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Exclusive Interview: Rev. Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A.

As promised, here are Parts I and II of an interview conducted by the webmaster of No Fact Zone, DB Ferguson, with the star of the Comedy Central show ‘The Colbert Report’, Stephen Colbert. The first part of the interview was conducted on Tuesday, May 17th, and the second part on Thursday, May 19th.

(Photo Credit - Mark Malkoff, backstage at the Colbert Report, October 20, 2008)



Part I (5/17/2011)

DB: You spoke with Terry Gross a while ago about being an altar boy at midnight mass, and “that guy” has said he that was an altar boy for 11 years, and I’m just curious if you, the real Stephen, were actually an altar boy for that long?

SC: Yes I was. I started as an altar boy in 2nd grade, I was 7 years old. And I was pretty steadily an altar boy until my sophomore year. I think my junior and senior year I still served on the altar, just not quite as regularly. You know, I’d got seniority, I got to pick the mass I wanted to serve, and if there were weddings and funerals, which was the way you made money, I got first choice. And I served with all the same guys for years and years and years. But yeah, I was an altar boy for 11 years.

DB: I’m guessing with your age, you were an altar boy during that odd period of Vatican II, so were you a alb and cincture and English speaking guy, or were you a cassock and surplice with a little Latin? What was the culture that was happening during that time?

SC: It was very “guitar mass”. It was a Southern parish, so it wasn’t that hip and happening, but we did have [sings in peppy tune] “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”. We did sort of that kind of folk-massy kind of time. With the folk mass Our Father, occasionally interpretive dance on the altar, that kind of thing. And I really wanted to wear the black cassock with the white surplice over it because, first of all, you look like a mini-priest when you’ve got the cassock on. And the surplice was just cool, it was very Vienna Boys Choir. I actually wanted to wear the red cassock, but we rarely did that, that was only for certain High Masses, like midnight mass, or if the Bishop was there, and he asked for a specific look. But mostly we just stood in the white robes, they were like white monk robes, with hoods that we never put up. And a rope around your waist. That’s how we did it.

DB: You said that when you were at Northwestern you were all broody and serious, and you had the beard, and you did the artsy thing, and you were doing all these really dramatic shows. What’s the most dramatic, bizarre piece of theater that you did back in those goth days of yours?

SC: Well, there was a piece of theatre and then there was scene work in class, which is different – you’re doing a chunk of a play. You’re doing pieces from the Haemon/Creon scene from Greek tragedy, or doing scenes from “Fool for Love” by Sam Shepherd.

I remember not being able to sort of get the relationship with the girl in Fool for Love, and my teacher telling me – there’s a scene in which she knees him in the groin, and I fell down to my knees, and she goes “I’m not buying it, I’m not buying it” like “You’re not really in pain”. And she goes “Try it again”. I was on all fours at this point, and my teacher said to the girl I was doing this scene with, who was a dance major, she said “Kick him again.” She meant “stage-kick him”, not actually kick him. But this girl, who had legs like oak, kicked me so hard that she flipped me. And my ribs still don’t stick out as much on one side as the other, from where she kicked me. That’s not pretentious, as it was a dramatic moment for me, and the lengths to which you would go to try to get the scene right.

Out of college, I did more black box, Avant-garde theatre than I did when I was in college, because I was learning the basics. In college I was studying Shakespeare, and studying Shaw, and studying Harold Pinter. Both the great masters and contemporary artists, and I myself was being very brooding and very pretentious. The work wasn’t as pretentious as I was. I was out-pretentiousing the things around me. I had to, you know, I had to win at being pretentious, being competitive on every level. I wore a lot of black, and I had a beard, and I was sort of actively, radioactively miserable at people.

DB: One of my favorite YouTube videos ever is this piece that you did for the final show of Stella, where it’s you and Paul Dinello, and you’re singing “Devil Went Down to Georgia

SC: On the bassoons, yeah.

DB: Where did you come up with the idea, we’re going to do this with bassoons – but more importantly, how did you find someone who was willing to lend you $10,000 worth of musical instruments for this comedy bit?

SC: We rented them. For that one bit that night. I couldn’t believe how expensive they were. It was $250 for one night, plus an insurance bond which you got back. But $250, I had no idea bassoons were that valuable. And we certainly weren’t that gentle with them.

But that came about because Dinello and I, we still work together at the show, but we were writing partners for many years. I’ve known him for 23 years now. He was my best man at my wedding, and he’s a wonderful guy. You know, you may have heard me say in interviews before that I like getting in trouble. And you get in trouble, and once you’re in trouble, boy that really makes you come up with a good idea. Or at least “an” idea. Because sometimes the best idea is just the one that exists. And Dinello is a firm believer in that. He turned me on to Ernie Kovack’s famous quotation, which was – I’m paraphrasing – “every good idea I ever had was because it was 3:15 and I had a 3:30 production meeting.”

So Dinello would always call me up and say “Hey, do you want to Stella?” Or “Do you want to do Largo?” out in LA, we would go up to a place called Largo when we were out there. And there was another place – Luna? I think there was a place in New York called Luna Lounge that did it. And so I would say “Oh sure, when are we going up?” And he would say “Tonight”, and I would say “God, Paul, not again! What are we going to do?” And he would say “I don’t know, let’s get together” – and we were both gainfully unemployed – “let’s get together and do something.” And I would say [pleading] “No, let’s just do something we know how to do. It won’t be anything we’ve done at Stella, or Largo. I just can’t come up with something new in the next 3 hours.” And he’d say “Come on, we’re professional comedy writers. If we can’t come up with 5 minutes of material in 3 hours, we don’t deserve to call ourselves that.” And I would say “Yeah, you’re right.”

