When Stephen Colbert announced that he’d be airing his final episode of The Colbert Report on December 18, our first response was an incredible sadness, unlike any other we’d felt. Well, at least since Jennifer Lawrence started dating that guy from Coldplay. Eventually, as the sadness crept away and we accepted the silver lining of Colbert taking over The Late Show duties for David Letterman next year, we started wondering what a fitting tribute might be for the guy who has entertained us with truthiness and real American values since his show first aired on October 17, 2005. After all, the guy has been cracking most of us up for 10 seasons and what will have been 1,447 episodes, when his good friend Grimmy takes him to the other side on Thursday night.
So we thought that maybe the key to a good Colbert tribute is picking out some of our favorite moments to share with everyone. But even better than that idea was reaching out to some staffers for The Colbert Report to find out what it was like to work with the best faux-pundit in the late night game. Unfortunately, a lot of them were either unavailable or had already moved on, but we were very lucky to steal a few minute of Cece Lederer’s time, as the Writer’s Assistant for The Colbert Report was happy to share her thoughts on the show’s incredible legacy.
Not familiar with Lederer? Allow Colbert to refresh your memory…
We didn’t ask if that story was true, because we didn’t need to. Of course it’s true.
UPROXX: What were some of your favorite or funniest moments from working on The Colbert Report?
Cece Lederer: That’s a huge question [laugh]. Something that sticks out for me, not a moment but a favorite thing would be in meetings deciding what stories were going to go on the air, Stephen would say, “Remember, we’re clowns,” as opposed to news people. When it came to doing really heavy political stuff, he was always aware that we could do so much good, I think. We did a lot of stuff that I think changed the world. Ultimately the goal was to make people laugh, above anything else. Which I always really admired. It’s quite easy to get sucked into the big political outrage. And I think it takes guts to say, “No, we’re not going to do that, we’re going to do this silly story because it is funnier and it’s a comedy show!”
UPROXX: What were some things that, as you mentioned, changed the world?
Cece: I think when we went to Iraq, that’s probably a big one from when I was there. You kind of think of people who serve in the military as a statistic. Oh, it’s the soldiers, support our troops, the troops are kind of a nameless figure. And going there and putting them on TV in a comedy show reminded me, but I think to the world, Operation Iraqi Freedom was just a really unique way of putting a human face on a terrible situation.
Actually, the big one was from before I got there. When Stephen invented the word “Truthiness.” I think that’s a great addition to the English language. I think it’s the perfect world. Apart from being funny I think it describes such a real phenomenon. There’s stuff like the Super Pac, stuff that is stuck in a way, but it has an impact and creates awareness. Especially when you’re doing a show on Comedy Central, there’s a lot of people who aren’t necessarily watching the news who are watching The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. You get a chance to talk to this other demographic which I think is – it’s a powerful place to be to be the political voice of people who don’t care about politics. But I think I’m going to miss it. So I’m sorry to see it go. I think it was a powerful force for good. And I’m very proud to have been a part of it.
UPROXX: Is there a particular thing you wrote that you are most proud of? That stands out to you?
Cece: A lot of it is such a team effort. My dog was on the show once. That’s something that I always show people when they ask about my time there. There’s no one particular thing.
UPROXX: Are there things Stephen said or comments he made that stick out to you?
Cece: I think more than comments, his attitude as a producer. Just this fearless “We can do anything” energy that he has. Anything can be accomplished. Just this incredibly optimistic and passionate personality. And I think that has stuck with me more. Maybe you work on something ten times for the script and it doesn’t even make it on the air, but you’re better for it. It all goes towards making the show happen. You never felt like insurmountable goals. It was the attitude.
A lot of us do an improv show at Upright Citizen’s Brigade theatre in New York and I think that comes from the same place. I was an improviser and there were a couple other improvisers, most of the writing staff was not ever trained in improv, but there was this “Why not?”, jump in with your whole self and the product is always… if you give everything, what you get back will be worthwhile. A lot of us were not trained in improv, but we make each other laugh so let’s just go for it. Why not? There’s a huge attitude of why not.
