The Day I Met Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert has been part of my life since university. Like most students, I did (and still do) a lot of research and writing late at night, and I always used to take a break when The Colbert Report came on.

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When I first got married and lived in downtown Ottawa, a few blocks from my office, I PVRed the show and sometimes walked home at lunch to eat and watch the previous night’s episode.

At some point, I signed up for the mailing list to be notified whenever tickets for the show became available. I don’t think I ever received an email, but I used to check the website every so often, always seeing the same message that there weren’t any tickets at that time.

Then, in April 2014, came the news that The Report was ending and Colbert would replace David Letterman on The Late Show in 2015. Time to get serious.

I started reading up on how other people had scored tickets to the show and discovered the @DailyTix Twitter account, which sent out a tweet every time tickets to The Daily Show or The Report became available.

Usually, though, the tweets were for two tickets available on such-and-such date, or four tickets for another date. By the time I would see the tweet and click on the link, they were invariably gone.

But then, one day in July, I happened to be on Twitter at lunch and the following tweet popped up:

I clicked the link immediately and 40 or 50 tickets were already gone. I filled out my contact info as quickly as I could and soon received an email confirming that I had two tickets to the show, just three months before the final episode.

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Caitlin was excited, too, and we started making plans for a trip to New York. We ended up staying in Brooklyn, which neither of us had ever visited, and spent a couple days in the city before the show.

IMG_20140915_173454On the day of the taping, we had to arrive three or four hours ahead of time and wait in line outside the studio on West 54th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, just a few blocks from Columbus Circle. The guest for our episode was Mindy Kaling, which was ideal for us, as we are both big fans of The Office.

After a long wait outside (as long as one of us stayed in line, the other could leave to get food, or whatever), we were crammed with the other 120 or so guests into a small room inside the studio, where there were washrooms and TVs playing some highlights from past shows. There was one very annoying lady who had to cackle at each clip and then loudly talk about how she remembered seeing it on the show—just to prove that she was, indeed, a fan.

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Eventually, we were seated in the theatre (sorry, no photos allowed—but if you’ve seen the show, you’ve seen it all; the theatre is pretty small) and a warm-up comic came out to do a routine and, well, get everyone warmed up.IMG_20140915_175935

The taping itself was pretty cool. Stephen answered a few questions from the audience before the show and re-filmed a few small parts where he had messed up after the taping was finished. At the end of each segment, when a commercial break would occur during the broadcast, the writers and stage manager would cluster around Stephen’s desk, presumably to discuss any last minute changes or offer any reminders for the next part of the show.

At the end, he hung around and answered a few more questions, including denying a guy who asked if he could take a photo sitting behind Stephen’s desk and talking about a First World War audiobook he was listening to.

Then we headed back out to the sidewalk. There were barricades set up in front of the door and a small group of people hanging around, but most of the fans had disappeared into the New York night.

IMG_20140915_202711After a couple minutes, Mindy Kaling popped out and started signing autographs and posing for photos with the remaining fans. She was really friendly and engaged, complimenting Caitlin’s Cape Cod lobster sweatshirt while she signed an autograph for her sister.

Five or 10 minutes later, Kaling’s assistant said they had to leave and she hopped in an SUV and took off. Some security guards took down the barricades and pretty much everyone left. But, we figured, Stephen was still inside. With no plans for later that night, we (read: I) decided to wait.

Slowly, people started trickling out—production assistants and other staff we recognized from the taping. Every so often, a security guard would open a door and look around, while a chauffeur idled his town car across the street.

After more than an hour of standing and waiting, the car suddenly pulled up in front of the door and Stephen came down the steps. I called his name and asked if I could grab a picture.

“Quickly,” he smiled.sc

After I thanked him, telling him we had flown in from Canada for the show, he jumped into his car and we started walking in the same direction his car was travelling, toward Broadway. After half-a-block, the black sedan pulled over and Stephen rolled down his window.

“Do you want one, too?” he asked Caitlin. “A picture?”

“Thanks,” she replied. “That’s OK—but would you sign this card?”

She handed him a blank paper, he signed it and drove off again.

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