TIME Television

What Didn’t Make It Into TIME’s Cover Story on Stephen Colbert

An edited transcript of Colbert's far-reaching, comprehensive interview for his TIME cover

James Poniewozik’s cover story on Stephen Colbert for this week’s issue of TIME paints a portrait of a comedian in transition. Colbert, who wrapped up his tenth and final season of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central last December, has been tirelessly preparing to take the reins of The Late Show on CBS on Sept. 8.

Between meetings about set design and segments for the new show, Colbert talked about his approach to building the late night show from the ground up—not least of all introducing audiences to the man behind the character he played for so many years on Comedy Central. Below is are selections from the transcript of Poniewozik’s interviews with Colbert that didn’t make it into the final story:

How being the youngest of 11 siblings shaped him: Being the youngest of 11 children, [it was] not so much I wanted [my siblings’] attention, but I wanted to be like them. They had my complete attention as a kid, and that was a training ground for what I do because I had a big family, and there was always laughter and attention-grabbing going on. That was my training ground as much as Second City or anything else. My family happens to have an excellent view of itself. We’re big fans of us.

How having older siblings shaped his taste in culture: My music aged up. My books aged up. My interests aged up. I was a 9-year-old kid who knew what was going on in Watergate because [of] my brothers and sisters, who were getting teargased off at college. I was a music kid of the late ‘70s, but my music was—The Big Chill was no discovery for me. I had records from my brothers and sisters like an original 45 of Bill Haley and The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” that my brother Ed bought when it came out, because he’s 18 years older than I am. Phil Silvers is like a comedic icon to me. Jimmy Durante is a comedic icon in the ways that [someone] my age absolutely should not [like].

How he got turned on to science fiction: All my allowance was spent on Mad Magazines. Then at a certain point it turned the corner and I spent it all on science fiction. My brothers Jimmy and Ed, my eldest two, had been huge science-fiction fans, so I have boxes and boxes of original 1950s and early ’60s pulp sci-fi that I read. It was so old, like you would turn the page and they would snap off. I still have most of them with rubber bands around them to hold them together, like old copies of Stranger in a Strange Land or Mutant by Henry Kuttner or C.M. Kornbluth, really old like nobody reads that stuff anymore.

How he got into comedy and why he didn’t pursue standup: I wanted to be an actor and discovered improvisation in Chicago through a friend who [invited me] to go see this thing called The Herald Improv. I saw it and I was immediately like, I want to do this. That was performance, scene work, ensemble, character. I’ve done things that are like standup since then. There’s a quality to any of the shows that has a standup component to it, and I admire standups, but I actually like playing with people. I find being onstage with just me and my jokes, the mic and audience is a lonely business. I don’t think I could have lived on the road like that.

Why he was ready to say goodbye to The Colbert Report: I still enjoyed it, but to model behavior, you have to consume that behavior on a regular basis. It became very hard to watch punditry of any kind, of whatever political stripe. I wouldn’t want anybody to mistake my comedy for engagement in punditry itself. And to change that expectation from an audience, or to change that need for me to be steeped in cable news and punditry, I had to actually leave. I had to change.

Toward the end of the last show, it was an act of discipline for me to continue to do the character. The discipline was not even just keeping the character’s point of view in mind or his agenda or a bible of his views, but there was also a need to not let people in, not let people see back stage—not necessarily know who I am so that the character can be the strongest suggestion in their mind when I do the show. If I let them know too much about me or our process, then I would be picking the character’s chicken. I don’t want to put so much light behind that particular stained glass or else he would fade completely.

Why it’s incorrect to think he never broke character in The Colbert Report: We would edit any mistake I ever did. People said, “Oh, you never broke” or “You rarely broke.” That’s because we always took it out, because part of the character was he wasn’t a f—up. He was absolutely always on point. Win. Get over. Stay sharp. That was his attitude all the time, and we had to reflect that in the production of the show. None of that is necessary anymore. Now I can be a comedian.