When I was younger, I was always a bigger fan of the more “alternative” late night shows. So when a young comic named Jon Stewart showed up on MTV with his bizarre sidekick, Howard, I was convinced that late night television should have huge balls and do things that primetime shows never dared to do. That’s why The Colbert Report has been almost religious for me for the past 10 years, and even when he was the best part of Stewart’s run on TDS, because every joke the guy made was a huge “F*ck you” to people who take themselves way too seriously.
I don’t want to go as far as to say that I’m the biggest fan of The Colbert Report among UPROXX’s staff – after all, we’ve proven that we love sharing the guy’s best work – but it was impossible for me to name just one favorite moment from 1,447 episodes. For starters, there’s the time that he broke character in the best way imaginable, crying from laughter over a made up name – Munchma Quchi. I can’t even watch this scene without losing it, too. Every. Single. Time.
Of all the celebrity guests that appeared on The Colbert Report, I’d argue (with myself) that Olivia Wilde was the most surprising, because her acting lessons with Stephen were also hilarious.
Then there are the little things that he does that are so seemingly simple in execution but so wildly brilliant in terms of how funny they are, like Ham Rove, the ham that looks a lot like Karl Rove.
And the one bit that always made me giggle with stupid joy – his calculator mashing.
Perhaps the best routine of all was Colbert’s “fascination” with “Papa Bear” Bill O’Reilly, who was the inspiration for this glorious show that some really dumb critics said would never last. Again, it’s impossible for a huge fan like myself, someone who is pathetically upset about Thursday night’s impending doom, to pick just one moment. That’s why I’ve left the rest of this tribute up to my UPROXXian colleagues.
Jessica Toomer – The Daft Punk Ordeal
If you can’t “get lucky,” at least you can get some good ol’ fashioned revenge.
Honestly, I can’t believe this isn’t everyone’s favorite episode* if only for the fact that we all got to bask in the gloriousness of Colbert’s awkward dad dance moves. Here’s a little piece of advice to any celebrity guest slated to appear on the Comedy Central show, don’t bail last minute and then make up a sh*t excuse for not showing up because you will definitely get called out for it. After Colbert flew Daft Punk in for a taping of his show to perform their smash hit “Get Lucky,” the musical group cancelled basically the day of. Apparently, the duo was slated to perform at the upcoming MTV VMA awards and MTV had exclusive rights to any TV appearances airing before the show. This turned out not to be the reason Daft Punk didn’t perform (they just didn’t want to, I guess) but needless to say, Colbert was pretty pissed.
When a couple of helmet wearing douchebags p*ssy out of performing after you promised some pretty big sponsors they would, there’s only one thing to do: create a revenge-driven epic dance montage featuring some of the most famous white guys you can find. I suppose we should all thank Daft Punk in the end because if it weren’t for them, we might never have had the opportunity to witness Hugh Laurie, Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston, Nick Cannon, Jimmy Fallon and Henry Kissinger break it down together on national TV.
*Ed. Note: Everyone tried to call dibs on this bit. Jessica was just lucky she responded first.
Jason Tabrys – Bucket: The Maiden Voyage Video
The “Man on the Street” late night staple has lost its soul, as the focus has moved away from the simple magic of seeing a late night host inspire wonderfully weird responses from regular folk with their behavior and oddball questions. Now these segments are often done by interns and offer little more to the audience than a highlight reel of human stupidity. Only Conan O’Brien still embraces the old way now, with Letterman (a master) mostly keeping to his well-chilled cave nowadays. But in 2013, Stephen Colbert showed us a new way.
Using a disposable intern and the innovative Ask-O-Matic system (a bucket with an iPad glued to it), Colbert — ever a man of the people who is above the people — virtually went out into the world to blend with the common folk in a way that would insure that they wouldn’t touch him, breathe on him, or lovingly tear him limb from limb in a celebrity spotting fury. The result was amazing, ending up with Colbert spinning on a stripper pole thanks to a Hustler dancer, but to me the best part is that this is exactly the kind of imaginative, ambitious, and smart comedy bit that would work as well in Colbert’s new job. And as someone who is slightly concerned that Colbert might lose some of his fire after he retires the legendary Colbert Report on-screen persona, that is encouraging.
Stacey Ritzen – There’s a Monkey on the Lam
Because I love dumb humor, one of my favorite Colbert moments might have to be the first time “Monkey on the Lam” was introduced. Back in August of 2007, during an “all animal” Threat Down segment, Stephen Colbert talked about a diapered monkey that had bitten a woman in Wisconsin — and according to the official news report the monkey in question was still “on the lam.” And so, arguably one of the most spectacular animated news graphics of all time was born.
