Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Colbert bringing jokes and skaters with him

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NEW YORK -- Like many of the athletes vying for gold in Vancouver, Stephen Colbert's Olympic training has been eventful.

He has already auditioned for the U.S. bobsled, speedskating and curling teams. He has angered a sizable portion of Canada. And he has landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated's Olympic preview.

Now, he's preparing for the big event. While The Colbert Report is in repeats next week, the comedian will be in Vancouver for the first week of the Olympics. He'll be there recording a wealth of material for his show (to air beginning Feb. 22), attending events, conducting interviews and doing a kind of half-show from a stage set up outside the Olympic centre.

"We'll bring snow because I don't think Vancouver has any," he said in an interview, taking a swipe at the city's sometimes watery precipitation.

When the U.S. speedskating team lost its primary sponsor last fall (the Dutch bank DSB went bankrupt), the Report stepped in with a novel idea. The show's ardent fans had previously raised sizable amounts of money for charity, and the show suggested that the Colbert Nation could sponsor the skaters.

Fan donations filled the shortfall by raising more than $300,000. "Colbert Nation" is branded on the team's suits and Colbert has had an active relationship with the squad.

The team has largely responded with gratitude. On his Comedy Central show, Colbert autographed the leg of speedskater Katherine Reutter, on her request. Robert Crowley, executive director of U.S. Speedskating, says Colbert has brought "great attention to our sport." Apolo Anton Ohno has also applauded Colbert's humour.

"Our country is kind of in need of some humour right now, and it's all for a good cause," Ohno said.

But many Canadians have been put off by Colbert's frequent mockery. As a pseudo pundit, Colbert likes to elevate the U.S. above all other countries, making the Olympics prime fodder for parodic patriotism.

He has called Canadians "syrup-suckers," "Saskatche-whiners," and said Canadian history is a euphemism for a sex act so depraved, he can't say it on TV.

 

-- The Associated Press

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2010 C5

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