts around the corner proved immensely useful.

When Stephen finally came out I almost missed him, and he was actually the one who came up to me and asked if we were waiting for him. I nodded and tried to properly thank him for the amazing show, his amazing body of work, and the fact that he even stopped to say hi. He smiled and took all of this very graciously, before realizing that I was also the been the same person to ask him a question earlier. Awesome! I didn't want to take up too much of his time, so I quickly asked if I could take a quick photo with him and he agreed. Needless to say, I was pretty astounded that all of this had just taken place, and probably sound like a total nerd as I wrap up this post. But it really was amazing! Thanks Stephen.

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