Since that episode, Monkey on the Lam has obviously become a recurring segment, because it’s actually kind of amazing how often monkeys get loose in our country. In fact, the second Monkey on the Lam happened just two days after the original. Although it’s been over a year since Monkey on the Lam has appeared on The Colbert Report, here’s hoping for a Late Show revival someday.
Andrew Husband – A Voice of Reason After The Boston Marathon Bombing
The day after the Boston Marathon bombings, Colbert opened the show with a brief segment highlighting the attacks and the city’s response. At the time, we were still scared witless. Several friends had run in or volunteered for the race, and while we’d been able to find them all by Tuesday night, others weren’t so lucky. But we all knew everything was going to be okay when Colbert opined, “Whoever did this obviously doesn’t know sh*t about the people of Boston!”
Seriously, these motherf*ckers are bat sh*t crazy. When I moved to Boston that winter, I quickly bundled myself with every warming cloth imaginable. New Englanders, however, sauntered around the city in yoga pants and UGG boots like it was nothing. (This includes you, Tom Brady.)
Colbert’s Boston-themed segment took pot shots at the then-unknown terrorists and Bostonians alike, but it all served to bolster the city’s spirits. Everything – jabs at the Big Dig, jokes about Aerosmith’s female lead-singer Steven Tyler, the pilgrims – helped us laugh when everything else scared the crap out of us.
Kris Maske – Never Challenge Colbert in a Battle of Geek
It’s always delighted me to no end when Colbert has gone full geek on The Report. On top of the sheer entertainment value it also showcases another level of his brilliance. If you’ve never watched him roll off Tolkien characters at an instant, do so now. The man is a savant. Colbert has taken James Franco to school on several instances but this round is my favorite. Just that look in his eyes. He could be making it all up for what I know but I choose to believe Colbert sees only ones and zeros when his brain flips to geek mode.
Andrew Roberts – BEARS!
When I look back at my favorite moments from The Colbert Report, it seems like all of my top moments come from 2007. It’s not like that’s some special year for me or the year I kicked drugs, but I do think Colbert was just in my wheelhouse at the time.
Some honorable mentions include his up and down friendship with Ric Ocasek, “Monkey On The Lam,” and the annual portrait hanging and exhibition at the National Gallery (which I traveled to the Gallery bathroom to see).
My top choices fall into two areas. First there’s the Threat Down, where bears were an expected and welcome sight. One particular one featured a mini-Threat Down highlighting a polar bear cub that was rejected by its mother. It is almost better than Bear Terminators because Colbert threw out a bad German accent, agreed with calls to murder the adorable cub, and instantly fell to pieces when he saw the little beast.
The other is when Colbert attempted to parody Walter Cronkite’s famous JFK announcement with the loss of a story on JFK airport. It was during the transition between his show and The Daily Show and spot on up until the part when Jon Stewart busted out laughing and everything broke down. Great moment, though.
Aaron Pruner – Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert
I’m depressed, you guys. The Colbert Report is leaving and we’ll be without Stephen for 5 whole months.
Well, thankfully, we have the contributions of Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A. to help us through these tough times. Since 2007, Dr. Colbert has addressed current health related news stories while presenting a solution in the form of medication from sponsor Prescott Pharmaceuticals. Now, let’s be clear here — Stephen Colbert is not a medical doctor, he has an honorary doctorate of fine arts. That’s close enough for me.
Dr. Colbert’s groundbreaking work with Prescott Pharmaceuticals has exhibited a few side effects throughout the past 7 years including: elbowhead, thickening of the skull, search and seizures, male pattern Baldwin, high balls, Bud Light Lime Disease, mild Hulkism, Phantom Hand Syndrome, vivid dreams of self-cannibalization, spontaneous pregnancy, increased risk of vampire attack, migrating genitals and braintooth.
Dr. Colbert will truly be missed. Great, now I’m depressed again. I think I’ll go and pour myself two fingers of Prescott’s own Vac Daniels. That’ll do the trick, I’m sure!
Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A., I’ll see you in health!
Feel free to share your favorite moments as well, because there are probably a billion of them.