Welcome back to the Fantasy League, Zoners!
It has been an eventful, newsy break, what with the excitement about Stephen’s upcoming performance in Company, followed by the big sail from Charleston to Bermuda. When does the man sleep? What surprise will he spring on us next? I’m blown away, so this week I’m going to take a slight detour and ask a fun question: Since this is the Fantasy League, what is your PROFESSIONAL Stephen fantasy? What artistic challenge would you like to see him take on—something theatrical? Musical? Cinematic? Literary?
I’ll give you mine: I want to see Stephen star in a remake of the film A Face in the Crowd, playing the role of Lonesome Rhodes (a terrific Andy Griffith originally, very far from Mayberry). It’s the dark side of Colbert Nation, an image of what could happen if Stephen were to unleash his awesome power for evil. As a bonus, it does involve some singing. For those of you who have never seen this movie, I highly recommend it.
Now, back to the REPORT. This week’s ‘Colbert Report’ journey begins musically and moves toward the historical, ending roughly in Stephen’s southern neck of the woods, with a Civil War historian.
Monday 2/14: LCD Soundsystem
Farewell, so long: I assume that musical guest LCD Soundsystem is coming on to say goodbye. Slightly over a week ago, they announced they were going to retire after a final, quickly sold-out show at Madison Square Garden, set to take place April 2nd. (The band was so upset at how quickly scalpers snatched up the tickets—shutting out real fans and even friends of the group—that they’ve added four new nights at the popular Terminal Five club leading up to the finale.)
Created by James Murphy, founder of DFA Records, LCD Soundsystem released its first record, “Losing My Edge” in 2002. The song eventually became one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 50 best songs of the decade, starting a string of award-winning and critically acclaimed albums, culminating in 2010’s This Is Happening. Playful, somewhat punky and somewhat electronica, the band’s intellectual and humorous approach to music should make it just right for Stephen. Here’s one of their videos, for Drunk Girls, directed by the great Spike Jonze.
Fract: Several of LCD Soundsystem’s songs were used in the soundtrack of Noah Baumbach’s film Greenberg.
Tuesday 2/15: David Albright
No wonder TCR is considered one of the best shows for presenting scientific ideas and policy to a mass audience. Once again, Stephen welcomes a physicist to the show: David Albright, the President and cofounder of the Institute for International Security (ISIS) in Washington, D.C. ISIS is dedicated to limiting the threat of nuclear weapons around the world. As Albright put it: “We simply want to prevent the misuse of science to justify war.”
Albright was one of the first inspectors to inspect the Iraqi nuclear facilities prior to the war and was greatly upset about the Bush administration’s decision to go into Iraq, saying in The New Republic that “I became dismayed when a knowledgeable government scientist told me that the administration could say anything it wanted about the tubes while government scientists who disagreed were expected to remain quiet.”
He is widely published in such journals as Science, Scientific American, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Arms Control Today, The Washington Post, Newsday, The New York Times, The Public Interest Report, and Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy. He received the Joseph A. Burton Forum Award from the American Physical Society, a professional society of American physicists, as well as an Olive Branch Award in 1992. His book Peddling Peril: How the Secret Nuclear Trade Arms America’s Enemies examines illicit arms sales and particularly Pakistan’s attempts to develop a nuclear weapon; it received a starred review from Booklist. Last year, he discussed the situation in Iran with PBS’s Tavis Smiley.
Wednesday, 2/16: Kurt Andersen
Here’s a guest I’m looking forward to a lot, because he’s political, satiric, and smart. After, all Kurt Andersen, among many other accomplishments, was the cofounder of Spy magazine. That’s why he’s back for a second visit to the Report!
Author, cultural critic, and radio host Andersen writes both fiction (his story “Human Intelligence” appeared in a recent Neil Gaiman/Al Sarrantonio anthology) and nonfiction. Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America, published in 2009 and the subject of his last TCR appearance, argued that our current economic troubles could stimulate us to reconsider what’s actually important in our lives and treasure some of great social strides we’ve made in the past decades. (Here is also the exclusive “backstage visit” video from the Colbert Nation site.) His much-praised historical novels Heyday and Turn of the Century both became bestsellers, and the latter is set for a film adaptation, to be directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Like Stephen, he’s a Peabody award winner, for his radio show Studio 360.
He has also worked as an editor or columnist for New York magazine, The New Yorker, and Time—for which he also wrote on architecture and design.
Fract: On his website, in a section dedicated to TV, mentions a show he’d tried to develop for NBC called After Hours. It never came to fruition, but listen to his description: “A decade before The Daily Show premiered, it was The Daily Show if The Daily Show had actual network broadcast journalists as its deadpan anchors and correspondents.” If it had gone on air, think how might it have changed TV history!
Th 2/17: Eric Foner
Kurt Andersen writes historical novels; Eric Foner writes history. He’s DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, and his work has often focused on race relations in America, especially the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. (That means he must have lots to say about Stephen’s native South Carolina, a pivotal and highly troublesome state!)
His most recent book was The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, published in 2010 which only a few days ago won the prestigious Lincoln Prize. Foner also co-curated exhibits examining Lincoln’s legacy, including A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln for the Chicago Historical Society. His multi-award-winning Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, received the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award.
In addition to being a top Fulbright-winning scholar, Foner is known as a superb teacher; he received the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates (1991) and the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University in 2006.
A veteran of TCR, Eric Foner last appeared on Colbert to “answer for his liberal crimes” and history textbook Give Me Liberty in a riotously funny I’s on Edjukashun segment. My favorite line: “a society that doesn’t know history is like a person with no memory.”
Fract: Red Baiting: the conservative right has accused him of being “anti-American” and coming out of a prominent Communist family. Some things never change.
So, Zoners–tell me which guest piques your curiosity most and what your dream Stephen performance would be!
A happy week to all.