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.
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 Audible.com (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.