So we would go to his apartment, and we would have a couple of beers, and we would talk. And that night, we had been fooling around with the fact that he and I were both poor guitar players, and how hard it would be for us to do “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on guitar. So we had been working on something before and he said “I’ve got it!” And I came over to his house, and when I got there he had two bassoons, and I went “That’s fantastic!” And neither of us had any idea how hard it was to play a bassoon. It is nigh-on impossible to get even a honk out of it. Any sound at all. It’s impossible. Is that called a double reed? [DB: Yes, that’s a double-reed.] And we just said, let’s go in there and sell it with style. Let’s just do it as if we’re playing them great. And we just told the band don’t play until the last chorus. And we said make a huge production out of it.

I’ve always wanted to do it again, like for a benefit. The very first year that I was going to do Night of Too Many Stars, with Robert Smigel, I was going to do that with Paul. And then for some reason Paul couldn’t do it, so I ended up doing a Gravitas-off with Stone Phillips, which was the first time he and I did that before we did it on the show. Anyway, that’s how that came about. It was just joyful “Yes, and”-ing, and just acting like we knew what we were doing, that’s how it came about. And $250 for a bit that lasted 5 minutes.

DB: The ‘Ambiguously Gay Duo’ thing you did on SNL last week? How did this come about, where they got you and Steve Carrell to do this live action ‘Ambiguously Gay Duo’?

SC: The magic of Robert Smigel. I said yes because I really like working with Robert. Robert gave me my break at the “[Dana] Carvey Show”, so I’m always grateful to him, if I can ever work it out I’ll do it with him, whatever it is. It’s always fun, and I’ll always be grateful to him. I assume Steve feels the same way, I didn’t talk with him about how he got Steve there. Steve’s got a little more free time on his hands because he’s just left ‘The Office’, I suppose. In the summer before my show started, in 2005, Robert and I completed a movie version of ‘Ambiguously Gay Duo’. We wrote a live action version of ‘Ambiguously Gay Duo’, which is out there someplace. You could look at the SNL thing as a teaser trailer, because there are jokes from the movie in there. That’s a little bit of the movie, on Saturday Night Live. So we said “Oh we want to do it.” John Hamm’s into it. I didn’t know that Jimmy was going to be Gary, I thought he did a great job. John Hamm, that’s perfect for Ace. And so he said, would you and Steve be Big Head and Brainio? And I said “I’d love to be Brainio, since I came up with the character, I’m thrilled.”

DB: The Colbert Christmas album – was it successful enough that there might be consideration to do another album featuring your singing?

SC: Yes, it absolutely is. It took over a year to put together, though. It’s kind of like the book. The book took a year to put together, the album took a year to put together, Iraq took a year to put together. All these tent posts that look like “Oh you did a week” – or “this was a special event” took a great deal of time and effort for dozens and dozens of people working together to make them happen. So, I’d love to do another, but I don’t know when that would happen. But it was a tremendous experience. It was incredibly joyful, I’m so lucky that those artists wanted to do it with me. I just wanted to do it, to begin with, it was so in keeping with my character, who was a Christmas originalist, and felt that Christmas was under attack, and it validated his idea of bears being dangerous, and also his idea that he had all these friends who would come over and sing with him. It captured a simpler time of an Andy Williams special. And on top of it, I got to win a Grammy. It adds to the legendarium of the character’s own ego. It couldn’t have been a more joyful experience.

I also had the worst cold of my entire life when I recorded it. If you listen, you can hear that I have a hideous cold for the entire thing. Could not breathe at all. Absolutely a cartoonish cold, [with stuffed up accent] “like I’d dalk like dis dee endire dime”. I had to record it a week before we did the Christmas special, because it had to be ready for when we did the Christmas special. Sick as a dog. *Sick* as a dog.

DB: I know you’ve got another book that’s coming out in 2012. Other than signing the contract, and blowing the advance, what kind of work have you done with the book?

SC: But the book is in keeping with the format of the show, the same way the first book was in keeping with the format of the show. Imagine those concerns that motivated the content of that book – those have shifted in the last 5 years, in terms of what gets politically debated hotly. It’s the same idea, but it’s – I don’t really want to say anything more than that, because we’ve just started working on it and if I tell you what it is now, it may actually not be that by the time we’re done. What we started with in 2006 was not what that book was in 2007. We wrote almost two more books of material in 2006 that never made it into the book in 2007. I have just giant, thick binders of material that we just burned. We had a whole other book called “The 50 States That Are Destroying America”. Never made it.

DB: You’ve mentioned in interviews that when you ran in the 2007 presidential election in South Carolina as a favorite son, that you got so close to the process that you were touching it.

SC: Well, yeah, you get that close to politics, it gets on you.

DB: Now this political season, you’ve started with the Super PAC. How is this process feeling different than in 2007 when you were jumping through the hoops with the South Carolina Democratic National Committee?

SC: Well I’m doing what I’m doing now, which is related but different than that. It’ll be substantially different in what we end up doing, because I think you can only do that other thing once.

