That title is a total lie. The closest I’ve ever come to Stephen Colbert is last night when he signed my copy of his new book, America Again (Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t). If I could get closer, I would. I’ve been to tapings of his show, and I’ve calculated how fast I could leap over the audience railing and sprint to his desk and tackle him and soak in his essence before security would taze me, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to get faster before I try it. Last night it would have been stupid to try – his bodyguard was very close. Dammit.
Actually, it wasn’t just Stephen who signed the book. All of the writers who worked on the book were there, and they all signed it!
This is part of the greatness of Stephen Colbert. He didn’t show up at his Barnes & Noble book signing alone, taking all of the credit. He shared the stage with the people who helped him get there.
I got there – to the signing – with the help of my friend Ellen, who works for the book’s publisher, Grand Central. She not only got me in (Barnes & Noble was packed with people waiting in line for the signing), but got me a kick-ass seat in the front row. I think I told her I’d give her my next born child. She doesn’t know I’m not having any more. Shh.
Me, trying to act reserved. (Picture courtesy of Ellen Gerstein)
Waiting for a lot of writers.
Stephen started out by doing a reading from his book. I was busy taking pictures of his writers when he started, so here are the words I missed recording:
I wrote another book. I hope you’re happy. Because this book is your fault. You see, everywhere I go I hear bellyaching about how we as a nation have lost it.
Then he took audience questions. I was prepared. I brought this with me:
Here’s the story behind that picture of Stephen Colbert and my husband. Go ahead, read it, I’ll wait. What? You don’t have time? Here’s the short version: I gave that picture to Jon Stewart four years ago, and asked him to give it to Stephen Colbert to sign. I got it back less than a week later, signed. But I always wondered…had Stephen really signed it, or was it some intern at The Daily Show?
Well, I showed it to Stephen last night, and he confirmed that yes, he remembered signing it!
I don’t know why he looks like he’s sneering at me. I swear, he was really nice! (Picture courtesy of Ellen Gerstein)
I thought that the best audience question was from a woman who asked why there was only one female on his writing staff. Stephen let that particular lone female writer, Meredith Scardino, answer the question. She said that while late night might be dominated by men, the men she worked with were not dominating men. Good answer. And Stephen added, some of the men on stage started out as women. :-D
Stephen Colbert talking with Meredith Scardino, surrounded by allegedly male writers
There was also a very special guest in the front row with us, Christianne Aman-purr. You may remember this “Egypt expert” from The Colbert Report:
Well, Christianne Aman-purr and Stephen had a very uncomfortable looking reunion. Uncomfortable for the cat, I mean – she did not look happy!
After the Q&A it was time to get my book signed! Thanks to Ellen running back for her camera, I got to be the first person through the line. I got the freshest signatures. I think that makes my book the best.
I don’t remember what I was saying to Stephen at that moment, but his bodyguard was hovering very close to me. (Picture courtesy of Ellen Gerstein)
If you’re at all a fan of Stephen Colbert, or his show, or his previous book, I Am America (And So Can You), or America itself, or politics, or just comedy in general, you have to buy America Again. I just finished it, and I have to wonder how much lead time they had, and how late they could make changes. Because there’s so much in the book that is current right now, leading up to the election.
Stephen’s TV persona is a much bigger part of this book, I think, than his last book, giving him leave to say many many things that just aren’t right, but are hysterical (and sadly, probably going through the head of at least one conservative billionaire at any given moment). Gems like this one:
[Reagan was] right, America was put here by God for us to find. America was like the sculpture existing inside the block of marble, waiting for the Artist to chip away a few Cherokee to find it.
It’s also, amazingly, instructive. I knew the basics of the mortgage crisis: when banks lend money to people who can’t pay them back, that’s bad for banks. But since not everyone in the country was defaulting on a mortgage, I never really understood how the defaulted loans snowballed into the major crisis that they ended up being. Well, thanks to a little story about kindly old ladies putting actual shit in brownies at a bake sale, I now understand. I think reading this book should earn you college credit for an economics class. (As Stephen states in the book, it’s already being used as a textbook in Texas.)
From hilarious footnotes to meaningless charts, it’s all there. The sad thing (about reality, not the book) is that some of the bits he’s come up with are very close to things that actually exist or have been said by real politicians and companies. It makes you want to weep for the country. For example, in the book there’s a cartoon character named Tyrannosaurus Frax who teaches kids how awesome hydrofracking is. It’s a parody of an actual coloring book for kids that a Canadian energy company produced a few years ago.
Gah. To quote one of my favorite West Wing characters, Bruno, “We make a joke out of it? What would we have to do to it? It is pret-a-porter.” And yet, being the hilarious writers that they are, they take an already ridiculous premise and improve upon it.
Or a picture of Mitt Romney making a campaign stop at a restaurant with the caption, “This is fun! I didn’t know napkins could be made out of paper!” That totally sounds like something he would say.
Or drawing a straight line between Germany implementing government health care in 1883, and Hitler being born six years later. “Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Greatest Generation should have to pay for Baby Adolph’s wellness care.” Frankly, I can’t believe someone hasn’t tried to make this argument for real.
The state of the political world today makes the job of a satirist so much harder.
Luckily, Colbert and his writers are up to the challenge.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
If you like Stephen Colbert, you’ll probably like my huge collections of signs from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.