Colbert’s Charisma

DSC_1165Is there a celebrity you totally admire and put on a pedestal? For me that’s Stephen Colbert, who, in my eyes, can do no wrong. I don’t get star struck easily but Colbert won me over with his sharp wit, charm, sense of humour and all round tongue-in-cheek personality. Well, the character did anyway.

He is my one and only free pass to celebrity worship syndrome and the by-product of such admiration, the halo effect, I place on him is so fluorescent it burns my eyes every time I look at him.

I have often wondered how much of the real Colbert came out when he was performing. When he debuts on The Late Show on September 8, it will be interesting to see if he is as funny and as admirable to me as he was on The Colbert Report. I feel we will be cheering just as loudly from The Late Show sidelines.

Before The Colbert Report closed its curtains, here is my brush with fame (OK, well, participation in a show taping)….

On 19 June 2013, I dragged my husband to a taping of The Colbert Report. We stood in line at 1.00 pm hoping to score stand-by tickets but after three hours of waiting, every ticket was exhausted. I was heartbroken in the least.

Fortunately a few diehard fans in the queue had two spare tickets. Mara from Minnesota and two Columbia law students kindly offered us a ticket each which meant my husband and I sat separately. But that didn’t matter because my dream was about to come true.

After five days of submersing myself in the sights and culture of New York City i.e. being the biggest tourist, I was oblivious to news from the outside world, including the fact that Stephen’s mother, Lorna Tuck Colbert died the week prior.
What the world saw on TV was different to what the audience witnessed that night.

Put aside the givens he laughed and joked around with the crew in between takes, made a few funny errors that had to be edited out and all the while drank a lot of water, the show was taped out of sequence. He firstly brought the “news broadcast” followed by an interview and performance from The Postal Service.

Then he did something rarely seen in the history of the Report – he broke out of character and recorded the introduction as a tribute to his mother. Colbert thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers and said that if you like him and you like the show, it was because of his mother. He fought back the tears with all his might. His voice quavered as the audience held their breath expecting that at any second he would break like glass. He paused and looked down at the desk often to prop himself up so he could keep going. He did it in one take. The enormity and rawness of his grief was beyond palpable.

In his conclusion, he said:

“When I was leaving her last week, I leaned over and I said, ‘Mom, I’m going back to New York to do the show,’ and she said, ‘I can’t wait to see it. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’”

“So, with that in mind… this is The Colbert Report.”

In the split second the camera stopped rolling after these signature words, Colbert’s hands shot up to cover his face and he began to cry like an inconsolable child.

No one moved. We were so stunned we didn’t know whether to give him a hug or a standing ovation. We sat there wondering if that was either one of the saddest or most courageous things we have ever seen.

He then walked quietly and quickly off stage. The audience was also free to go. We too left quietly; numb, touched, mourning for our hero.

To the select few cult-like followers of Stephen Colbert, we already know of his brilliance. It is we who will suffer devastatingly not only because The Colbert Report finished on Thursday, December 18, 2014, but rather selfishly, when he takes over The Late Show which is attached to an exponential audience base, we now have to share him with the entire world.

My favourite part of The Colbert Report are the guest interviews usually saved as the final act of each show where he is at his wittiest, funniest and most charming. After years of training in improvisational comedy – this is where he shines the brightest. Although it’s been said Colbert will not don his character for the new gig, there is no doubt he will do a brilliant job – perhaps an even one better than his predecessors at that.

Prior to showing us our allocated seats, a crew member gave the audience a pep talk encouraging us to laugh, applaud and holler as loud as we can; to show as much love as we can. The roaring energy and love from the crowd is what Colbert feeds off, we were told because “Stephen really eats this shit up!”

We the faithful did not need a pep talk.