When we did that back then, you had to kind of believe what you’re doing. Because it took a great deal of effort, and even though – I remember at the time people were asking me “Are you really filing to be on the ballot, or is this a joke?” And I said “It wouldn’t be a joke if it wasn’t real.” We throw ourselves into the pond of the news, and then we report on our own ripples. We are like the news. We’re not just like news reporters, we’re like news makers. We won the Peabody for that back in 2007, and the difference as I described it then was that Jon shoots spitballs from the back of the room, that’s how Jon likes to describe it. We like to make ourselves the spitball.

And we sort of had to inhabit it in a real way, we had to go through the motions of doing all the things you need to do to try to get on the ballot. I went down to South Carolina, I campaigned, I had to come up with speeches. I had to invest it with some sort of actorly sincerity, and I found at the end of it that I was kind of heartbroken that I couldn’t even run. You know, everybody gets to run for President, except me, evidently. That’s part of the American dream, that anybody can grow up and run for President. Not you, Stephen Colbert. Not you. The network was worried, and lawyers were worried, and I said “Guys, they’re never going to let me do it, so don’t worry about it.” And sure enough, it only lasted 13 days. 13 days after I started, it was over. And then we’re done. And I said Okay, everybody can climb down out of their tree now. I told ya. The odd thing is that the very next day, the strike started. So I had way bigger problems to deal with, and I didn’t have to explain myself, which is nice.



Part II (5/19/2011)

DB: Being a fan of fandoms myself, one of my very favorite segments ever of The Daily Show is the one that Viggo Mortenson was on, and Jon Stewart played that audio of you talking about Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and just going on and on about Lord of the Rings stuff.

SC: And when he was younger, he was Thorongil, yeah.

DB: So my question to you is, since you’ve been doing The Colbert Report, have you met anybody, had any guests, or met somebody at a fundraiser, that just turns you into that kind of a fanboy, the Oh my gosh I can’t believe I’m meeting you kind of a person?

SC: Oh, so many. I mean, tonight I have Lithgow on the show, John Lithgow. Meryl Streep… The first time I met Neil deGrasse Tyson, actually. I mean, Neil’s become a friend now, but the first time I met Neil I was kind of starstruck. Almost all the musicians. Almost all the musicians am I starstruck by, I’m overawed by what they do, I’m incredibly moved by it. Meeting Tony Bennett, Randy Newman, R.E.M., Elvis Costello. Paul Simon, I got to sing with Paul Simon, I got to sing “The Sound of Silence” with Paul Simon. I mean, I freaked out after doing that.

DB: And there was a rumor that there was a video somewhere, and that for whatever reason they couldn’t get it on the air. There was like a 7 second clip you played once, and everybody went “Aaaah”!

SC: I did Sounds of Silence with him, I did ‘Carolina on my Mind’ with James Taylor. I’ve done several songs with musicians that have never been broadcast. I did John Prine’s ‘How Lucky Can One Man Get’ with Elvis Costello. I’ve done a lot of fun stuff that hasn’t made it to air yet. We just do it for fun, because the guest was having fun, and we said Oh let’s try something else. I’ve sung the national anthem with a lot of my musical guests. We just don’t know when to show it.

DB: Your musical guests seem to be different than your regular guests. I think it’s Emily [Lazar] that books your regular guests, but it seems like the musical guests you have are really personal choice. Is that just the way those come off on the show, or is that actually what happens, do you go ‘Oh hey, I love this "Eff You" song, let’s get Cee Lo on, let’s give him a call and see if he’ll show up.’

SC: Well, yeah, Cee Lo. I saw the F*** You video, and I immediately called Emily and go ‘We’ve got to have this guy on, we’ve got to have Cee Lo on’. And this was way way before it came out, and they said ‘Well the song’s out now, the album’s not coming out til later, he’ll come out after the album’s out’. I was just so thrilled. Or like Lisa Hannigan – I just saw Lisa Hannigan online, and I thought ‘Who is this? She’s fantastic.’ And I said See if she’s ever going to be in the United States, I’d love to have her on. She had a tour coming up so she said sure. Or Movits!, of course, is the ultimate example of that. Because I saw them on Reddit, people said ‘You’ve got to check this out, it’s Swedish hip hop jazz, swing jazz.’ I watched it and went ‘This is amazing! I love this, see if we can get them over here.’ So I think we actually brought them over from Sweden, I’m not sure. I know they ended up signing a deal with Comedy Central Records, so I know that we’re financially involved with them, or business involved – not me, the network is.

And then there are other times that I get turned on to people, like I remember I was going down when the strike hit in November – which is where we left off when we were talking the last time – in November of 2007, we had just run for President and the strike hit, and I thought ‘Well what can I do? I can’t write anything.’ As they say, pencils down means pencils down. And so I said to my writers, and I said to the people on the staff, I said Listen, I’m going to try to do this in a way that is honorable. You can just unplug my computer. I’m never going to touch it, we’re done. I’m not going to touch Associated Press, which is our program, I’m not going to use any of our script programs. We’re done, we’ll just have conversations, and then I’ll try to remember what we said. The only piece of paper I ever had was an elements list at my desk. Like what was going to be on the show that night, what the videos were going to be. And then I just talked in between those things. But during that period of time, it was incredibly pressure filled, and I was worried how we could keep everybody employed and everything. One of my producers came to me with Mountain Goats and said ‘Hey, I think you’d really like this album, The Sunset Tree.’ And the first song I heard off of it was “I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me.” And I listened to that song every day for the 100 days of the strike.