Whether his new show will resemble his old show in any way: You have to be willing to do everything you know how to do. Carson said it to Jay, who said it to Conan, who said it to me. These shows require everything you know how to do. So the idea that there are things that we did over there that we wouldn’t do at the new space, I think, is an unrealistic approach to the need. And whether it fits is a discovery to be made, not a philosophical exercise to engage in before you do it. It’s athletic, not intellectual.

What he did during his time off: My daughter is in college but I’ve got two boys at home. I helped my son go buy wood for his Eagle Scout project. Pick up the kids from school. Hang out with my wife. Go see some family. Went for an open ocean race, sailed.

What it’s been like preparing to take over The Late Show: Yogi Berra said this great thing—or he didn’t—which I love, but I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is, “In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” That’s what this is like. This is like, in theory what we’re doing with all these cards on the wall is really getting us ready to do the show in the fall. In practice, only doing the show in the fall gets you ready to do the show in the fall. So why am I doing all of these things? I don’t know, other than that’s what I do for a living, and if I don’t do it I feel like I’m not doing my job. I’m not learning anything if I don’t do it.

Why he hosted a public access TV show in Monroe, Mich. in July: I was like, I don’t want to do the first show on the first night that’s terrible. And one of my writers goes, “Why don’t we just go to a cable access station and do a show?” So we did a lot of research and then were like, we like that show. Let’s do Only in Monroe, and everything on the show has to be about Monroe. Monroe was nice. It’s a pretty little town. Had a great burger at Larson’s Bar. Though there were a lot of people in Monroe [who] thought we chose the wrong bar.

What it was like producing a show in a local TV station: Everybody at the station was just great. I mean, it was a state of the art station from 1999. We ran it live at midnight that night. We fed it out of a laptop over their system, practically with a rubber tube, to get it over their system. Their ratings are normally 12 people. I’m not joking. That’s not a joke. Twelve is their average rating for that show. And so there were 12 of us in the studio when we were feeding it out, and after it was over, I checked Twitter. No one had seen it. No one had said anything.

How he’s planning to introduce his audience to the real Stephen Colbert: We’ve got a series of field pieces, packages that are ways for me to try to figure out who that is, as if I don’t know who I am. The unexamined life can be extremely enjoyable, and who knows if I do know who I am. We’re going to see whether I do. I’ll have my own suppositions as to what these answers might be from people and see if their memory of me is the same or whether the police investigator we hired to investigate me finds out. We’re doing a series called “Who Am Me?”

Who he’s most excited to talk to for “Who Am Me?”: My elementary school teacher, my favorite teacher from elementary school, is just so excited. I had such a crush on her. I’m going to talk to her. I haven’t seen her since 1974 but I can’t believe that they found her. She moved away when I was 10 and then she came back just recently, so they found her down in Charleston.

How he approached set design for The Late Show: The number one thing about a theater is where is your focus: am I performing for the room that the camera is capturing, or am I performing for a camera that the room gets to see? That’s the question. I have an instinct as to which one of those it is, but I won’t know until I do it. How many play spaces will I have? Do I just want one? How do I adjust to the fact that I have a live band there every night, which is something I haven’t had before? How adaptable do I want this space to be, digitally? Do I want physical objects? How am I going to play with the fact that I have a balcony? How does it affect me that I go from three cameras to six cameras? All those sort of things that are kind of boring to talk about, but as the guy who sits at the desk and all this is around him, I care about all of it.

The set can’t be the star, but it still has to be very attractive. In some ways, we want the set to look like look that great new apartment Stephen got—I know why he took that show, I’d love to live there. It’s like we’re inviting you into my new pad without denying the existence of the theater. That’s the challenge: Can you create a set that lives within the reality that you’re in a theater but still has the intimacy? The show is extremely intimate, so you want a guide. How do you maintain that intimacy while acknowledging you’re in a Broadway theater at the same time?

