The Colbert Report: Annie's adventure
Or How Annie Embarrassed Herself in Front of 100-Some Strangers, or In Which Annie Is Filled with More Self-Loathing Than Usual, but more on that in a moment.
On Monday, February 11, 2008, I visited The Colbert Report for the first time. I've been getting tickets and planning trips for the show since it first started, but each and every time I get ready to go, something goes horribly wrong. This trip has been three years in the making! It's been a string of bad luck, and I actually spent my bus ride to New York waiting for the vehicle to flip over or for an aneurysm to kick in. Surprisingly enough, neither of those things happened, even though extreme cold and snow appeared out of nowhere upon my arrival. Yay me and the trail of destruction I leave in my wake.
The thing about tapings is that they always overbook the audience to ensure there's a full crowd. The ticket confirmation suggests arriving about an hour or so before 5:15, when the doors open, but any hardcore fan knows that queuing at 2:00 - 2:30 is ideal. I, along with two of my friends, did just that, but quickly discovered that in strangely cold conditions, no one wants to wait that long. Despite arriving a little later than 2:30 and worrying that we would be a bit further down the line, we found ourselves numbers 3, 4, and 5 in the queue. We made friends with the couple in front of us, passing around hot cups of chai to warm our hands and taking turns holding each others' places in line so that we could walk around and get circulation back in our feet. Others, shivering and complaining, slowly made their way into the line. After an eternity, around 4:00, some audience herders with clipboards showed up and separated the VIPs, regular ticket-holders, and stand-by folks. Then they left us to shiver some more, like naked sheep.
Eventually, the audience herders started taking names and handing out numbers. The couple in front of us said their names, were spotted on the list, and got in right away. On the other hand, bad luck had followed me again and my name wasn't on the list for some reason. I scrambled through my bag for my ticket confirmation. After a few embarrassing minutes, my frozen fingers finally fished out a crumpled piece of paper. For some reason, I had a confirmation, but no name on the list. I was sent to talk with Mark, the lead Audience Coordinator. Now, this part was kind of exciting because Mark is sort of legendary in the Report fan circles. Others who aren't so hardcore may know him as that guy that lived in Ikea for a week. To have an excuse to speak to him and awkwardly mumble, "I liked your Ikea thing" was an unexpected opportunity for me to sound stupid, so, naturally, I jumped on it. After a few fearful minutes of being sent to linger at the front of the standby line without tickets in our hands and watching others file in ahead of us, Mark came back and gave me and my friends a couple of red number cards, meaning "VIP". It just meant that we were to be seated as part of the first group since we were originally in the front of the line, but I still liked the idea of holding a VIP card. Lesson here: Always print out a ticket confirmation, just in case.
I should note that I had a bus to catch immediately after the taping, so I had to carry all of my things with me into the studio. One of these things included a Doctor Who pen that my friend had given me the night before. Before the going through the metal detector, the stoic-looking security guard rifled through our things and confiscated my friend's keychain mace and my Doctor Who toy. Did I say, "No worries, that's just a silly futuristic-looking pen. It's plastic"? No. No, I didn't. Instead, I said, in a matter-of-fact tone, "It's just a Sonic Screwdriver." Right, as if that would clear everything up. Needless to say, the guard took my ID and my Sonic Screwdriver, which he probably thought was some bizarre weapon and/or sex toy, and put it in a Ziploc baggie so that I could pick it up later. Two lessons here: 1) Leave the Sonic Screwdriver at home. 2) The Colbert Report security is more thorough than that at an average airport.
My bad luck seemed to stand aside when my three friends and I were seated in the very first row, right in front of the desk. Our new friends from the line happened to sit right next to us, so we had a great time making overexcited noises while waiting for the rest of the audience. The warm-up comic Pete Dominick was pretty funny and was very fair in picking on every type of person in the audience. At one point, an audience member actually ruined one of his punchlines, but he rolled with it quite well. Also, some lady in the audience showed him a morphed picture of Colbert and Barack Obama, which she lovingly called "Stephen Colbama". It was bizarre, but Dominick got a kick out of it and quickly took it backstage to give to Stephen. When he returned, he turned to me, my two friends, and our new line buddies and asked us to explain how long we had been waiting in the cold. Our reward for our patience and frostbitten toes was to touch the desk, which was spectacular. The five of us leapt forward and started going to town, getting our grubby fingerprints all along the side of the desk. Yeah, you bet I used both hands. When Dominick made fun of us for groping the desk for a little too long, we took our seats.
And then, the moment of truth(iness)! The man himself, Stephen Colbert, finally came out and ran around. He high-fived people across the first row, threw the mic around, and did a couple of bell-kicks. It should be noted that the man has an absolutely insane amount of energy. I got a bit exhausted just watching him. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, even with all that crazy TV make-up, Colbert is just as handsome in person. He welcomed us to the show, talked about how the writers will be returning on Wednesday (there was much rejoicing) and began the Q&A. To be honest, I don't remember all of it because I was stewing a question in my own mind. I know that my friend asked if he was really a Democrat or Republican and he laughed and answered, "None of your goddamn business!"