DB: Wow, was it really that long?

SC: Yeah, it was 100 days. I listened to it every day. So that band was brought to me. A lot of bands – TV on the Radio was brought to me. Who else was I introduced to, and just fell in love with…?

DB: How did you get introduced to John Legend, because I’m a huge fan of his now. I can’t remember if I blogged this or not, but I was sitting there in the media tent at the Rally to Restore Sanity, and all of a sudden they say “… and John Legend” And I went “JOHN LEGEND?!” and I went running out to look. It was very cool that he was at the Rally. Anyway, how did you get introduced to him?

SC: I knew he’d done the Obama video, I had heard the “Yes We Can.” I had listened to that video because it was sort of a news item. And I was listening to the whole thing, and I went … Who is that guy? Like I would hear him singing and I’d go ‘I’ve got to know whose voice that is’. And it turned out it was a friend of a friend – he was a friend of a friend of a friend, there was a connection – and I found out at the same time, this person had said to my friend, ‘Would you ever be interested in John Legend? He’s great.’ And I said Yeah! He’s the guy! I’ve got to have him on! Because a) he’s political, and b) he’s got a voice that makes me tremble. And sitting next to John, when he came on the first time and we sang “The Girl Is Mine” together, literally sitting next to him while he hit a note, was like standing next to a fire or something. You just vibrate when he hits those notes, when he really really soars on those notes. I just immediately took to his voice. And the man, he seems like a very good man, and a gentleman, too. There’s so much about him I liked – I liked his causes, I liked the way he presented himself, I liked the way he expressed himself, and I loved his music.

After that, I just had him on whenever I could. I felt like he’s been very generous with his time. I didn’t want to ask him to do the Rally, because he had just come on to do the troop shows that we had done, the end of the Iraq war troop shows, and he sang the soldier song there – “Coming Home” – on the last show, which just undid me and everyone in the audience. I can’t ask John to do something again, that’s too soon to ask him to do something again. And so I had no idea John was going to be at the Rally. I was at the Rally, I’m backstage, I’m way backstage, I’m like 500 feet from the stage, just trying to walk in circles, keep my energy going before we went onstage. And I heard John singing and I went Wait, what? What is John Legend doing here? And then I thought, I had already done stuff with The Roots, and to know he was out there playing with The Roots, I just felt like Oh, this is like being back in the studio, we’ve got great friends up there.

DB: The point that I was amazingly impressed with him was at the end of The Girl Is Mine, when you said “I will kick your prom king ass”, and he didn’t even flinch, total straight face, went straight into his line. I don’t know if you had improvised that, or if you were thinking about that before, but that was a thing of beauty, he didn’t even blink, he just kept going.

SC: I knew I was going to say that, but I didn’t know what he was going to say back. He just goes [sings] ‘Don’t waste your time, the doggone girl is mine’. That was fun.

DB: That’s the kind of stuff I wish they would release on an album. I know they can’t because of a gagillion licensing fees.

SC: It’s crazy. Doing the Christmas special and the Christmas album just opened all of our eyes – and we’ve all worked professionally in entertainment for years – just completely freaked us out, how many people are involved in getting a song recorded, in terms of how many legal hurdles there are. It’s amazing. I’d like to be able to do that too, but I don’t think it’ll ever happen. Letterman made it happen, Letterman put out ‘Live on Letterman, which was great.

DB: Well, we can bootleg it and [get the songs] for free, so we’re good there. With the Barry Manilow thing, I’ve been a Barry Manilow fan since I was old enough to know what music was, and that was just awesome.

SC: When Barry beat me for the Emmy, my sister called me the next day, and she said ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry you lost to Barry Manilow.’ Then there was a little pause, and she goes ‘But he does do a great show.’ Because she was an enormous Barry Manilow fan, and she’d seen his Vegas show, the thing he won for. So that’s why I got him to sign a plate to my sister Margot.

DB: The thing that’s been interesting to me watching the show from the very beginning, each year there’s a new layer that evolves within the character, you do these insane things that make absolutely no sense at all. Let me give an example, fighting a Styrofoam cup with a saccharine packet.

SC: The joke was that I was wasting energy, because the Democratic Convention was “green”, I think it was, like carbon neutral. And so I was going to waste energy and burn carbon. That’s why I ran my microwave the entire time, I put a cup in there, and then the cup’s gone, and it comes out mutant to attack me. That was just the joy of silliness, is what that was. Like let’s just do something big and incredibly silly.

DB: So what of all these insane things, what really sticks in your mind like ‘I cannot believe that we did that.’

SC: I loved marrying myself, the ‘I am Mrs. Colbert’. [DB: That’s actually going to be my final video, on my goodbye post.] ‘I am Mrs. Colbert’ is pretty great. I would say there’s a lot in Guitarmageddon that’s pretty great. There’s Guitarmaggeddon, and there’s having a light saber fight with George Lucas, having the Hungarian ambassador come on to do a lead guitar solo. All those things, as that first year evolved, we thought ‘Oh, look how much open field running there is.’ We can always go back to home base, of sort of false reconstruction of self-important punditry, but there’s so many other things that fit in with the character. Because anything he talks about is worthy of being on TV, because he believes it so. Anything he does is worthy of being on TV. There’s still some things that I imagined I would do very early on in the show that we’ve never really done, that I hope to do someday. They’re quite silly, and not really pundit-based, and slowly but surely we’ve doled them out. You know, maybe I’ll stop doing the show once I’ve done all of those, but there’s so many ideas from the very beginning of the show that we’re still doing these days. We always wanted to do silly, but when we found out how silly we could be and the show didn’t break, that was a great joy.

