by carl wilson

A Big Steaming Mug of Ogre Milk

Fake photo by Torontoist now replaced by real photo from The Colbert Report.

Hi everyone. That hiatus was a bit longer than intended. Back to regular Zoilus business this week, but first a couple of links and notes from my psychic-teevee jaunt.

First, in case you missed it, here is my interview on the Colbert show in a link for Canadian viewers and here it is for the Yanks.

A lot of folks have been asking me about the experience, and it's difficult to sum up, except to say that it was very positive. [... continued after the jump ... ]

The show did a pre-interview with me by phone the day before that I almost wish could have been televised instead: The producer started by saying that she was going to ask me a bunch of serious questions, "which tomorrow will be turned into jokes. But answer them then the same way you answer me now." She proceeded to ask some of the most intelligent, well-thought-out questions I've had from any interviewer, all speaking directly to the themes of the book and not overly harping on the Celine angle.

Everyone I met at the Colbert show seemed to be smart, relaxed and really enjoying their job, which is frankly a contrast to the stressed-out, often grumpy crews I've met on a lot of Canadian TV shows - no doubt that's a function of having more adequate resources to work with, but I think it must also reflect the strength of vision and sense of purpose on the show itself.

As for Mr. Colbert himself, though he was rushing around and only had a few seconds before and after the show, he came across as a very solid, thoughtful & kind man. He had the affect of a 1950s TV dad - firm handshake, meets you right in the eye, focuses all his attention on the person he's speaking to. His voice is about a half-octave deeper than his vocal mask on the show. He has a little routine he goes through to make sure guests aren't caught unawares by his character if they aren't familiar with the show (it runs in part: "I do the interview in character - my character is a complete idiot, he knows nothing about you or your work or anything else, and your job is to disabuse me of my ignorance"). They also ran through the prospective questions for me, though their list was twice as long as the ones used, and clearly Colbert improvises as he sees fit throughout.

The green room was not lavish. I will sum it up in two words: Fruit plate. There was a swag bag, mostly containing product samples like Starbucks energy drinks, NY-company chocolates, miscellaneous makeup, etc. (apparently the gift bags aren't customized even by gender). But there was also a nice gift of a $100 coupon to be used to support the charity of Stephen's choice, which allows you to donate to projects in impoverished classrooms (my desk is a mess so I can't link to the specific one, but I will when I find it later).

For those who thought the interview seemed a bit clipped - it was. On set we talked for another minute or two but they jumped to the end, although apparently I had my memory-chip set on "don't worry, it's being recorded" as I don't recall what we talked about then, though I think there were a couple of good moments. For those who thought I seemed nervous - no, that's just my regular jittery personality, a bit heightened by the situation but mostly exaggerated by being framed on a TV-sized screen. And no, those weren't joke teeth; sadly, mine own.

It was a roller coaster - the whole interview seemed to last 30 seconds to me - but Colbert was fairly gentle and let me make my points. My instinct was that he felt a bit conflicted about where to take it, humorously, since after all the book is already a kind of ju-jitsu topsy-turvy act; but moreover I sensed that he was genuinely intrigued by the topic.

Which makes sense, if you think about it. His whole schtick is already a kind of cultural boundary-crossing exercise; even though he is being satirical, his jabs hit both liberals and conservatives for their intolerance and knee-jerk points of view, a feat he's able to carry off by walking the identity borderline that he does. So there's a kind of meta-level to him discussing a book about attempting to get inside and have empathy with a set of cultural positions and personae different than one's own. In fact, I had hoped to find an opening in the interview to point that out in a subtle way - without breaking the implicit contract to play along with the illusion - but I wasn't quite deft enough.

My greatest regret, though, is that I didn't have the wit and timing to echo the super-straight-man Colonel from the segment before me by cutting Colbert off during his recitation of fake "hipster" band names and saying wearily, "Stephen, there's no such thing as Ogre Milk."

Although, of course, that would have been fibbing.

As for the "Colbert bump"? In full effect. The next day the book jumped to #1 on Amazon among music books, and nearly two weeks later it remains in the top 10. Because Amazon stats are arcane and occult, I don't know yet how many sales that represents, but it must be substantial. And the book is now on Kindle and is being recorded for an audio book from (I'll let you know when that's out). All of which means more readers and more discussion, hopefully, of the themes and ideas, which is what counts.

Thanks to long-time readers of Zoilus for helping create the climate in which such nutty things can happen. It's a mystery but a delightful mystery.

Read More | General | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, March 15 at 8:31 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (11)



who would ever think you had fake teeth? that is the weirdest part of this account to me. especially since i have fake teeth and nobody ever figures it out.

Posted by becky on March 28, 2009 1:04 PM



Congrats, man. All the best to you.


Posted by juepucta on March 18, 2009 5:31 PM



I should note that Adam's (entertaining) comment relates to the picture that was originally on this post, rather than the one there now - the other can still be seen at the Torontoist post linked under the photo.

Posted by zoilus on March 17, 2009 10:53 PM



It was one of the better Colbert Report interviews I've seen, actually, in terms of the author giving a good account of what's going on in the book. Good episode all around, too. Congratulations again!

Posted by Ian Mathers on March 17, 2009 5:44 PM



I know it's a minor quibble, but shouldn't the spine of the book that Colbert's holding be "faked" as well? Or, is the image suggesting some sort of hybrid between Colbert's book and Wilson's, a symbiosis of the two authors? I'm fine either way. I just want to know whether it's symbiotic or incomplete. If the former is true, are we to assume it's Colbert's doing, Wilson's, or neither? Is it a complete merger between the two books, or is it Colbert's book with Wilson's cover slapped on? I guess it's like any collaboration which can't be parsed. Maybe they're like Lennon and McCartney: however much effort they make to explain the separateness of their creations, even going as far as to run through a list, song by song, of which songs they wrote independently of the other, we can't definitively attribute any to one or the other (unless it has a line which hates on Paul). Do we now have a similar difficulty separating Colbert from Wilson, definitively? Do they need to send thinly veiled barbs each other's way to resume their former identities? Or, do they mutually accept the new hybrid them? Is it out of their hands?
I think I like the picture very much.

Posted by Adam on March 16, 2009 1:08 PM



Congrats! What a trip!

But now I'm curious -- who's doing the audio book? Could it be . . . James Franco?

Posted by john on March 16, 2009 12:40 PM



Thanks Carl, that explains a great deal, particularly how relaxed you really are when we meet in person. I've always suspected Colbert's character to be just that...realizing early on that he is an actor, not a journalist, but it's nice to have it verified. I am disappointed by your Ogre Milk existential angst...I've been hearing about bands just like this for year...I'm shattered, completely shattered. Congratulations on your bump...I hope it twists you into another book. I can't wait. In seeing this week's edition of Hello! Michele and I were chatting you up to the cashier at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Langford. Who knows...maybe another book sale.

Posted by Phil on March 16, 2009 10:39 AM



So great, Carl!

Posted by Josh Glenn on March 16, 2009 6:27 AM



Channing and I are absolutely thrilled for you, Carl. Here's hoping it leads to more "interesting" opportunities...

Posted by Lisa on March 16, 2009 12:23 AM



this all makes me so happy.

Posted by sean on March 15, 2009 11:19 PM



speaking of habitus here's something: colbert's a d&d; player so 'ogre' in random made up name is fascinatingly charged with personal-cultural background

Posted by peli on March 15, 2009 10:09 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson