Last Wednesday, my sister, my parents, and I went into New York to watch a taping of The Colbert Report. That’s pretty cool by itself, but the date we got just happened to be the last show of the year, featuring the “shred-off” between Stephen Colbert and Chris Funk from the Decemberists.
They open the doors at 6 PM, but they recommend you show up an hour and a half early to ensure you get in. We arrived at the studio at 4:20 PM, and there were already fifty people ahead of us. After an hour and a half in what is basically a covered alley, they let us into the building and we all ended up in the “holding pen”. This is a room just big enough for about a hundred people to stand in, which is how many of us there were and what we did there.
My sister, who has done this before, tells me that they normally let you in after forty minutes or so. Not this time—the show involved so many guests and complex enough staging that rehearsal ran long. Finally, around 7:30 or so, they let us into the studio and we took our seats. A comedian came out to warm up the crowd, and then Mr Colbert came out to take questions—so that he appears human in our eyes.
In past shows, Mr Colbert has rattled off the names of his ten siblings from oldest to youngest. My mother, who also comes from a large family (14), asked if he could also list them from youngest to oldest. He gave it a shot, but only made it halfway through. Unfazed, he explained that he prefers to go from oldest to youngest because that way the list it ends with him.
The biggest surprise of the evening, aside from the surprise guest stars in the show itself, was the size of the studio. It’s much smaller than it looks on TV. I don’t know if it’s the lens they use or what, but it almost looks like you could fit the whole thing in my apartment.
The second-biggest non-guest-related surprise was the free promotional copy of The Crane Wife which everyone got. I had heard the Decemberists praised on a few blogs I read, but I never actually checked out their music. Of all the ways to learn about a band, getting a free CD is among the best. I don’t know how much of an overlap there is between the Colbert Nation and Decemberists fans, but, for me at least, the shred-off was a successful bit of serendipitous cross-promotion.
The episode itself was great, of course.