The Late, Great Stephen Colbert

GQ:

It was early July, about nine weeks before the debut of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and we were sitting in his temporary office above a BMW dealership on the far west side of Manhattan. He looked very tired, and he was apologizing (unnecessarily) for rambling on in a way that was maybe a little uncomfortably overemotional. “I didn’t leave the studio until 2 A.M. last night,” he said. “Didn’t get to bed until three, and I’ve been traveling and just got here—.”

He’d been up late doing a strange stunt the night before, stepping in unannounced as host of Only in Monroe, a local public-access program in Monroe, Michigan, about forty miles south of Detroit. There was all sorts of pressure on their first show, he said. “First show! First show! Well, f*** the first show. There’s going to be 202 this year—how do you do a first one? So I just wanted to go do a show someplace. And now we’ve done it.”

The idea was to do Only in Monroe more or less as it always is—same production values, same set and graphics and crew—just a ton more jokes. His first guests were the show’s regular hosts, Michelle Bowman and (former Miss America) Kaye Lani Rae Rafko Wilson. (Colbert on-air: “I’m not sure how many people that is.”) He did Monroe news and the Monroe calendar, and about twenty minutes in, he brought out his next guest, “a local Michigander who is making a name for himself in the competitive world of music, Marshall Mathers.”