DB: Along the lines of complete silliness - you’ve got these teeny things that run through the character, that show up every six months for no apparent reason, like Stephen’s fascination with tube socks, or fear of baby carrots. But my very favorite has always been Tall Women Lifting Heavy Things. Is there any significance to that at all, or is it just random?

SC: I believe it is TallWomenCarryingHeavyThings.com. Carrying. There’s something I find very endearing about a female college intern, a slip of a thing carrying a 50 pound water bottle up three flights of stairs. Because there’s no elevator in our building, and there’s a water thing on the top floor. And there’s something I really like about watching them carry the water bottle up, because they really shouldn’t be. There are guys who could do it more easily, but they’re so dedicated, like ‘No, I don’t need any help.’ And I just love seeing them go ‘No, I don’t need help,’ and just grabbing that thing and going up the three flights. But it’s incredibly awkward while they do it, and I find it very endearing physical comedy, to watch them pull those water bottles up.

And I also just like tall women who don’t pretend they’re not tall. A lot of tall women slouch, in order to be not so tall. But I like it when they eat up the sidewalk when they walk. And so that was just – they said can we come up with a kink of yours, and I just put those two together. Tall women … carrying heavy things. Because I don’t actually want to put any one of my real kinks on air, and so just say it’s TallWomenCarryingHeavyThings.com. That’s how that came about.

DB: One of the things that fans absolutely love is when you get tickled, the character breaks. I’ve heard from people who are at live shows saying that you’ve redone stuff. Sometimes they get cut, and sometimes they don’t – how do you make that decision, like “We’re going with it”? Like one time, you had nicotine in your lip, you couldn’t even talk.

SC: The nicotine had literally made my upper lip just slightly tingly, and I was having trouble talking. It all depends. If it gets in the way of the progression of an argument, then I’ll cut it. But if it’s just the end of a series of jokes, or if I’m just in a series of doing what I would think of as one-off jokes, that really don’t need the cohesiveness of an argument, like every one’s sort of a setup and a punch line kind of joke, even though they may all be on the same subject – like all on the same subject of a certain medical device or something – that’s fine. But if I’m in the middle of an argument, like ‘The Word’, or if I’m in the middle of an argument trying to convince you of something, like this person is an Alpha Dog, or something like that – because a lot of the show is based on argumentativeness – if I’m in the middle of an argument, or if I’m in the middle of praise, it actually has to have some sort of essay-like cohesiveness to it, I will cut that out every time. Because you’ve got to stick in character. You can’t get out of character, because the character’s the one making the argument, and if you drop character in that, if you fully drop character in that, then you also drop the argument. If you know what I mean. I am the argument, if I drop character, everything falls apart.

I also just try to keep in character, but there’s just some times when – it happened tonight, on the show. There was a joke added at the last minute that I hadn’t read in rehearsal. It was about Aaron Schock, the congressman on the cover of Men’s Health, showing his six pack abs. It’s all part of this program called Fit For Life Summer, where he’s encouraging people to get fit for life – until September. And then we can all return to being alfredo-based life forms. And the idea of alfredo-based life forms, that we’re just made of alfredo cream sauce just tickled me. I just love the word alfredo, it was funny to me. And I lost it. But we kept it, there was no argument there. I would rather never break.

DB: Well, we’re glad you leave them in.

SC: Also, we can’t do that much editing of the show, because we’ve got to get it out of the building. We can’t be too precious. As long as it doesn’t hurt the show, we just let it go.

DB: Okay, here’s a good final question. On our site, we’ve done what we’ve done for five years because you’re such an inspiration on so many different levels – you’re funny, you raise money, you think of the least brothers, you just do so many wonderful things, you inspire so many people on so many different levels. So who are some of the people you look toward for inspiration, who you admire artistically, professionally, charitably, anything? Who is your Stephen Colbert?

SC: Well, Jon [Stewart] is a real inspiration to me. I’m very lucky to have him as the guy I learned how to produce and write and run a show like this from. He’s also an inspiration for the dedication he puts into the show every day, holding on to a high standard of distilling the jokes down into satire. Or at least distilling the jokes down into their finest point you can get them to before show time. Because you know, you can stop at 5:00, and be done, but if you drive all the way through to show time, you can really either say exactly what you want, or get exactly the joke you want. And he has never dropped it, after 12 years he’s still, every day gives everything. And that’s an inspiration to me, that he can stay so focused after all these years and really seem to enjoy himself.

And I’m also lucky to have him as a friend, because, you know, on days when I am completely wrung out, I can call him and say, How do you keep caring, every day? Because there’s nothing in the news that’s getting me going, there’s nothing happening right now with our scripts. I can’t express, I can’t convey a clear vision for anybody, because it’s always ultimately your responsibility, I can’t inspire. And he can say, well, ‘Join the club, you know? It comes and goes. I’ve been where you’ve been right now, I’ve gone through everything you’ve gone through, and I’m here to tell you, it gets better. Just stick with it, it’ll be fine. Because this is all cyclical.’ He is so supportive. I am so lucky to have Jon Stewart of all people call me up on a random day and say ‘I like that thing you did last night, and here’s why. And here’s what else you could do with it,’ or call me up and say ‘Hey, help me out, I’m trying to do something tonight. What do you think I should ask Newt Gingrich? What do you think I should ask Donald Rumsfeld?’ And I’m honored that he would ask that of me. And he’s also just a good, fun guy. I’m lucky to have him as a friend, and as a mentor.

