Backstage with Colbert
Colbert did come back to the green room before the show to say a brief hello and offer two cents of advice. “I play a character,” he said. “That character is an idiot. You need to disabuse him of his ignorance. Just approach it like that and have fun.” Talent producer Emily Lazar offered similar counsel. Whatever he throws at you, she said, just come back and explain to “Stephen” why he’s not seeing things right, and make your case.
One of the funniest parts of the experience was off-air . A few minutes before the taping started, a staffer came by to give a sense of what the writers had brainstormed as potential lines of “questioning” Colbert might take. He might not use these at all, she said (and Colbert didn’t that night – it was all basically improvisational riffs). The idea is to have you not be totally blindsided by the wackiness that might be coming.
Here are the things I recall from what they said he might ask about The Tyranny of Dead Ideas. These totally cracked us up in the green room.
-Why should we get rid of the old ideas, when the new ones suck?
-Even if the old ideas don’t work anymore, shouldn’t we continue them out of respect for tradition?
-You say the economy is creating too many of the “undeserving rich.” But isn’t that the American Dream – to be rich and useless?
-What about undead ideas?
When they put me at the interview desk on the set just before my segment started, I glanced over at Stephen at his anchor desk to have a look. Just before the camera went on he looked over at me and snapped deadpan, “The free ride is over, Miller.” He’s just really funny.
I took some improv classes while in law school in the mid 1980s and recall what they stressed (at Chicago City Limits in New York) about the importance of listening and then making a choice and committing to it. Colbert does this with such intensity and at such a peerless comic level that it was really exciting to watch him work up close – even if that meant watching him reckon instantaneously how to create some very funny moments at my expense!