What his plans are for the opening credits to the new show: I can’t tell you anything that’s going to be visual, but I can tell you that it was important to me that the city itself, New York, is part of the character of these shows, the energy of being in the city. We’re trying to capture some of the energy, the energy of a day of New York in the opening credits. And that’s what it’s about. It’s all over New York. We’re shooting all over the city.

How he thinks about what he will cover on the show: You have to basically sift through what you like and what you don’t like about performing, or what you really enjoy about your relationship with an audience. I have to give myself the patience to literally use my imagination and go—when I close my eyes—what would I enjoy seeing as a consumer? I don’t mean that as like market testing consumer, I’m literally a fan of comedy. What do I want to see on TV?

What he admired most about David Letterman: His disregard for status and respectability. That’s it. It reminded me of Mad Magazine that way. I love it. Those wrestling shoes he used to wear. That’s it. That’s the disregard for status, those wrestling shoes.

Whether David Letterman offered any advice before Colbert took the reins: We had a very lovely evening. He met me in his offices. He had a bottle of water and he answered questions. He was very nice about it. He just answered questions for about an hour and a half for me, and it was two guys with similar jobs talking shop. It was entirely pleasant, and he was very gracious to me. At the end of the night he showed me how to run the freight elevator and that was it…it was like being handed the keys to a car and someone just saying, “Let me show you how to use the clutch—it sticks.” It was beautiful.

Why he’s grateful that he was settled in life before getting this job: I feel very lucky that I got this kind of gig as old as I was. I was 41 before anybody stopped me on the street, so I hope I had a sense of who I was. I was married; I had all my kids; I had my house; my little suburban lifestyle with my Volvo and my khakis going to the dry cleaners on a Saturday. That’s me. I’m boring—not boring—I’m common. I don’t mean that pejoratively. I’m very common. I happen to have this job that very few people have but I’m very happy that I like khakis and an oxford cloth shirt. I like being boring to a certain extent. I don’t have to be flashy. I get to put all of that into a show and when it’s over I don’t have to be that.

How he knows whether a joke will work: After a while I don’t actually need to hear the audience to hear the audience. I know kind of what the rhythm is, theoretically, on a maybe 75 percent successful scale—like what might be a joke that would fit in a scene or a sketch or a monologue. But not having an audience is agonizing. I miss the audience so much. That’s the hardest part about right now, not being in front of anybody.

How his relationship to the audience has evolved: I learned from a director early on who said you got to learn to love the bomb, and that meant learning not just to feel like you’re going to get through it, but that you actually kind of like that you’re getting nothing from the audience. That took me a long time. It took many, many years for that to be okay. Then you’re really aware of your relationship with the audience. You’re not constantly asking. That’s a tough thing to do with an audience—go out there and constantly go, “Love me, love me, love me.” It’s much better to be perceiving their needs and giving, giving, giving to them. And then they’ll give you something genuine back.

Read next: Five Things You Learn in TIME’s Cover Story on Stephen Colbert

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TIME Television

Five Things You Learn in TIME’s Cover Story on Stephen Colbert

[time brightcove videoid=4441763655001]

Doing doughnuts in the Waffle House parking lot, the origin of his accent and more

This week’s TIME cover story is a profile of Stephen Colbert by James Poniewozik, who met with Colbert at the Ed Sullivan Theater—where CBS’s The Late Show has been filmed since the early ‘90s—to learn more about his plans as he prepares to take the helm of the iconic late night show on Sept. 8. In a far-reaching interview, Colbert spoke about transitioning out of his fictional character on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, the conflating of news and comedy and the pronunciation of his last name.

