Oh, what a week last week was! Despite having rehearsals for his Sondheim debut, Stephen put on some of his best shows ever, with James Franco and his brother Frank Jameso and the brilliant (and eye-candy filled) double dose of “My Fair Colbert: The Crown Jewels.” Handsomely dressed, with clotted cream dripping from his mouth, and afternoon tea on the table, he proved yet again that he’s a physical comedian with the best of them. (Verbal goes without saying.) And the ballet steps, those ballet steps!!!! A lovely ronde de jambe, danseur noble Colbert! The royal dance art for a royal segment. I toast to you with a cup of earl grey—hot. (Alert: geek reference!)
I think all us Zoners should convene in New York City and go to Tea and Sympathy in honor of Stephen. My invite, y’all! Now…what will this week bring?
Monday 4/11: Jamie Hyneman & Adam Savage
They appeared at the Rally…and now they’re coming to visit Stephen! I know many, many Zoners love Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, so this appearance should make a lot of people very happy. I will admit to not being as well-acquainted as I should be with their show, but I’m always pleased when someone ReporT’s on science. And I’m always pleased when my fellow Zoners will be pleased.
Created in Australia, filmed in San Francisco, and airing on the Discovery Channel, Mythbusters basically applies the scientific method to all kinds of unlikely things—be it an internet rumor, a movie sequence, or an actual news story. It debuted in 2003, and in addition to the regular series, Hyneman and Savage have filmed several specials. Though entertaining, their work is taken seriously, with Popular Mechanics featuring the duo many times.
Jamie is a special effects expert and the owner of M5 industries, which specializes in effects. He invented the aerial wavecam and received an honorary doctorate in engineering from Villanova. (But his earned degree is actually in Russian linguistics! Sounds like we have another Renaissance man on our hands.) Like Jamie, Adam creates special effects for films and TV, and has worked on many of the Star Wars movies. He’s also an artist and sculptor, toy creator, and director of short films. Follow Adam on Twitter. In May 2010, they announced an agreement not only to continue with Mythbusters, but to develop new shows for the Discovery channel.
FRACT: Crime Scene experts: the two men appeared on this hit drama CSI in 2008.
Tuesday, 4/12: Ray Kurzweil
What will the future hold for us? Author and inventor Ray Kurzweil speculates on what will happen in the years to come, but not through magic or ESP, but through a brilliant understanding of cutting-edge technology that could change the world. Much of what he believes has to do with the role of artificial intelligence and its interaction with, and transformation of, human life. Think hard science sci-fi with nanotechnology and biotechnology…except that Kurzweil sees it as our coming reality. And now, with the help of NASA and GOOGLE, he’s created the ”Singularity University” to teach courses in these subjects.
Kurzweil possesses an amazing combination of artistic and analytic talent, perhaps because his father was a
musician, his mother a visual artist, and his uncle a computer analyst who taught him the ropes. When just in
high school, Ray developed a pattern recognition software program that recognized the music of classical composers. (Which he, as a skilled pianist, could also play beautifully.) He later attended MIT where he developed yet another successful program—to match students with the right colleges—that he sold when he was still at the age when most of us are still hadn’t even taken an entry level job yet. Among his many achievements: a scanner/synthesizer that reads text to the blind as well as synthesizers that can accurately reproduce the sound of regular instruments. His website (run not only by him but by like-minded people) explains many of his theories and also features intros to the several documentaries that have been made about his work. Its also includes an “Ask Ray” section, so if you have any questions after his interview with Stephen, you can just head right there and post your query. Plus, if you’d like some help understanding his concept of “singularity,” here’s another site dedicated to that topic.
Kurzweil has written a number of books on topics including artificial intelligence, nutrition, and fighting the aging process: The Age of Intelligent Machines, The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life, The Age of Spiritual Machines, and The Mind and How to Build One. He’s also been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and received countless prestigious awards, including Carnegie Mellon’s Dickson Prize. His theories are controversial, however, with many scientists not buying into his vision of the future. Here’s a video where he explains what he believes will happen in the years leading up to 2029. And on the funnier side, Samantha Bee did a hysterical segment with him on The Daily Show.
FRACT: When just a teen, he appeared on I’ve Got a Secret—an old game show where a panel of
celebrities had to guess the guest’s secret. He brought his computer that composed music and they had to figure out that it had created the piece. Someone successfully did!
