It’s big news for the wildly popular Colbert and his fans, nicknamed the “Nation.” And the news strikes a tender spot for me, too. The few minutes I spent on the host’s Comedy Central show in December — reporting live from Bongistan, of course — was something I’ll always remember.
Being face to face with Colbert — how could I say no? I couldn’t. And while I felt like the interview went relatively well, I was too nervous to watch the actual show. It was unlike anything else I’ve experienced, and me getting into the right, um, headspace to watch myself being interviewed by one of the most influential media figures of the modern era is something my fiancée and best pal will long remember.
So because some of you have asked, and because I’d likely write it down regardless, here’s the story: “Stephen and I in Spleef Meadows.”
I was in my boss’ office on Dec. 3 discussing the early plans for what would become this very site when the email came through on my iPhone.
“Hi Ricardo—I’m a producer working with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert. I’m trying to reach you to see if you can join us on the show this Thursday, December 5, to talk about legalized marijuana in Colorado. This would be a 5 minute one on one conversation shot live to tape in front of an audience. We could fly you to New York City tomorrow or early Thursday morning, or we could talk to you by remote from Denver.”
I was suddenly speechless. When my boss had to repeat an unrelated question, I looked at him blankly and handed him the phone. He smiled and said, “You’ve got to do this.” But I was already overwhelmed. A new job, the creation of a new website and all the work that comes along with that — not to mention being in the middle of a New York Times feature on my recent appointment and what it meant for The Post’s dedication to covering the marijuana beat.
Of course I said yes. And a few days later I was up early in the morning driving to Denver International Airport on a very snowy Interstate 225, my stomach upset with nerves. Two phone calls made that drive slightly better: My mom wished me luck, and my longtime friend Britta called me about the possibility of a documentary on Denver Post reporters as we covered the first few months of legal recreational marijuana sales — something that has come to fruition.
But New York wasn’t in my cards. I got to the flight’s gate only to learn of a 90-minute delay due to weather in New York. I called the producer, who told me to sit tight. I was drinking coffee at DIA’s newish Root Down when I got the call: “We need you to turn around. We’ll do it via satellite.” Back on the crappy roads to a Comcast studio in Centennial, where some nice gents gave me bottled water, mic’d me up and wished me luck.
And there I was in a silent studio staring into a camera with Stephen Colbert talking into my ear: “Hey, Ricardo. Thanks so much for joining us, and I’m sorry the flight didn’t work out. So you’ve seen the show, right?”
Yikes. This is happening.
“Only a few hundred times,” I thought — but actually said, “Yeah, I have.”
“OK, great, so you know I’m kind of a monster. I’ll interrupt you. I’ll be rude and unpleasant. I’ll shout untruths, and then you can come in and speak the truth and say what’s actually happening on the ground in Colorado.” (This is all roughly paraphrased, but he was sweetly gentle in those pre-interview moments – thoughtful, pensive, even paternal.)
“I’m game,” I said, slightly taken back that I was talking with the real Colbert and not the character he played nightly. But quicker than I could say, “But really, thanks for having me on, Stephen,” Colbert the character was off and running, firing questions and criticisms at me starting with, “Are you a cop?”