And then, something happened.
I blame the hours of extreme cold for causing my naturally Floridian brain to short out and malfunction. My hand shot in the air and Colbert politely gestured to me. "Yes, young lady?" That's when the verbal diarrhea started. I told him about my bad luck with the show and made an incredibly stupid and self-indulgent request, asking Colbert to dance, Strangers with Candy credits-style, with me. Yes, I asked that. As soon as the words tumbled out of my mouth, I thought, "Well. That was remarkably dumb, Annie. What in the hell is wrong with you?" I swear, I have absolutely no idea why I thought it would be okay for me to make that request. What Colbert should have done was tell me, "No. Go die in a fire" and then have several burly guards promptly carry me away. But he didn't. Instead he (along with all the audience members and horrified crew members) stared at me for a moment and then asked the guy in the sound booth, "Do we have anything? Get me a dance mix." As the sound guy tried to find something, Colbert said, "Obviously, we're not prepared. We don't normally do this..."
Some generic jock jam came on, I started dancing. With. Stephen. Colbert. I still can't quite wrap my brain around it, but it actually happened. It was the most surreal fifteen seconds my life. Seriously, I'm still cringing over the fact that I lost my mind and asked him, but what truly and absolutely blows my mind is that he went along with it. When I sat down, completely flabbergasted and confused, I think I muttered a thank you of some sort and then he smiled and thanked me.
And I think it was right about then that my mind exploded and covered everyone and everything around me in a five foot radius. I am an idiot. Thinking back, I can't believe I did that. It's so completely out of character for anti-social me, I am still waiting to wake up from this bizarre dream. Or nightmare? I think it's nightmare, because I still hate myself for letting my guard down and asking him. Don't get me wrong, because it was totally awesome, but it was so inappropriate of me to ask and I still can't figure out why I did it. It doesn't seem like something I would ever do. Dare I ponder the possibility that my fangirliness managed to overpower my decent common sense? No, I dare not, because the thought scares me too much. Moving on.
After flinging a handful of Wriststrong bracelets in to the crowd, Colbert took his spot behind the desk and got ready for business. A big part of the rest of the evening was spent cheering for Colbert. I couldn't help but wonder if the dancing at the top of the show was my doing. The Pulp Fiction V-fingers was definitely my move during our brief dance session. Throughout the show, during the commercial breaks and while news clips were running, Colbert looked really, really tired. When he flubbed a segment and broke character, it wasn't quite as endearing as usual. He would smile and ask to go back, but it was obvious that the writer-less weeks have been really painful on everyone. Being an audience member is surprisingly tough, by the way. Laughter has to be a little bit more forced to be picked up by the mics and we clapped through that entire end-credits sandwich-making scene, which actually went on for several minutes. When I finally watched the episode, I was surprised to see that they cut to credits after he pulled out the sword, because he actually hacked up some tomatoes and lettuce and sliced up the sandwich in the studio.
Any time that was not taken up with clapping until my palms bled, was spent burying my face in my hands. There was probably more of the latter going on. Yes, I was still totally floored by my weird behavior -- actually, "mortified" is the real word. That seems to happen a lot when I meet my favorite celebrities and idols, actually. A dumb thought gets planted in my head and I am struck with the feeling that if I don't do it, I will regret it and forever wonder "What if?", but if I go for it, I'll just look like an idiot. It's truly a lose-lose situation. It's a good thing I was just visiting as a fan, because attending as a member of the press and doing that would warrant an instant punch to the face, which I would have gladly delivered to myself.
At the end of the show, Colbert thanked everyone for their work and patience and disappeared to the back room. The audience slowly started filing out, some cradling their broken hands. I walked out into the cold, a few people stopped me and asked if I was going to wait for Colbert to come out from the studio to sign things and take pictures. I had thought about it before coming to the studio, but at this point, I just said no without another thought. Colbert was obviously tired and I'm sure he didn't want to see his weird dance partner again.
The bottom line to this is that if you can deal with being absolutely mortified and don't mind looking like a total and complete asshole, go for it and make that bizarre request to the object of your fan-love. The worst they can do is say no and maybe have you removed from the audience and/or tasered and then hate you for life. However, if you are weak of heart like me and won't be able to eat for the next few days because of that nausea that accompanies a crippling case of "What in the goddamn hell is wrong with me?"-level self-loathing, don't bother.
Apologies for my douchiness (no other word for it), beautiful people of the Colbert Report. I'm still amazed by that incredible lapse in judgment. Be better than me, dear readers. Lesson here: Dress warmly and don't be a douche.
... I don't think I can say the word "douche" enough. Douche, douche, douche.
EDIT: You commenters are hilarious, I love you. Thank you for your support. I also just realized that I didn't fully express how thankful I am for Mr. Colbert's kindness, letting me do something as silly as that with him. So... Thank you. Seriously.