Thousands turned out in a muddy field near Vancouver’s Science World (temporarily serving as the Sochi 2014 pavilion) this morning and yesterday, to witness tapings of his popular Colbert Report TV show.
And in keeping with his jingoistic persona, the jokes were mostly at the host country’s expense. Under bright sunny skies on a 10-degree morning, he riffed from a stage piled high with fake snow, a giant stuffed moose and a totem pole. “It’s 11:30 at night and the sun’s still shining — and they wonder why there’s no snow here,” he began.
Later at the Richmond Oval, Colbert showed up to cheer on U.S. favourite, and the runaway winner of the men’s 1000m, Shani Davis. Sitting in seats reserved for NBC (Colbert is accredited to do “color” commentary for them) and wearing a red team fleece, with “Assistant Sports Psychologist” emblazoned across the back, he was fairly reserved. (Although he did tape a segment for the show before things got underway, featuring him giving faux encouragement to his U.S. charges, and using one of their skates to cut a sandwich.) Still, when Davis did his victory lap, Colbert did clasp his own hands in triumph.
He does deserves a share. When the U.S. Speed Skating team’s major cash-sponsor, Dutch bank DSB went belly-up last fall, Colbert stepped in and launched a campaign that raised close to US $350,000 for the team.
He of course has been paid back. His “feud” with Davis (real or invented) was comedy gold. And harnessing the power of the Olympics has hardly hurt his ratings and profile.
In interviews Colbert, who was born in D.C., but grew up in South Carolina, claims that he is a speed skating fan from way back, first falling in love with the sport watching the great Eric Heiden win five individual golds in Lake Placid in 1980.
But is that as phony as his right-wing faux-Fox pundit schtick?
The comedian doesn’t leave town until tomorrow. But he was nowhere in sight at the Oval today as Canada’s Christine Nesbitt took the gold.
Maybe he only turns out when the Americans have a prohibitive favourite racing.