That Time I Made Stephen Colbert Laugh

By September 16, 2013BIG IDEAS

I remembered this story as I was finishing a site for Charles de Montebello, owner of CDM Sound Studios – a beautiful recording studio in NYC. I was adding an audio reel of Stephen Colbert reading I am America, and So Can You to the site, and the memory flooded my mind and made me laugh.

It all started when we won the Webby award for best site in education for The Earth Institute at Columbia University in 2008. Arif Noori, my Columbia web partner, and I were planning on attending the gala and were told via formal letter that we would be giving a speech.

Webby acceptance speeches are 5 words…

Do you know how hard it is to be that concise?

We racked our brains: What would we say? This is a massive institution doing amazing global work. Should we talk about sustainable development? Climate change? It must be fun! It must be good!

All of our ideas sucked. We couldn’t think of anything, and none of the speeches we’d heard up until I got up to receive the award on behalf of the team were of any help. We weren’t going to cause a scene, go over our limit or bore people to death. All of this had already been done.

And then it came to me. As I walked to the side-stage to await our name, it came to me.

Nervous and clearing 6 feet in my white heels, I stood in the shadows until I heard Seth Myers’ playful drone: “The Earth Institute, for the BEST SITE IN EDUCATION!”

I walked, surprisingly calmly to the front and reached our big-grinned host. Taking the heavy spiral statue and mic in my hands, I saw the sea of people before me. We were in an absolutely stunning space – 55 Wall St. – now considered to be one of the most beautiful ballrooms in the world. I paused a moment, then very slowly said: “I cheated through high-school.”

We were not the first award, nor certainly the last. The room had been getting weary. I wanted to get it all over with;  I had no idea what I was saying or why I was saying this, but as soon as the words left my mouth, the room began to rumble.

Of course this all happened in slow-motion in my head. It took centuries, but as I looked about, every face in this beautiful sea was laughing. It was loud. They were laughing at my dumb 5 word speech about an Ivy league institution I was working for, studied in and about to drop out of.

I could have died there and then and been happy, but then I saw Stephen Colbert in the middle of room just ahead, in the same slow motion that everything else was happening in. I saw him throw his head back, mouth wide and laugh. Laugh hard.

I just stood there some more. Seth stared at me startled. “Umm. Ok.”

I smiled at him, handed the statue back (we would get our own in the mail), the room quieting down.

“Well, maybe not the best advice for future generations.” he said.

“Yes it is!” Someone yelled, and the room rumbled with laughter once again.

I walked off the stage and managed not to trip down the stupid, slippery, shiny stairs that lit up. I got myself back to our table, grabbed a hard-ball glass I wasn’t sure was mine and threw it back. It was pure vodka; not my glass. But I felt better. Time came back to normal. I stared at Arif who was laughing and patting me on the back. I settled into my chair.

So when I was listening through the reels Charles sent me, genuinely impressed with the talent he’s worked with (and when I say humble, I had to fight him to post logos of companies he’s worked with to the site), I remembered this story and how things come full circle oftentimes.

This may be a funny way of introducing another site to the IGK family, but not only did CDM record Stephen and tons of other amazing folks, the space is really homey and wonderful (I recorded parts of The Epic Brand there).

I genuinely like Charles and know a hard worker when I see one, so come by and check out the CDM studios site, and if you’re in NYC and need to record something, do it here. You’ll love it.

PS. I didn’t really cheat through high school. (That’s half true.)

You are loved.

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