Here are five things we learned:

He was occasionally reckless as a child. For a series of segments for The Late Show, Colbert’s staff visited his hometown to interview friends and acquaintances about what he was like as a young man. The anecdotes they collected include stories about bold moves in the car—fender benders and doughnuts in the Waffle House parking lot, to name a couple—and his accidental destruction of his mother’s crystal chandelier with a football. “I took all the crystals off,” he says, “hundreds of crystals, and rehung them in a new pattern. She never noticed. I told her 30 years later.”

He chose the pronunciation of his last name. When Colbert was younger, his parents allowed him to choose between emphasizing the first or second syllable of his last name. He chose to pronounce it “col-BEAR,” thinking it had a more worldly ring to it. The South Carolina-bred comedian also worked deliberately to shed his Southern accent.

He’s great at trivia. While showing Poniewozik around the theater, Colbert spouted a wealth of knowledge about the building’s history (the original 1950s CBS eye logo, for one thing, was designed by William Golden). He also mentioned, unsolicited, that Abe Lincoln was a wrestler with a penchant for yelling “I’m the big buck of this lick!” and challenging strangers to fight.

He’s a self-described control freak: Colbert weighed in heavily on the set redesign for The Late Show, as production crews worked to replace David Letterman’s style with that of his successor. He had opinions on everything from the upholstery to the exposed brick walls to the layout of mirrors in the guest makeup room. “I’m a complete obsessive-compulsive control freak,” he says. “I like to know where the data cable is coming in from the street.”

He worried that some fans of The Colbert Report saw him as a political figure more than a comedian. Many audience members saw Colbert, as Poniewozik explains, almost as a “political folk hero.” But his primary goal was always comedy. “People had [political] expectations early on in that show following the Correspondents’ Dinner, which is why I almost never spoke about that,” Colbert says, referring to his blistering takedown of President George W. Bush in 2006. “I didn’t want people’s expectations that I was anyone’s champion to overcome our intention, which was comedy. I don’t want to be anybody’s champion. That doesn’t sound funny.”

TIME celebrity

Watch Rachel Maddow Explain Donald Trump’s ‘Genius’ Campaign on Tonight Show

“He will never have more power than he has right now”

Rachel Maddow isn’t certain that Donald Trump wants to be president.

“Look what happens to people who become president. Barack Obama is 40 years older than when he got sworn in seven years ago,” Maddow told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show Thursday night.

But the host of the The Rachel Maddow Show expressed to Fallon that Trump’s presidential run has granted him an enormous amount of power; Trump is pushing an extremely right-wing campaign, making his run as an independent a guaranteed win for the Democrats.

“He will never have more power than he has right now,” Maddow told Fallon. She emphasized that Trump’s position is genius; regardless of how he runs, Trump will have either party in political debt to him.

“Half of the country’s political infrastructure is going to owe him for the rest of their lives. That is the art of the deal,” Maddow said, slyly alluding to Trump’s 1987 memoir.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

Read next: Watch Donald Trump’s Interview With TIME

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TIME Television

Lawsuit Claims Conan O’Brien Stole Man’s Jokes From Twitter

The new lawsuit comes amid some focus on joke theft on Twitter

A San Diego man has filed a lawsuit against Conan O’Brien, TBS and others on the comedian’s team for allegedly violating copyright on four jokes.

According to a complaint filed on July 22 in California federal court by Robert Kaseberg, the jokes were posted on a personal blog and on Twitter before making it into O’Brien’s late night show monologue.

Kaseberg says he published the first joke in January 14, writing, “A Delta flight this week took off from Cleveland to New York with just two passengers. And they fought over control of the armrest the entire flight.”

That same day, O’Brien made a similar joke on his show.

One of the other jokes dealt with Tom Brady and the other with Caitlyn Jenner. The fourth joke was about the Washington Monument.

“The Washington Monument is ten inches shorter than previously thought,” Kaseberg tweeted. “You know the winter has been cold when a monument suffers from shrinkage.”

This allegedly formed the basis for Conan’s own joke.

“We at Conaco firmly believe there is no merit to this lawsuit,” responds the production company behind the Conan television show.

