The somewhat more real Stephen Colbert introduces himself to America by way of Monroe public access television

When it was first announced that David Letterman would be retiring and that Stephen Colbert would be leaving the satirical Colbert Report to take his place at the helm of the Late Show on CBS, a lot of people, myself included, wondered how he would navigate the transition from fictional conservative pundit to something more resembling himself… how he’d convince the fans he’d made portraying a pompous, Bill O’Reilley-esque caricature of a Fox News pundit to follow him to a venue where they, perhaps for the first time ever, would be hearing him speak in his own voice. And, I guess, we found out the answer… or at least part of the answer… last night on Monroe, Michigan’s public access station, MPACT.

Here’s what the people of Monroe saw at midnight… and it was brilliant.

When I say that it was brilliant, by the way, I don’t mean that it was hilariously funny. It wasn’t. But I don’t think that was the point.

Colbert’s episode of “Only in Monroe” showed heart. And it did so while being cleverly subversive, which isn’t all that easy of a thing to do. And, most importantly of all, it gave Colbert an opportunity to let people see a little more of himself, even though, to a great extent, he was still hiding behind a character… And, from the perspective of a person who works in marketing and communications, I think it was an incredibly smart move.

Not only did Colbert show a bit more of his true self in hosting “Only in Monroe,” but he also kind of picked up the Letterman mantle by repositioning himself as an industry outsider looking to explore the boundaries of the medium.

When Letterman first came onto the late night scene, he did so as an outsider. He portrayed himself as a young guy who, through some freak occurrence, had found himself with access to studio, and intended to have as much fun as possible before the powers-that-be found out and pulled the plug. It was a huge breath of fresh air. And, judging from what I’m seeing here, I think Colbert is trying to tap into that same spirit.

As it turns out, a friend of mine grew up in Monroe and knows people at the station. So, as soon as news broke this morning, I began to hear the details. Colbert’s team, it would seem, had gotten in touch with folks at the station a week or so ago, saying that they’d picked Monroe at random and Colbert wanted to come in and host an episode of “Only in Monroe.” So, on Monday, Colbert, “a team of 10 or 11 writers,” and their crew, rolled into Monroe and got to work. [Word is that the writers were Colbert Report alumni who would now be moving with him to the new Late Night show.] Working with MPACT staff and volunteers, they shot 4 hours on Monday, another 8 yesterday, and last night at midnight the program went live on the local station.

Here’s the MPACT staff along with Colbert, who one of the camera operators described online as being “personable, gracious, (and) down-to-earth.”

colbertmonroe

While they knew that Colbert was going to be in the studio, it was apparently a complete surprise that Eminem would be joining him. “He rolled up with an entourage of six bouncer types,” I was told, “and did a ton of material with Colbert that got cut, including a riff where Colbert told Mathers he could probably get him a guest spot on a CBS cop show, and that he’d make a great dead body.” [If you just want to see the segment with Eminem, who Colbert introduced as a “local Michigander who is making a name for himself in the competitive world of music,” click here.]

I could go on, but I need to drive to Monroe now. Apparently there’s a giant check with my name on it… Apparently I’m being rewarded for my Yelp review of Jerry’s Frenchtown Bar and Grill, wherever that is.

Screen shot 2015-07-01 at 9.25.55 PM

[And, yes, it’s been mentioned to me that this edition of “Only in Monroe” is somewhat reminiscent of the Saturday Six Pack. I think that’s a compliment, but I’m not sure. It also makes me wonder what I might be capable of with a staff of 10 or 11 writers.]

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16 Comments

  1. K2
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    It’s courageous to do something like this without an audience or a laugh track.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Where will he show up next?

  3. Lynne
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I loved it! It totally worked too. I can’t wait for him to start hosting his late night show. Anyways, that interview with Eminem was a freaking work of art, imho.

  4. XXX
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    What is Eminem going to do if the music thing doesn’t work out?

  5. Jim
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I can attest to the fact that Mark Maynard is both a cheap son of a bitch and an O’Doul’s drinker, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he went to Yelp a decade after the incident if he was overcharged at Jerry’s Frenchtown Bar and Grill.

  6. Unsolicited Advice
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I know that you’re only claiming to be the Mark M mentioned by Colbert because you want the $4.75. It’s a nice short con with a big payoff. What you may not be considering, however, is the hunger for retribution that has consumed the owners and staff of Jerry’s Frenchtown Bar and Grill for the past many years, and I would hate to see you rack up medical bills in excess of your $4.75 take. If I were you, I’d stay far away from Monroe.

  7. Posted July 2, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    This whole thing is probably a trap to flush out Mark M. The minute he steps into the MPACT offices to claim the check, the Jerry’s crew is going to jump him. I just know it.

  8. Posted July 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Colbert comes from a huge family. I wouldn’t doubt it if one of them owned Jerry’s.

  9. Posted July 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    This is all beginning to make more sense to me know.

  10. Catherine D
    Posted July 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Love, love, love Stephen Colbert, no matter what persona he’s in. One of the most brilliant comedians and social critics of our era. If he had done nothing but the WH Correspondents’ Dinner, that would be enough. But of course he’s done much more–with more to come.

  11. Posted July 2, 2015 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    omg… was that really you that did the Yelp review? I watched that part of Colbert’s show and as soon as it said “Mark M.” I was totally wondering if that was you! lol! i didn’t know you to be an O’Douls drinker from what I have heard you were drinking on the radio show, so I had nearly ruled you out as the cheap yelper. ha ha!

  12. Posted July 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    marshall and stephen should all come to ypsilanti next, for a big taste of the real cool world (that doesn’t smell like E. Coli).

  13. Posted July 2, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    No, it wasn’t really me. I just wanted the check.

  14. Posted July 2, 2015 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    My Facebook conversation with a member of the MPACT staff about picking up my check.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 3.44.24 PM

  15. Posted July 2, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    It turns out that the voice in the PSA that plays during “Only in Monroe” belongs to our friend Patrick Dunn. Small world.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 3.42.47 PM

  16. Posted July 2, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    lmfao…. i would have believed it was you, though! ha ha
    Or maybe it is you, and you just don’t want to admit you were not drinking ODouls one night and decided to rag on Jerry’s Steakhouse for a way-too-expensive burger you got 18 years ago. ha ha! This is hilarious.

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