And on top of that, I would say I’m inspired by my mom. Because she is 91, still loves life, and has reason to be bitter, and is not. And that is the greatest inspiration, that you can take into anything you do. That every day is a choice. And she always makes the choice to love that we are here. And that is a gift that I can never repay.


Tip of the Hat to Wren for the transcription help.

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You Are All Mrs. Colbert

[caption id=”attachment_31227” align=”aligncenter” width=”409” caption=”I believe it goes without saying, I still love this pic.”]Stephen Colbert in GQ Magazine - December 2010[/caption]

Everyone get your Kleenexes out

Well, Zoners, I guess this is just about it. My second to last post. I still have to post the interview with Stephen, which will happen tomorrow. And yes, you will definitely love this interview. But this post is for me to talk to all of you for a while, one last time, through the medium of this site.

This last month has been such a roller coaster for me. I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll start with the beginning of the end. A few weeks ago, I woke up and realized I was tired. I mean, dead, to the bones, to the soul tired. I had too much going on in my life, and I had to lighten the load. The morning I woke up and realized, “I’ve got to let go of the site” was one of the most surreal moments of my life, I think. You have to understand, blogging had become my second life. I woke up at 6a four mornings a week and blogged. At lunch I blogged. At night I blogged. When I was out with my husband, and my friends, I was checking my emails and working constantly to make sure that we were the best fan site out there. A huge part of my IRL social life was spending time with my WordPress blogger friends. Creating and maintaining this site was so much more than typing out blog posts - it was making friends, and sharing joys, and commiserating in sorrows (MANILOW!!!!!). Being a blogger had become part of my identity. So to wake up and realize, it’s time to let go, was indescribable.

So did you do the interview with Stephen yet?

Telling the Completists was hard, telling the Zoners was harder, but telling Stephen was the hardest of all. And even after I had gotten word that Stephen had read my note to him and agreed to an interview, and even after Part One of the interview was over, I was still completely at peace with the decision to shut the site down. The first conversation Stephen and I had was filled with technical difficulties - the call dropped twice, there were interruptions (“I’ve got to take this, it’s the show.”), and both of us suffering from a huge case of exhaustion. He apologized at the end, and said we’d have another conversation in a day or two to finish the interview. I thought, oh man, I have to do this again? I’m so very, very tired. I had originally intended on publishing the audio, but the technical difficulties would have made it embarrassing on both ends, so it was decided that we’d publish a transcript.

We tried a couple of different times to get together after that, but the only time that really worked for both of us was yesterday evening. I knew he hadn’t been feeling 100% during the day, and since I knew we weren’t going to be publishing the audio, I decided, I’m not going to be “DB”, I’m just going to be me, having a conversation with an old friend. I started the conversation by apologizing for taking his time, especially knowing that he was a bit under the weather and his schedule was so swamped. He said something to the effect of, “I’m a nice guy, I can’t believe it took you this long to figure that out.” And off we were.

And how’d it go?

I’ll publish the Q&A tomorrow of both Part One and Part Two, but I’ll be honest - at the end last night, I got a little choked up. His amazing kindness caught me completely off guard. While I knew that I was doing what I needed to do for my own happiness, it hit me like a ton of bricks what I was losing by retiring the site. And that’s really all I have to say about that.

What’s going to happen with you, and with the site?

It has been nice to be able to watch the ‘Colbert Report’ in my own time, without having to type for an hour while I watch it. It’s been nice to discover news about Stephen by finding it first on CNN.com or some other mainstream media. It’s been nice to go to mass every morning without feeling the weight of the responsibility of the blog. It’s been nice to come home and sit with my husband and have dinner at a normal time and watch a little TV, then read for an hour before going to bed. It was great getting to spend last Saturday morning at my new parish making friends while helping with the flowers for the May Crowning of Mary instead of fixing my template or working on a blog post.

But I will miss blogging. And I will miss you guys.

While I know that both Zoners and ‘Colbert Report’ staff will miss the work that is put into the site, I also know that the Nation will continue to organically manifest itself in unique and surprising ways. The fan base is strong, and there are many leaders who are just waiting for an opportunity to show their passion for the show and for Stephen’s creation. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

I’ll still be online, and you can still email me at db@ [DELETE THIS] nofactzone.net. I’ll renew the domain and keep the archives alive for as long as the donated funds last. At this point, with our current plan, we’ve got over 8 months worth of hosting paid for, and that’s if we stay at our current hits. When our hits drop, I’ll change our plan to something that better handles the lower load, and our slush fund will last even longer. However, in a few weeks we’ll shut the comments down, so that our comments don’t become a hot mess of spam.

Any final words?

I’m kind of lousy with words, but I happen to know a Catholic saint who put into words exactly how I’m feeling right now. St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. St. Therese said this in her book, ‘Story of a Soul’ -

Our Lord has deigned to explain this mystery to me. He showed me the book of nature, and I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.

