Hips Don’t Lie…It’s Dance Overload!

Rain Dance-off

Hello, everyone!

I’ve got one thing to say to you: RAAAIIINN!

Just before the Rally, when Stephen strode onto Jon’s set for one of their comic quarrels about sanity vs. fear, Jon did a little mocking dance of joy when he thought he’d one-upped Stephen. But our man wasn’t intimidated. “You don’t want to go hip-to-hip with me!” Stephen warned. Truer words were never spoken. In every comic dance-off so far, Stephen has won hips down. Certainly Conan had to concede defeat, strung up even in his own string dance. Perhaps Steve Martin could give him a run for the money…and I’d love to see THAT choreographic confrontation!

As I say my goodbyes after my all-too-brief tenure as a Completist, I want to pay tribute to Stephen the physical comedian and dancer. Granted, my favorite regular segment is The Word, and the writing on TCR blows me away. But ever since I was eight years old, I’ve been a balletomane, which blossomed into a love of many forms of dance. And silent film comedy—particularly Buster Keaton—transformed my life by leading me into graduate school for a PhD in cinema studies. In my humble opinion, it’s very rare today to find a comedian—even in some ways, a “serious” actor (as if comedy weren’t serious!)—who really knows how to let his body do the talking. Stephen’s body, however, is an eloquent performing instrument, and he makes every gesture, no matter how small, meaningful. Gratefull has already posted one of my favorite examples of his physical comedy: the recent “My Fair Lady” skit, where Stephen channels Stan Laurel and Buster, with a few little ballet steps thrown in for good measure. Just think about how he holds the teacup, or what he does with a royal bow!

So my featured farewell highlight is the dance-off with Rain—the Korean pop star whose repeated victory over Stephen in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential” poll drove Stephen crazy. It’s brilliantly done: just look at Stephen as he tinkers with the car “after hours” and before Rain’s arrival. He almost seems to play it seriously at first. There’s something I especially love about that moment; somehow, I was able to imagine him in his own garage, fiddling with the engine. He looks absorbed, and almost a little sweaty. But take a second look: he’s got silver chains around his neck, tight red pants, and…well, this is not your Brooks Brothers-clad talk show host!

Then Rain arrives, zooming in in his car in the misty city night…and the battle begins! I’ve always said you can’t comic dance unless you can really dance, and that’s why this segment works so well for me. Rain is smooth and almost boneless in his motion; Stephen’s style provides a humorous, sharper contrast to that fluidity, but he still articulates every movement and isolation of the body. I’d also like to give praise here to the cameraperson, who does a fabulous job with filming, and to the editor: there’s a great variety of interesting angles on the choreography, full-views of the body so you can actually watch the steps being performed, and wonderful rhythm in the cuts between shots. And the second part of the scene–where they dance side by side and the editing speeds Rain into infinity–has all the magic of a movie musical and more humor. Enjoy….

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rain Dance-Off
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

And because I want to leave dancing rather than with tears, here’s one last dance. Stephen’s not the one doing the steps, but it’s the right clip for the end of the world, and the end of the blog. So come on…CLASP YOUR HANDS AND SAY YAHWEH, DANCIPLES! Can you feel the spirit?

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Clasp Your Hands Say Yahweh
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Goodbye, and I love all you guys.


  1. Galadriel says:

    Yaaaaay-MEN! Dance it, Stephen!
    Thank you for everything, Karenatasha.
    I’m going to miss all your delightful reporTs.

  2. If I may be so bad…. it’s been a long dry spell: thanks for the Rain. That was a wonderful segment and your commentary made it all the better. Stephen is always compelling to watch and he makes it look so effortless that most of us with untrained eyes forget how much he puts into every gesture. My favorite actors are all very physical in that way and their whole body seems to change in each role. Jeremy Northam and James McAvoy come to mind – both known mostly for dramatic roles, but are brilliant physical comedians.

    And thank you for pointing out the work of the camera crew and the editor. The whole TCR crew is just top notch and, again, it all looks so effortless that we can forget how great they are.

    I’m loving reading these posts – they bring back such great memories of the show and have me laughing out loud.

  3. Exactly the kind of well articulated description of Stephen’s use of physicality in all its forms that we have come to expect with your fine eye for detail, Karenatasha!
    Can I just add one thing? Stephen in the first moment of the dream sequence, in a black, tight tee-shirt , his arm pulling down that giant wrench, his muscles momentarily tensing, his hand grip firm, his hair tousled, breathing slightly heavier than usual… I confess that I watched him pull that wrench twice.
    Exactly the kind of well articulated description of Stephen’s use of physicality that I will miss posting about here on NFZ.
    Thanks for all your great work, Karenatasha! Looking forward to seeing you elsewhere on the inter-webs, as well as here in NYC.

  4. Karenatasha says:

    Thanks, all you guys, for the kind words.

    SW: I KNEW that tight t-shirt would get you! I considered commenting on it and thought…nah. Leave some space for other Zoners to fill in!

  5. lockhart43 says:

    A PhD in cinema studies? Oh, you and I are going to have to have a good long conversation one day about movies. I’m not a film student (though I seriously considered it), but I am an enormous fan of movies. I could talk about the brilliance of Cary Grant and Robert Downey Jr., and you could wow me with your PhD-ness.

