My Night With Stephen Colbert

Those of you who have spoken to me recently may have noted that I was going to see a filming of The Colbert Report tonight… well it’s true, and very splendid it was too. The audience is pretty small, about 100 odd folk, and the studio is very intimate. Colbert is amazing to watch in action, practicing his lines to himself and, off camera, telling John Stewart he only has another five days left to finish his imminent book. The only downside of the whole night was that the guest was a country & western singer so probably about the most uninteresting guest I could ever hope to see. Ah well.

My Colbert Ticket

For those of you thinking of heading down to see The Colbert Report here’s some background; you can sign up online for free tickets here – although they regularly stop taking requests so you have to keep an eye out. Also, once you’ve been given a date by email they need you to confirm your tickets a week or so before the date you’re given – this is a bit strange, as you need to email them back but they don’t confirm they got your mail. Alternatively you can just come down to the standby line outside the door (on W 54th St between 10th/11th Aves) before 5.15pm on the day of filming. They recommend you get down early, at least 1 1/2 hours before this, so I got down at 3pm at which point I was 32nd in the ticket line – there were about 10 people in the standby line and I think a lot of them got in.

The line itself is pretty comfortable – it’s covered over which was very handy in today’s intense sun. You’re not allowed to take food or drinks into the actual studio, but you can take them into the waiting room so it’s worth bringing some along. About 5.15pm they give you a number and you go through security into the waiting room, where you get to hang around a bit more until around 6pm. Once they’re ready to let you in, you will go in in the order of the numbers you were given – so don’t worry about being near the studio door.

When you go through the studio door you tell the crew member there how many people are in your party and they direct you to where you need to sit. Since it was only me in my group I got put in the second row to fill up some space in the section of audience opposite Colbert’s desk. If you want to be in the audience near the interview area, which is generally more visible in shots, then you probably want to be further down the line but it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Also note that if you’re in the front row Colbert will high five you before the show – bless.

Once everyone’s inside the warm-up comedian does his stuff, and the stage manager gives you some background. Then Stephen Colbert himself comes out – huzah! Today we got to sit in and watch the ‘toss’ between Jon Stewart at The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Then Stephen went backstage again and the warmup guy carried on. Shortly Stephen came back out and took some questions from people in the audience – favourite moment; some guy asking Colbert about Jane Goodall… he actually meant Jane Fonda, referring to his infamous kiss & cuddle session, but the mistake was hilarious. I didn’t get the nerve up to ask a question, although I thought of a good one when leaving the studio – guess that will wait for next time.

Questions over, Colbert takes the stage and rules the show. He ran through the show tonight with only one slight hiccup which was pretty amazing. One thing I noticed was how pale he looks in his TV friendly makeup, he also never really stops smiling and moving, often tapping & singing along to the indie rock songs that play between shooting to keep the energy up. ‘Keeping the energy up’ is a key part of being in the Colbert audience; you need to be ready to laugh and clap loudly, so my throat is pretty sore right now.

Have fun if you go, it’s well worth the effort. Although in my case this meant flying down from Montreal so maybe that was a tad excessive.

Google’s World of Terror or Hope?

Apparently Google’s satellite map imagery was used by the recently arrested alleged terrorists in planning their attack on New York’s JFK. This is one example of where increased access to information can have a downside, but for the most part the stories coming out of Google’s amazing map service are positive. Aid groups are using satellite imagery to watch attacks on villages in Darfur, an Italian programmer found archaeological remains based on a strange shaped shadow and Iraqis can use the service to draw up maps to escape from local militant groups – or ‘liberating’ troups.

10 Years Over

Tony Blair has just announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Great Britain. It was just over ten years ago as we watched him get voted him and a new era in our history started. However you feel about Blair now, I feel that he’s done well for our country over all that time and he reflects that in his leaving speech. One can only wish that Clinton or Gore had been in power on this side of the world instead of Bush, then I’m sure the whole world would be a more positive place now.

Hopefully the next Labour leader will do as well, whoever it is. Personally I hope that I still feel about them as I have with Blair, that it would be possible to sit down with them over a pint of beer and discuss the world openly without avoidance and hyperbole – something no American has believed for almost eight years.

Top ‘o the Morning to Ya

More hate crimes… The American government is stressing the importance of not over-reacting with ‘Arab Americans’ on the one hand, and on the other it releases the list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” who are… yep, all Arabs. So does that mean the IRA people who plant bombs in London to kill innocent people must be Arabs too? I never realised that the Arab people were so evil..

Sigh. I keep alienating all my American friends by my comparisons of IRA terrorism to WTC terrorism (I don’t say ‘Arab’ terrorism as at least with the IRA they claim responsibility whereas noone has for the WTC attack). Not really surprising – most Americans don’t like to be reminded how many of them fund IRA terrorist activities due to Irish roots. Everyone in America claims Irish roots… say, maybe that’s a simple solution for all Arab Americans… they can say they’re Irish-Arab Americans, then everyone would love them again and the world would be a less violent place.