Wednesday 4/13: Morgan Spurlock
McDonalds, anyone? Not after seeing this guest’s film! He was super-sized in one of the most successful documentaries in recent years, a jaw-dropping account of how a mere month of a McDonald’s-only diet wreaked total havoc with his health and body. For those who never saw it, or don’t remember, his weight soared, his liver function went into total meltdown, and this formerly healthy guy seemed on the road to death. Doctors were shocked. Audiences were stunned. It was the scariest horror movie I’ve ever seen…and it was REAL. I think he’s the perfect guest for “Thought for Food-ie” Stephen.
Although he’d been a playwright working on off-Broadway and worked in TV, Super Size Me brought Morgan Spurlock notoriety—as well as an Oscar nomination, a Sundance Directing Award, and the Documentary Screenplay Award from the Writer’s Guild of America. He has since gone on to executive produce and direct a number of documentaries and TV shows, including Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?, The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: In 3D! On Ice!, Freakonomics, based on the bestselling book of the same name, and—currently in post-production—Comic-Don Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope, made with one of my fave writer/directors, the marvelous Joss Whedon. As someone who attended Comic-Con for the first time last summer, I assume it’s a documentary about a fan praying to get in to Hall H even though there are 1,000 people in front of her on line and only two minutes before the next program begins. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about. He was also a producer on the comic documentary What Would Jesus Buy?, about the commercialization of Christmas, which was the subject of one of his visits with Stephen.
Go to Morgan’s wonderful fact-packed website to see video clips, read his blog, and get the latest news on what’s happening with him. Here’s a trailer I really love, for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a satire about product placement in movies today. It’s hysterical—you can really tell he was once a stand-up comic. And the film, which premiered at Sundance, is set for general release this month. Here are two other articles on the film, one from USA Today, with a link to a talk that Morgan gave at the TED conference, and another from Britain’s Guardian, which wonders whether his critique of branding is also a sell-out. Spurlock appeared twice on The Daily Show, once to discuss Super Size Me and again to talk about his book Don’t Eat This Book and TV Show 30 Days.
FRACT: Bad admittance policy: He was rejected from UCLA film school five times. Boo on them! And my graduate alma mater, NYU, accepted him and he graduated from Tisch School for the Arts. Yea for us. Maybe UCLA needed Ray Kurzweil’s student-school matchup program?
Thursday 4/14: Caroline Kennedy
A run of Kennedys! Just two weeks after her cousin Tim Shriver made his Colbert Report appearance, here comes Caroline, the princess of Camelot and—to those of us of a certain age—a memorable figure. Although she has had more than her fair share of tragedy—the assassinations of both her father and her uncle and the death of her brother John and his wife and sister-in-law in a plane crash—she has lived her life quietly and with dignity. Can you tell I admire her? This is her first appearance on The Colbert Report, but look in the FRACT for a link to Stephen talking about her “with” Bill O’Reilly. (You’ll see why I added the quotes around “with” when you see the clip.)
Bringing Caroline to the Report on more is the publication of her new anthology, She Walks in Beauty, after the poem by Lord Byron. All the selected works focus on womanhood, and the poets include Marlowe, Shakespeare, John Donne, Keats, Shelley, Gertrude Stein, Elizabeth Bishop, and Sandra Cisneros, to name just a very few, as well as folk poems, a verse by Queen Elizabeth (the first one), and that always-present writer: anonymous. The topics range from love and motherhood to girlfriends, growing up, and growing old. Caroline discussed it on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulis. This isn’t the first compilation Caroline has edited: she also gathered her mother’s favorite poems in The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In addition, she cowrote two more political and socially conscious books with Ellen Alderman, In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights In Action and The Right to Privacy, and updated her father’s award-winning Profiles in Courage. When that last book was released, she visited Jon Stewart to discuss it on The Daily Show.
Kennedy received her BA from Radcliffe/Harvard, and went on to graduate from Columbia Law School. She works for a number of non-profits and served as director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships for the New York City Department of Education, for which she received an honorary salary of only $1 a year.
FRACT: Her backing of Barack Obama for president, along with that of her uncle Senator Ted Kennedy, was considered crucially important as she had formerly supported Hilary Clinton. After Clinton became Obama’s Secretary of State, Kennedy made a tentative, aborted run for her vacated senate seat, but backed out under the intense scrutiny—which Stephen scrutinized along with Papa Bear.
Have a great week, everyone, and let me know which guests you’re really psyched to see!