Stephen Colbert was in the middle of recounting the story of his water fight with Richard Branson when — suddenly — he leaped from his seat to look out the window of the 20th-floor hotel room.
"Ohhhhh, I love this," Colbert said, pointing off in the distance at the glimmering water of Coal Harbor. "See that pontoon plane out there coming in for a landing? That's really exciting. I feel like a 5-year-old boy. You see pictures of them, but when do you get to see one?"
For Colbert, those planes landing in the harbor were like his own personal closing ceremony for these Winter Olympics. He was packing up and getting ready to head to the airport for an evening flight back to New York.
For his Nation, though, the fun is just beginning.
Next week, the cult-like following of "The Colbert Report" will get to see the results of his whirlwind tour of the Olympic city, which included regaling a rowdy crowd at the Ireland House with a James Joyce reading, getting into a fondue chugging contest with the Swiss and persuading NBC host Bob Costas to climb aboard a stuffed moose nicknamed "Ebersol" (in honor of the network's Olympic chief, Dick Ebersol).
Colbert, his tongue planted firmly in cheek, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that he'll be kicking off his "Vancouverage" starting Monday from a studio that looks strangely like one he might be occupying were he still in British Columbia.
Which, in the blurry line that Colbert always maintains between fact and fiction, is right where he'll be.
"I'm going to be broadcasting from the Colbert coverage chamber," he said. "The chamber is going to have a stone fireplace. It's going to have a beautiful view of the mountains out the windows. ... So, as you can see, I'll clearly be in Vancouver."
From New York, right?
"I can neither confirm nor deny that reality," quipped Colbert, dressed casually in a black sweater and blue jeans, a real change from the Brooks Brothers suits favored by his character of the same name, a dimwitted right-wing pundit.
During a 20-minute chat, he thanked the U.S. speedskating team for embracing his antics after he took over as sponsor of the program. In the lead-up to the Olympics, he got skating lessons from Tucker Fredricks, challenged Shani Davis to a match race (losing by more than 13 minutes) and autographed the thigh of Katherine Reutter.
"My character calls anyone who's been on the show a 'friend of the show,'" Colbert said. "But on a certain level, we're grateful to anyone who plays along with this, because a lot of people won't. They don't know what to make of the character."
Colbert persuaded his followers to contribute more than $300,000 to U.S. Speedskating after its main sponsor went bankrupt just before the start of the season. The donations more than made up for the lost revenue, and the comedian wound up with several months of comic fodder.
He arrived in Vancouver on Tuesday, a day later than scheduled because of flight issues, and hastily filmed enough material to get him through next week's four 30-minute shows.
‘Syrup suckers’ get the jokeFrom a stage constructed in a downtown park, he spent two mornings taping guest interviews with Costas, Canadian singer Michael Buble, 1980 hockey gold medalist Mike Eruzione and three members of this year's U.S. Olympic team: snowboardcross gold medalist Seth Wescott and freestyle skiers Jeret Peterson and Ryan St. Onge.
n Monday's show, golden girl Lindsey Vonn will appear via satellite hookup, though it's not clear why they'll need such an arrangement as Colbert (wink, wink) is going to still be in Vancouver.
Colbert said those outdoor interviews were the most memorable part of his experience, drawing thousands of screaming fans each day even though he'd sparked a feud (wink, wink) with Canadians by calling them "syrup suckers" and "Saskachewhiners."
"The Canadian people, God bless 'em," he said. "They get the joke."
Another highlight was his trip to the Ireland House, perhaps to see why a nation that has so little Winter Games heritage felt the need to have such a major presence in Vancouver.
"Have you been there? Brace yourself," Colbert said. "I had been there five minutes and this huge fight, a real donnybrook, broke out in front of the stage."
Once the brawl was snuffed out, he joined the band for a rendition of "Rocky Road to Dublin" and then surely brought the house down with a reading of Joyce's "Ulysses."
So, is there any chance of Colbert turning the Olympics into a regular part of his show? Perhaps. Maybe the archery team will need someone to buy their arrows for the 2012 London Games.
If not, perhaps he'll just wait until 2014 to break out his skintight suit for another Winter Olympics.
"As I said on one of the shows that will be airing next week, none of this would have been possible if speedskating, that team, hadn't trusted us," Colbert said. "We're very grateful and hope we have been helpful to them, because it's been a great joy for us and a privilege to be involved in any way. I'd do anything for them. I'd love to help them again in the future if we could."