I’ve been asked to do a “best of” sort of post to close things out. My best of is sort of a “behind the scenes” experience that brought me to this site a long while ago.
So, where to begin?
Although I’ve only been a Completist a short while here, I’ve been a lurker and a follower of No Fact Zone for quite a while. I used my LiveJournal account as a means to follow NFZ ever since a memorable event, not only in my experience as a fan, but also as a milestone in the progress of the show itself: Rock and Awe: Countdown to Guitarmageddon! It all began with the first ever green screen challenge, followed by the coattail riding antics of the Decemberists and the subsequent rivalry that ensued. It culminated with the final show on December 20th, 2006 – a show that sealed the The Report’s fate as a show that would, without a doubt, pull out all of the stops and go head first into the realm of the ridiculous for the benefit of humanity. So, to be able to say I witnessed it first hand makes it monumental for me (ok, my husband was there too).
I was a fan of Stephen’s from The Daily Show and Strangers With Candy. In fact, SWC was a show that my husband and I used to watch together when we first dated. I’ll admit I was a casual Colbert Report viewer -until a pivotal point: the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. I even watched it live on zzzz-span because Mr. Toad mentioned he heard Stephen was going to be the featured comic and that intrigued me. After I saw what he did there, I immediately became a more-than-casual viewer. In fact, I was up to speed in a few weeks. I’m one of those people that, once I am hooked to something, it doesn’t take me long to go from “oh this looks interesting” to “did you know in episode 125 they used actor A’s daughter in this scene?” Scary and true – BUT, pretty rare. Not too many things I can say that about, honestly.
So – back to what I was talking about. Once I became a regular viewer, I found No Fact Zone through my LiveJournal and lurked for a long while. It was later on in 2006 that I found out we would be visiting my in laws in Latham, New York for Christmas, so my husband emailed them and shamelessly begged them for tickets. This was in September of that year. Little did I know what we were in for! Once we received the good news we booked tickets for the Amtrak out of Albany to New York City. This was exciting for me because I’d never ridden a train before that point. I was in graduate school at this point in my life, so as the time approached I took careful pains to remind colleagues, professors and classmates that I was prepping to go, you know, just to rub it in (at least to the ones that cared). I was in the sociology department at the time, so many of them were/continue to be fans of the show, so it was effective.
But, the trip almost didn’t happen. The week before the show (on December 16th), my uncle died of a pulmonary aneurysm. This was an unexpected blow to my entire family, and we almost scrapped our plans. I fully intended to, but my aunt insisted that I continue on, because “that is what my uncle would have wanted”. She told me that she knew how much the trip meant to me, and that he knew how happy it would make me. So instead of having to choose between going to New York or the funeral, I made a trip out to see the family and had a private visit before leaving for Albany.
We arrived in Albany on the 19th of December, and if I recall correctly we got in rather late, only to have to get up rather early the next day to catch our train. We had to be at the station at 10am. It was very exciting! We got to the station right on time (it was a nice crisp morning) only to discover I forgot my license at his parent’s place. Luckily I wouldn’t need it for the train or the studio. The only other bad thing about the day would be that we were stuck with a disposable camera because ours was broken by the TSA folks – merely the second thing they’d broken since we’d been together (the other is a longer, more horrible story).
The train ride (rather, the scenery) was something I could only put together in my mind – it was breathtaking. We arrived in New York City around 2:30pm, found the nearest subway station and managed to navigate our way to the station closest to the studio fairly quickly, and with plenty of time to spare. We grabbed some food, took in some sites and scoped the scene around the studio. It was a mere 3 blocks from where we arrived and as I walked up and saw the sign, a sudden rush kicked in. We were there and we were going to see Stephen Colbert! We were going to be in a studio audience! We saw a line already out there (3:30-ish) and I was a little nervous that we wouldn’t get in so we got in line. Turns out we were pretty close to the front. It was a very friendly atmosphere, despite the chilly weather. Everyone was chatting with each other about how they got here, where they were from, when they became a fan etc. Eventually a guy came out (who I now know is Mark Malkoff) and said hello to everyone. He mentioned that this show was “the most ambitious to date” and “nothing like we had ever seen”. So the wait was a bit more nerve wracking and exciting, to say the least.
