Stephen Colbert gears up for the Olympics with plans for medals and mockery
there recording a wealth of material for his show (to air beginning Feb. 22), attending events, conducting interviews and doing a kind of half-show from a stage set up outside the Olympic centre.
“ We’ll bring snow because I don’t think Vancouver has any,” he said in an interview, taking a swipe at the city’s sometimes watery precipitation.
Just as he has inserted himself into big events such as the 2008 election (during which he was briefly and illegitimately a candidate) and the Iraq war (he did a week of shows from Baghdad in 2009), Colbert has made himself a key figure for the XXI Olympic Games, which start today.
When the U.S. Speedskating team lost its primary sponsor last fall (the Dutch bank DSB went bankrupt), the Report stepped in with a novel idea. The show’s ardent fans had previously raised sizable amounts of money for charity, and the show suggested that the “Colbert Nation” could sponsor the skaters.
Fan donations filled the vacancy by raising more than $300,000. “Colbert Nation” is branded on the team’s suits and Colbert has had an active relationship with the squad.
The team has largely responded with gratitude. On his Comedy Central show, Colbert autographed the leg of speedskater Katherine Reutter, on her request. Robert Crowley, executive director of U.S. Speedskating, says Colbert has brought “great attention to our sport.” Apolo Anton Ohno has also applauded Colbert’s humour.
“I think he’s funny,” Ohno said earlier. “Our country is kind of in need of some humour right now, and it’s all for a good cause.”
But one of the team’s best skaters, 2006 gold medallist Shani Davis, called Colbert “a jerk,” seemingly because Colbert had mockingly complained that Canada was limiting training time for foreign athletes at Vancouver venues.
Colbert says Davis never explained why he was upset and says he never asked him. But for a particularly funny segment on The Report, Davis and Colbert faced off in a race where Davis easily beat Colbert despite a giant headstart.
Colbert says Davis was “a sweetheart” while filming and that he “understood our jokes completely.”
“I’ll like anyone who seems to like me,” he says.