Colbert to Canadians: “I take it all back”
— Heather Conn photos
Stephen Colbert looked right at home sitting on a taxidermied moose, under a spray of fake white snow, waving a large Canadian flag. The crowd of about 6,000, gathered Feb. 18 at Vancouver’s Creekside Park to watch an outdoor taping of the Comedy Central show Colbert Report, made him do it. Sortof. A repeated chant of “Get on the moose” prompted the improv-loving comedian to give up metaphorically his bald-eagle mount, an image on the stage’s banner backdrop, and hop on the hoofed Canadian icon instead.
“If anything happens to me, it’ll be your fault,” he quipped to the audience packed around the stage, safely behind barriers.
Colbert, in Vancouver to provide offbeat Olympic coverage and support the U.S. men’s speed skaters, clearly loved that Canadians can take a joke. After having called them “syrup-sucking iceholes” on his show, he confessed: “I take it all back.” He joked about needing an English-English dictionary to understand Canadian terms like “riding” for a political district. His stage manager and crew wore white T-shirts with a red maple leaf emblem that read on the front: “Icehole Crew.” The back of the shirt said: “Colbert Nation eh!”
(Colbert was reportedly delighted to receive a case of Iceholes Celebration lager beer, inspired by his Canuck putdown and specially brewed byVancouver’s R & B Brewing Company. R & B co-owner Barry Benson says on the company website: ” In celebration of our icehole-ish behaviour we have decided to get even rather than get mad.”)
Before appearing, Colbert invited the Dutch oom-pah-pah group Klein pils onstage to warm up the fans with jovial, brass-band versions of songs from The Turtles’ Happy Together to Sweet Caroline, We Will Rock You, and Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore. He had discovered the boisterous musicians the night before while they performed rinkside at the Richmond Oval.
Colbert’s guests included Seth Wescott, two-time gold medal winner in snowboard cross, who picked up his latest gold this week in Olympic competition at Cypress Mountain. After Colbert asked to wear Westcott’s medal, he refused to give it back to the athlete, despite urgings to do so from the fans. Wescott, in turn, gave his host a team plaid jacket and autographed a specially made snowboard that bore Colbert’s image. (Colbert wore a navy Ralph Lauren cardigan and white 2010 track pants for the show, a nod to the designer of U.S. team uniforms in this year’s Winter Olympics.)
After his vocal support for the U.S. Olympic speed skaters and his team fundraising drive which brought in about $300,000 from fans, one would have expected Colbert to interview Shani Davis, who has appeared on his show in a satirical speed-skating challenge. But Davis was apparently offended by some of Colbert’s previous remarks and was not a guest. Colbert played a taped segment of his show onstage, which included a public apology to Davis. (That same day, Davis won a gold medal in the 1,000-metre men’s speed-skating in Richmond.)
Ryan St. Onge
Other Olympic guests included U.S. freestyle aerialists Ryan St. Onge and Jeret “Speedy” Peterson. While Colbert teased St. Onge, who appeared shy in a conservative shirt and tie, about his name, Peterson appeared to hold his own with Colbert. When asked about getting kicked out of the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy for a drunken altercation, Peterson admitted his actions and told his host: “Sorry to steal your thunder.”
As if for required Canadian content, Colbert interviewed the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal Member of Parliament for Vancouver South. He teasingly asked Dosanjh what caste he was from and repeatedly mentioned India’s caste system. Dosanjh said that he didn’t believe in the caste system and stressed the equality of all. Yet, when Colbert continued trying to pin down the ultra-serious federal politician on this subject, Dosanjh appeared taken aback and possibly offended. I wondered if he even knew that such stances are part of Colbert’s shtick and on-camera persona.
This show was the last of a two-day taping for Colbert at the park. Fans had waited since dawn for the 10:15 start time. I arrived at 7:45 a.m., joining a long line of people waiting patiently in front of Science World. A friendly female parks ranger warned us that the park had four inches of mud in places and was very slippery. She urged people not to run on the grass to avoid injury.
Yet, once the orderly queues received permission to move towards the stage,
hundreds started running up the hill and charging through the mud. In such a free-for-all, someone who had arrived five minutes earlier could easily have gotten a much better viewing spot than someone who camped out overnight in wait. I ended up to the right of the stage close to the front.
Following these fun shoots, Colbert toured a variety of Olympic pavilions in Vancouver, doing his usual campy and impromptu repartee, besides serving as an on-air NBC commentator and the U.S. speed-skating team’s assistant sports psychologist.
Stephen Colbert will certainly never make the podium as an Olympic gold medalist, as portrayed on this banner made by a fan, but he has made phenomenal strides in bringing Canadian and U.S. psyches and spirits together through laughter. Maybe he deserves to keep Seth Westcott’s medal after all.
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