The new lawsuit comes amid some focus on joke theft on Twitter. This past week, a few jokes published on the media service were removed, apparently at the request of a freelance writer. This led to numerous articles that Twitter was taking joke theft seriously, though it’s probably nothing more than an individual submitting a simple form pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Internet service providers only give light scrutiny towards takedown requests. By expeditiously removing material that’s claimed to be a violation of copyright, services like Twitter gain an affirmative defense against copyright liability. Users who have material removed then have the opportunity of submitting a counter-notice, which typically results in restoration and provides notice to the rights holder of whom to sue if there’s still a dispute.

Tweets stolen for broadcast television obviously invoke a very different legal process. Kaseberg is demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in actual and statutory damages. Here’s the full complaint.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter

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TIME animals

Watch Jimmy Kimmel Give the World’s Ugliest Dog a Makeover

“A cross between Honey Boo Boo and a hooker”

Quasi Modo may have risen to fame as the newly crowned “World’s Ugliest Dog,” but Jimmy Kimmel still wanted to help Quasi out. After all, being named “World’s Ugliest” anything isn’t exactly the highest praise.

So Kimmel, with the help of celebrity stylist Carson Kressley, gave Quasi a full makeover, complete with a new hairdo and outfit to create a look that Kimmel describes as “a cross between Honey Boo Boo and a hooker.”

And even if the look may be a little too high-maintenance for Quasi Modo’s owners to keep up, at least the dog got to feel like a “regular Elle Macpherson” for a day.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME celebrity

Vanessa Bayer’s Friends Impressions Will Leave You Missing Rachel Green

“The One Where Vanessa Bayer is Everyone”

Marta Kauffman may have crushed our dreams of a Friends reunion, but we got a new episode anyway: “The One Where Vanessa Bayer is Everyone.”

The Saturday Night Live cast member stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday to show off her complete repertoire of Friends character impressions. Asking Kimmel to imagine that he’d visited the gang’s apartment to hang out with Ross, Bayer riffed on how exclusive the six friends really were. She even made time for an awkward moment with Chandler. (Don’t forget, he makes jokes when he’s uncomfortable.)

Check out Bayer’s full performance, complete with an especially dead-on Rachel Green impression, below.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME Television

See What Professor Snape Sounds Like After Inhaling Helium

Alan Rickman on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' on June 17, 2015.
Douglas Gorenstein—NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Alan Rickman on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' on June 17, 2015.

It'll change your entire perception of Defense Against the Dark Arts

Professor Snape, a.k.a. Alan Rickman, struck fear in the hearts of Hogwarts’ students in the Harry Potter films, but there’s nothing more magical than hearing Rickman’s voice influenced by several mouthfuls of helium.

Back in 2013, Jimmy Fallon and Benedict Cumberbatch did their very best impressions of the actor during what they called a “Rickman-Off.” So, when Rickman himself appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show on Wednesday night, he was ready to confront Fallon – armed with two “truth-telling” helium-filled balloons.

“This is really like a James Bond show, this really is,” Fallon said. “I’m very sorry you were offended, I’m very sorry. And welcome to the show.”

The two laughed their way through the remainder of the interview, with Fallon finally getting the actor to say “Harry Potter” after he’d taken a few puffs from his helium balloon.

Watch the full interview below.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME Television

Watch Black Simon and Garfunkel Cover Taylor Swift on The Tonight Show

The duo did bring their black turtleneck

Black Simon and Garfunkel appeared on last night’s Tonight Show for their latest folkie cover of a pop hit. This time the parody duo—aka The Roots’ Questlove and “Captain” Kirk Douglas—brought their black turtleneck comedy to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” complete with choreographed head turns and a coda of the “lai-la-lai” from the real Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” All in an evening’s work for the two members of the Roots, who have performed hits like “Royals” and “Roar” since Fallon’s Late Night days.

