Yeah, I was taken by surprise. It was immediate and nerve-wracking. At this point, I’d spoken with CNN, MCNBC, CBS and others about Colorado marijuana laws, my job and my hunt for a pot critic. But this mash-up of news and entertainment was different, and I quickly learned a lesson because, frankly, I had no alternative: Just laugh and go along with it.
Mind you, I couldn’t see Colbert. When you see these talking heads being interviewed on news channels, they can hear what’s happening but they can’t see anything. Normally that’s not a problem, but with Colbert’s particularly physical brand of comedy, I didn’t know what was going on on the other side of the interview. So I just laughed. And then I laughed some more.
“Do you smoke pot at all?” he asked me.
My answer, an honest one, came in two parts — separated by a beat.
“I don’t smoke pot,” I started, breaking just enough to let it sink in. “I do eat it, though.”
“Oh, okaaaaaaay,” the real Colbert said with a laugh, clearly breaking character for an unexpected moment of surprise.
As it was happening, I could tell he’d broken character. I wasn’t trying to make him laugh. When his producers prep you for the interview, they ask you to be straightforward and unfunny, even when faced with Colbert’s mania — the straight man, if you will. I was being straightforward and honest, but I suppose he wasn’t expecting a marijuana editor who didn’t smoke pot. I didn’t fully let him down, at least.
The interview went on. I sweat through my shirt under the bright lights. As I absorbed each of Colbert’s questions, the true genius of his writing staff and his own improvisational abilities really bloomed wide open.
“Let’s talk about the arrests,” he said at one point. “If someone did get arrested and is in jail now for pot possession in Colorado, on January 1 when it becomes legal do they get to get out of jail?”
I told him I didn’t know, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to be the case — because who could have foreseen this Colorado Court of Appeals ruling that came months later.
And there was Colbert with the punchline: “Can we at least bring them pot in jail to make it a better experience?”
I survived the interview. My first stop was my fiancée Melana’s hair salon. She wanted to hear how it went, and she also trimmed up my unruly mop, embarrassed I’d just taped what would most likely be my most-seen television appearance with scraggly hair. My second stop was home, where I got to work on The Cannabist. Since I’d expected to be in New York that evening, I told my friends who were coming to the taping I wouldn’t be there — and instead invited my best pal John over to the house to watch the show with us.
But getting anything done that day was next to impossible. My stomach’s knots had tied themselves into double and triple knots. This was not normal for me. I’d just taped an interview and I couldn’t stop wondering how it would be edited, how it would be received and if I represented my colleagues and I well.
Eating dinner didn’t help — in fact it worsened things. I had a drink, which loosened me up, but it was unkind to my stomach. And it was then and there when it hit me:
I think I’ll get high to watch myself talking about marijuana on “The Colbert Report.”
And 15 milligrams of an infused mint chocolate bar later my stomach unfurled, my mind relaxed and I felt like myself for the first time since waking up that early morning.
As Melana, John and I watched Colbert’s introductions, I was ready for it — regardless of the outcome. My friends who saw the taping had already FaceTimed from New York with the word that it was funny and the audience loved it. And then Colbert, on my television, started talking about Colorado marijuana and The Denver Post’s appointment of a marijuana editor:
“All of us know where this leads,” Colbert said with his best faux-conservative snarl. “A pot editor is just a gateway job to a meth editor, whose columns are 2 centimeters wide, 30 feet long and written with a broken chicken bone.”
We laughed and laughed, and the smiles on my friends’ sober faces told me that all was well. We talked about the madness of it all — the invitation a few days earlier, the harrowing airport drive, the delayed flight and the experience at the studio. Did that really just happen?
On second viewing, we noticed the changing locations under my mug. At the interview’s start I was reporting live from Denver, Colorado, according to the words underneath my talking head. The next shot had me in Bongistan. The next: Stanksylvania. The next: Spleef Meadows. The next: Are Any Of Us Really Anywhere?
Man, what a riot.
I was so damn thankful for the experience, especially since we were starting a website about the culture of cannabis from scratch; Having Colbert’s megaphone — if only for 5 minutes and 18 seconds — was a huge boon to The Post and, later, The Cannabist. But more importantly I was thankful to Colbert and his capable staff. His producers are total professionals. His writers are beyond genius. And Colbert … I was even more of a fan than I was previously.
Since Colbert toasted my new job a few months ago, this is my toast to his new job — one I’m sure he’ll see a lot of success with over the years to come.