    Your description of Stephen’s performance physicality was fantastic. It made me want to watch the table ballet scene from “The Gold Rush” for some reason (I know it’s not a Buster Keaton film, but Chaplin’s one of my faves. I’ve always wanted to watch more Keaton, though). Thanks for everything, Karenatasha!

    • You should check out “Our Hospitality”… It’s an amazing Keaton film. (I hope Karenatasha will agree with me.) The premise alone is great. Keaton plays a yankee soldier during the civil war caught in the South. A Southern homeowner wants to kill him, but because of Southern “hospitality” he can’t kill him while he’s in his house. So Keaton makes all sorts of incredibly funny attempts to stay in this man’s home in order to avoid being killed. My description isn’t doing it justice. You should see it.
      Oh, and I love Chaplin too.
      What is it about comedians.
      If I’d been a 16 year old in the 1920s, Chaplin could have had me any day. Move over Paulette Goddard.
      And like Stephen, he is also a wonderful “serious” actor with more depth than people give him credit for.
      And I want to continue these conversations, darn it!

  6. Thanks for the great commentary on that clip, Karenatasha. It make me watch the video with a new appreciation for the way it was done. There’s nothing I don’t like about that one!

    • She stole the words right out of my fingers. I’ve always appreciated your attention to detail, and I too would love to chat with you all about films, as I am a bit of a cinephile myself!

      • Karenatasha says:

        Thanks! I hope we do have an opportunity to chat. Getting sadder and sadder….

        • You’re telling me, I just read your comment on my post and burst into tears. This is such an amazing community!

          Thank you so much for all of your hard work! I will definitely look you up next time we’re in NYC.

  7. Karenatasha says:

    Thank you everyone! I’m feeling really touched and teary with the kindness.

    Yes, SW, I love “Our Hospitality.” Strangely, when I taught it, it was a big failure with the class. I don’t think they realized it was meant to be funny because of the beginning of the film, which is kind of like a D.W. Griffith melodrama…until Keaton appears. It’s one of the most charming and downright sweet of his movies–sunny, really. His wife played the lead, his child is in it, his father, and a family friend. Thereafter, his personal life didn’t go so well. But I especially love the rescue at the end, with Keaton doing his own stunts and seriously in danger. Got to admit, though, that my favorite is “Sherlock, Jr.” Cinematically, that one is amazing given when it was made and it has some of his most incredible gags.

    Oh, and SW…if you were 16 in the 1920s…or 30s or 40s, etc, Chaplin would have wanted you too. He did have a tendency to like young girls. Got him into some serious trouble. But he was a genius.

    • Mr. Arkadin says:

      You have nothing but my best wishes Karenatasha! Your reign as a completist was far to short. But you were fantastic at it none the less. :)
      I agree with you about “Sherlock jr.” One of my favorite movies period! I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen at a revival house with a wonderful old-timer organist playing along with it too! Great stuff! But I also love (& would recommend to Lockhart43) “Our Hospitality,” “The General,” (Orson Welles’ favorite Keaton film.) and “The Cameraman.” Probably his last great film. Certainly the last feature length movie he had any control over.
      Also Karenatasha, do you know Keaton’s marvelous short film “The Boat?” It’s as funny a movie as he ever made. And very much worth seeking out.

      • Karenatasha says:

        Awwww, thank you so much! And you know I always loved your handle. :-)

        I love both “The General” and “The Cameraman” — the first film he made for MGM, rather than his own studio, but as you say, the last he had any control of. Almost all his work is available on DVD now, from Kino, including the stuff he made with Fatty Arbuckle prior to getting his own production company. When you watch the Arbuckle films from Keaton’s first (“Butcher Boy”) to last, you can see how he ended up practically taking over directorial duties. Keatonian touches are everywhere.

        Did you ever see the film he made for Samuel Beckett, simply entitled “Film?” Fascinating. And “Waiting for Godot” was written for him but he turned it down, because he didn’t understand the play. But can you imagine? His voice was perfect for it, too.

        • Mr. Arkadin says:

          You’re welcome! And yes, my affection for obscure Orson Welles’ films is my best (Only?) quality. ;)

          No, I’ve never seen “Film.” Is it out on DVD? I have a vague recollection about Buster and “Godot,” but Keaton was an instinctual not an intellectual artist, so I’m not surprised he turned it down. (I think I’ve heard he didn’t understand “Film” for that matter.) But your right about Buster voice for on of those tramps!

          HAHA! Yes, Damfino! :D

        • Karenatasha says:

          Hey, Mr. Arkadin–

          As crucial as an affection for Orson Welles is, I know for sure it is not your best and only quality!

          I think “Film” might be on DVD. And you’re right: he didn’t get that either. It’s a strange little work, only about 1/2 hour or less, as I recall. (It’s been a long while.) But I think it’s very effective. I also think Keaton would have been great in “Godot” even if he didn’t understand the play. And who knows? Maybe the act of performing it would have made its meaning clearer.

      • Karenatasha says:

        Oh, and about THE BOAT: Damfino!

  8. Gratefull says:

    Karenatasha, thanks so much …

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