Check out the clip below.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Television

Meet Jon Batiste, Bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

2014 Lollapalooza - Day 2
Tim Mosenfelder—Getty Images Jon Batiste poses at 2014 Lollapalooza at Grant Park on Aug. 2, 2014 in Chicago.

The Louisiana-born musician will join Stephen Colbert when the revamped Late Show debuts in September

It’s official: Stephen Colbert has asked for Louisiana bandleader Jon Batiste’s “band in marriage.” The future Late Show host traveled to New Orleans to court the Julliard-trained multi-instrumentalist for the coveted role. While Colbert succeeds David Letterman, Batiste succeeds Paul Shaffer, who served as Letterman’s bandleader for more than 30 years.

He might not yet be a household name, but the 28-year-old Batiste boasts an impressive resume. Born into the New Orleans jazz family featured on the HBO series Treme, Batiste grew up immersed in music, playing percussion from a young age before focusing on piano. He began performing at age 8 and released two albums by 17. Since receiving both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Julliard, he has performed in more than 40 countries, counting Prince, Lenny Kravitz and Wynton Marsalis among his collaborators.

Though his primary gig may be music, Batiste has also dabbled in acting, appearing in Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer (2012) and playing himself on Treme. Currently based in New York City, Batiste also serves as Artistic Director at Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, finding new audiences for the museum and performing outreach in schools and communities.

Batiste comes as part of a package deal: While he will be the bandleader, he’ll be backed by his current band, which includes a saxophonist and a percussionist, as well as a tubist. Known together as Jon Batiste and Stay Human, the band formed shortly after Batiste graduated from Julliard.

Together with Stay Human, Batiste has developed a method of performing he calls “social music.” During shows, the band often brings audience members onstage or turns the performance into an impromptu street parade. “We call those moments love riots,” Batiste explains on his website, “because the energy is so kinetic and big. It’s people coming together who don’t know each other, and it’s so beautiful.” Social Music is also the name of the band’s 2013 album, which reached the top spot on Billboard’s jazz charts.

Though it’s still early to speculate on what the partnership between Colbert and Batiste will look like, it seems safe to bet on at least one defining characteristic: mobility. Whether during a “love riot” or just performing his music onstage, Batiste is an incredibly vibrant, mobile performer, and it won’t come as a surprise if he chooses not to stay confined to one corner of Colbert’s set.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert debuts Sept. 8. May it be a long and happy marriage of music and comedy.

Watch Jon Baptiste and Stay Human perform “Express Yourself” on the Colbert Report in 2014:

Watch Jon Baptiste and Stay Human perform at the Festival Internacional de Jazz de San Javier in Spain in 2013:

TIME Television

Watch David Letterman’s Final Top 10 List

He got by with a little help from his friends

Rather than delivering it himself, David Letterman retired early from Top 10 duty. On his final episode Wednesday night, Letterman invited friends and frequent Late Show guests to do the job for him. They also happened to pay him tribute—the category was “Top 10 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Say to Dave”—although the lines were more roast than toast. In fact, they were all (lovingly delivered) burns.

Here’s the full list:

10. Alec Baldwin: “Of all the talk shows, yours is most geographically convenient to my home.”

9. Barbara Walters: “Did you know that you wear the same cologne as Muammar Qaddafi?”

8. Steve Martin: “Your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity and a mistake.”

7. Jerry Seinfeld: “I have no idea what I’ll do when you go off the air … You know, I just thought of something. I’ll be fine.”

6. Jim Carrey: “Honestly, Dave, I’ve always found you to be a bit of an over-actor.”

5. Chris Rock: “I’m just glad your show is being given to another white guy.”

4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus: “Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.”

3. Peyton Manning: “You are to comedy what I am to comedy.”

2. Tina Fey: “Thanks for finally proving men can be funny.”

1. Bill Murray: “I’ll never have the money I owe you.”

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