I’ve struggled to be a rose for a long time, but now I am ready delight in the joy of being a simple daisy. But I also know in my heart of hearts, I will always be a Mrs. Colbert. Hence the video below.

And one final note to all of my friends at the ‘Colbert Report’ and Comedy Central, especially Stephen:

Thank you. For everything.

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So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

My goodness, what a long, strange trip it’s been. I may have had to fall off the blog lately (work and lots of overseas travel sucked up my time), but you people have been a huge part of my life for almost four and a half years now — unbelievable!

So how, I thought to myself, can I possibly come up with anything like a coherent post with which to say goodbye? Answer: I can only go back to the beginning (well, sort of). I’d been watching the show since the debut episode, when I busted out laughing at the over-the-top credits and didn’t stop until the end. But you know how it goes with Stephen: you find the show, you love it, you watch it religiously, and after a while you drive your friends nuts with the constant references. (To paraphrase Sarah Vowell — you know that Kevin Bacon game? Well, I was like that with The Colbert Report; talking to me on any subject would invariably lead back to him before long.) And then you get tickets to the show, you meet Stephen, and the real whirlwind begins!

I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of shows, and I’ve seen highlights I still can’t believe I got to experience live. The original “Singin’ in Korean”? Yep, saw it in the studio! The "Midterm Midtacular" in 2006, when the Democrats took Congress? I was there! On the day he interviewed “Coach K” (Mike Krzyzewski), you can see him pointing to someone in the audience and saying, “Hey — nice to see you!” as he runs over to the interview table. That someone was me! (I’d seen him earlier in the day at a DonorsChoose event). I got to see — and sometimes meet — Stephen at any number of other events: the I Am America signing with Tim Russert, the New York Times Talk he did, the To Kill a Mockingbird book club … good Lord, how did I get this lucky? And best of all, Stephen has been an unfailingly courteous and generous gentleman every single time I got to attend one of his events.

So how does a person pick a favorite? She goes back to the first show she saw live, also the first time she met Stephen, back in 2006. Elephant vasectomies were on the script, David Kuo was the guest, and Stephen brought out his Lord of the Rings toys to dramatize a Rick Santorum statement.

I’d gotten there early and ended up with a fabulous seat in the front row, right in front of Stephen’s desk and with “Killer” crouched at my feet. The Q&A covered The Dana Carvey Show and had Stephen basically acting out a sketch about Eurotrash bands from the unaired episode; he described his Flock of Seagulls hairdo and detailed how they had actually shaped the hair into cereal bowls on top of their heads, containing real cereal and milk. He sang several verses of the song his band had done and followed it with a bit from one of the skit’s other bands (that one was supposed to have been sung by a milkmaid, IIRC). As we all cracked up, Stephen, half-laughing himself, railed at us, “Where were all of you ten years ago?!? I had a baby!”

The show itself was awesome, The WØRD (“Sherlock”) was great, and I was fascinated watching the Stephen-staff interactions during the commercial breaks. My favorite part of the show, however, was the close. Stephen addressed some Santorum comments [drawing an analogy between the war in Iraq and The Lord of the Rings] and brought out his LOtR toys to bring them to life. It wasn’t aired, but he continued to play with the toys after the broadcast went to credits, adding what appeared to be a Gandalf, possibly a Saruman (or perhaps Gandalf the White, I couldn’t quite see), and what I think was either an Aragorn or a Faramir to the mix. So cute!

After the show as I was killing time while awaiting my bus, Stephen came out of the studio, walking towards me and my cohorts and saying, “Ladies.” I introduced myself, and as we shook hands, I asked him whether he could pass along my compliments to his writers, which he readily agreed to do. I mentioned that I had gone to the same high school as one of his writers and we made small talk while he signed my copy of Wigfield and my Season 3 Strangers with Candy DVDs. I mention that it was the Season 3 DVDs because that set has a shot of Paul Dinello in his Speedo on the DVD cover, which led to possibly the most hilariously wonderful exchange imaginable: Stephen started talking about what an unbelievable body Paul has! I could only agree, saying something about how “insanely ripped” he was (yeah, I’m an idiot). But Stephen agreed, and we had a great laugh about it.

To quote a friend of mine: That’s right, Stephen and I had a conversation about the insane hotness of Paul Dinello’s bod!

You know, starting off on a high point like that, you’d think there would be no place to go but down in a fandom. But I got lucky enough to see several more shows, meet the man several more times and, best of all, find a home here at NFZ so I could play among people who’d understand what a joy it is to follow this gentleman.

Thanks, DB, and everyone for making this such a fun, rewarding, and open-hearted place to play for all these years.

And to Stephen and everyone involved in your life and your shows, thank you thank you thank you!!

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Keeping in touch with our Zoner family

No Fact Zone logo 150pxI’ve been sincerely touched while reading all of those of you who have talked about how much your Zoner friends have meant to you. This post is a place for you to exchange user names and online contact info so that everyone can keep in touch. In addition to sharing your Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and Tumblr handles, there’s also been some discussion about forming some “Zoner Alumni” communities around the webs. I know Katt, one of our Completists here at No Fact Zone, has talked about starting up a news web site similar to No Fact Zone. One of the ColbertNation.com admins has said that at some point soon there will be a No Fact Zone alumni subforum on the ColbertNation.com boards. I also know there has been discussion of Toad setting up a LiveJournal community.