After much waiting, chatting and picture taking, 6 o’clock rolled around. We were given a number and led in to a holding room where they had a TV to keep us entertained while we waited to go into the studio. The energy inside that room was electric! Mr. Toad and I were giddy with excitement and we scoped the room and listened to symphony of stories that filled the air. Seven o’clock came and went, and still we waited. Mark came out and told us again how ambitious and exciting the show was, and that, because the format was so different, the rehearsal was taking longer than expected. He said it would be worth it and “hey, you’ll be the first ever to get gifts from the show!” Bribing us with gifts? Ok, we can handle that. At 7:30 we finally went in. The studio is a lot smaller than it looks on TV, and even though we were in front of the line, Mr. Toad is tall so we were put to the (Stephen’s) right and back. Luckily there really aren’t any bad seats, it’s just harder to see us in the audience. We had a lot of coaching on clapping and cheering beforehand, just so we could get the right energy going before the show.
I also have to mention “Tad” aka Paul Dinello was directly to below and to the right of us that evening (with dreads) so we kept looking over, to the amusement of Mr. Toad (he teased me about it all night). We also couldn’t keep our eyes off of Stone Phillips and who we assume was his son with the green hair sitting with him in the audience. Stephen almost didn’t come out after the prep comic because of time constraints, but when he did the place went nuts. Stephen answered some questions: one about being the 11th out of 11 children (the lady who asked was 6th out of 14, and Stephen said that had to be the most [expletive] up position to be in in a family so huge). Another was about what he got Jon for Hannukah and he mentioned some kind of Kosher ice cream out of Ohio(?) but I cannot recall the brand. My favorite was: “What’s your favorite Christmas carol and can we sing it with you?” It was “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and yes, we got to sing it with him. It was amazing!
Without further adieu, the show began taping in real time with a Morely Safer 60 Minutes-esque opening. After the recap, Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo did his Stephen song in front of the green screen, but admittedly my husband and I paid more attention to Stephen singing along and acting out lyrics behind the desk than the actual guy in front of the green screen singing. After this the panel come out (Anthony DeCurtis, Jim Anderson and Eliot Spitzer). Henry Kissinger started it off via satellite (which was prerecorded and took several attempts to get right, so no mention of pancakes of any kind, much to our dismay) and the fun escalated from there. Chris Funk played very well, and again we had the chance to experience Stephen enjoying him from behind the desk. It was cute. Once Chris was finished, they cut to commercial and Stephen ran by us, went back stage, and came back out after what was (for us in the audience at least) an obvious wardrobe change. He did an after commercial intro and ripped off his sleeves to reveal a fake tiger tattoo and some pretty good looking biceps. (Mr. Toad and I laughed pretty enthusiastically at that). Stephen then bounded over to the green screen to shred, “cut” himself and implore someone to step in on his behalf. This of course, is when Peter Frampton steps in and Mr. Toad nearly loses his “composure” we’ll say (since this is a family blog).
And just so you know, when Frampton was using the talk box at the beginning of his gig, none of us in the audience had any idea what he was saying, that’s why he had to ask twice. “Can you say Stephen?” is what he said, but heck if we could understand it the first time around.
After Stephen – nay, the American People – were declared winners – they had a wicked jam fest, and then the show came to a close. The audience was still riding high though. I could have stayed there all night, to tell the truth, but alas it was not to be. As he left, Rick Nielsen threw several guitar picks into the audience, and lo and behold guess who managed to snag one? If you guessed me you guessed right! I didn’t even know it until I got up to leave and found it in the hood of my coat. So not only did I get a free Decemberist CD (just like Stephen!) I got one of Rick Nielsen’s guitar picks! As we left the studio, I also caught a glimpse of Stephen hugging someone (maybe Evie?) back stage, but I didn’t even try to snap a photo (it wouldn’t have been right in such a private moment). He seemed very proud of the show, as he should, it is/was such an achievement!
Once we got outside Mr. Toad and I took some more pictures and walked back to the subway to go back to his former homestead. We talked about it until we fell asleep on the train back. It was worth every penny. It was so cool to be behind the scenes. Stephen is such a nice guy and very appreciative of everyone there – staff and audience. It’s nice to see a good man doing so well.
*If anyone else was at the show feel free to provide input. This is as I remember it, and I may have left things out.
So, I know it was a long read, but it was such an amazing experience, as was my time here on No Fact Zone.
Popular culture has always been something that fascinates me, and was a topic of interest in my sociological studies as well, so naturally, when DB was looking for someone to help out I immediately came out of the woodwork and asked to chip in. I want to thank DB for having faith in my abilities and for giving me a chance to give a little to this community and show my appreciation for what she does, for what the other completeists have done for the site and for me and for what Stephen and the folks do at The Colbert Report.
So as things wind down here at No Fact Zone I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from Thunderheart – which is also one of my favorite films (and will, incidentally, serve as a final pop culture reference from Toad)
“There ain’t no word in Sioux for goodbye.”
So, take care of yourselves, folks.