Colbert wraps up his Olympics … well, sort of

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 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.

From 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.

On 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.”

On the Web:

The Colbert Report: www.colbertnation.com