So get in the comments to leave your information and ideas, and make sure to keep in touch! I’ll still keep my Twitter and Facebook accounts, plus my email will stay the same and I’m always up for a Gchat if you see me online and I show to be available.

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Greetings, Zoners. It’s hard to believe that our fun here is drawing to a close, but the Rapture waits for no one. It’s time for me to wrap up my tenure as a Completist, then pack for the Rapture. (We can take stuff with us, right? Because I’m totally taking my Flatpoint High t-shirt and my Colbert Report “C” hat.) I’ve had an amazing time here, both as a Zoner and a Completist, and while I’m sad it’s ending, I’ll be leaving with some fantastic memories.

It’s been a challenge this week to try to decide what I should choose as my favorite show, or segment, or interview to highlight in my final post. I think the reason it’s so difficult for me to choose a “favorite” anything is because all of it is so brilliantly funny. I love it all, from the major highlights like the Iraq shows and the Vancouver Olympics Quadrennial Cold Weather Athletic Competition, to those little unexpected moments of hilarity, like character breaks, prop failures, and the f-bombs that inevitably follow the prop failures. Stephen makes me laugh myself silly four nights a week, and I’m convinced all that laughter is why I’m still mostly sane.

There are so many wonderful things to recall from my time here on NFZ, but one of my favorite memories as a Completist is following Stephen’s love affair with NASA, from the Node 3 naming contest, to the interviews with astronauts on the International Space Station, to the unique honor of having a space treadmill named after him, and finally getting that call from NASA to head to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for astronaut training. Stephen makes no secret of the fact that he’s a space geek, and it’s delightful to see how much he loves anything that brings him into contact with the space program. As he told us himself, his fascination with space goes back to his childhood and his historic broadcast of the first moon landing, so it must have been truly exciting for him to have the treadmill named after him and to have the opportunity to go through the same training the astronauts do.

The three “Fallback Position: Astronaut” segments that resulted from his trip to Houston are wonderful to watch, for a few reasons. They’re a great example of Stephen’s outstanding improv skills; they give us a chance to see him try out his namesake treadmill; and really, how freakin’ cool was it to watch Stephen land the shuttle successfully in a simulation? And it doesn’t hurt at all that the orange jumpsuit is actually a good look for him. As a fellow space geek, I was so excited for him to have this opportunity to be an astronaut for a day and to make the most of it for our entertainment.



There’s so much I could say about my experience as a Completist, but nothing sums it up better than simply saying that it’s been an amazing two years. To all the Zoners, thank you for the support you’ve given to all of us, and to me personally. I love what we’ve shared together here — all the laughs, the serious discussions, the Urgent Fangirl Bulletins, and most importantly, our love and appreciation for Stephen. To my fellow Completists, you guys are the best. Thanks to all of you for your help, your support, and your friendship. To DB, I can’t express enough my appreciation to you for giving me the opportunity to be part of the NFZ team. The past two years have had some incredible highs, and I’ll always look back on it as a special and unique time in my life. And finally, to Stephen, thank you for sharing your joy with us. This was all inspired by you, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.

And now, because I’d rather go out with a laugh, I’ll close out this post with a random bit of silliness I put together a while back to entertain myself and the other Completists. It uses one of my favorite pictures of Stephen, which I love because it’s so completely ridiculous and so completely “Stephen.” (You’re welcome, ladies!)

Peace and love to all. I’ll see you around the Interwebs!

SCILF

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We’ve got our ‘Welcome Jesus’ T-shirts on - bring on the Return of Christ!

Stephen Colbert Rapture T-Shirt

Zoners - I’ve been holding onto my ‘Welcome Jesus’ T-shirt since this site started in July 2006, and now I finally get to wear it! For those of you who may have missed last Monday’s “Yahweh or No Way” segment, Stephen made the announcement that according to his calculations (and the calculations from the Family Radio group), Jesus Christ should be returning on May 21, 2011.

As some of you probably noticed, I’ve been away a lot lately. Truth be told, I’ve been spending a ton of time at my new church with my new old-school Latin Mass priests, preparing my soul and my knees for the coming of Christ. And wouldn’t you know it, Stephen goes and verifies it as being next week. Talk about timing!

In anticipation of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father, coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, we figured this would probably be a good time to wrap up our blogging here at No Fact Zone.

We’ve got lots of things planned for our End of the Blog World extravaganza, including many thoughts by those of us who have been fortunate enough to be able to contribute to this site over the years. But that’s not the best part. In anticipation of life as we know it coming to a screeching halt, Rev. Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA has consented to granting your humble bloggers here at No Fact Zone his very final interview before his ascension to heaven, provided Christ can find him in the international waters during the boat race and the nut from Family Radio is actually right.

Yes, folks you heard it right - No Fact Zone has scored an interview with Stephen Colbert! We figured if we’re going out, we’re going out with a bang worthy of none other than Stephen Colbert himself. But we need your help! We couldn’t have spent the last five years praising Stephen’s name if we didn’t have the chorus of Zoners behind us supporting us and singing Stephen’s praises right along with us. We want to give you the opportunity to help us with our final post, which will feature audio from an exclusive interview by yours truly, DB, with our very favorite basic cable fundit, Stephen Colbert, on May 21, 2011.

If you have a question for the exclusive No Fact Zone interview with Stephen Colbert, leave it in the comments, and we might include it in our interview!

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