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Not My Job: Our Guest Canceled, So We Called Our Backup, Stephen Colbert



When the pandemic started, we did what a lot of people did - we reached out to old friends to see how they were doing.

BILL KURTIS: We found Stephen Colbert at home and outside, by the firepit. And one of the reasons we like him so much is that he says such nice things about us.


STEPHEN COLBERT: What an honor.

SAGAL: It's a...

S COLBERT: I'm your Regis Philbin.

SAGAL: You are. You're like...


SAGAL: Or I like to think when the old "Carol Burnett Show" announced a family show, just the regular cast was like - couldn't get a guest, huh? So you're part of our family, then, Stephen.

S COLBERT: I am sincerely honored that you thought of me. I absolutely love your show. And I - you know, there are a few things that I know I can - I hope to listen to give me some sense of stability, and you guys have been a staple of my life. I'm so happy to be here.

SAGAL: I have to ask just because we're all sort of going through the same thing. How are you doing? How's sheltering in place going for the Colbert family?

S COLBERT: Well, I imagine it's like what it's like for other people. It's - you know, it's anxious. But there's just a sort of a sense of anticipation. And I'm eating a lot of old meat.

SAGAL: (Laughter) How old, Stephen? We worry.


S COLBERT: I - you know, right before you called, I was grilling a piece of steak that I think was 2 1/2 years old because my wife became a vegan about 2 1/2 years ago. And right before she became a vegan, she bought a lot of steak.

SAGAL: Yeah.


S COLBERT: And the first thing you do when something like this happens - you go, and you start defrosting things. So we've been defrosting and eating 2-1/2-year-old meat.

SAGAL: You, of course, have been one of my mainstays - your show "Late Night With Stephen Colbert" (ph). But you, like everybody else, had to shut down. You did do, like, one or two episodes without an audience, right?

S COLBERT: We did one episode without an audience in the Ed Sullivan...

SAGAL: Yeah.

S COLBERT: ...Because we were ready to do a show. And then the governor decided that no groups of 500 or more - and that's about what my audience plus my staff is.

SAGAL: Right.

S COLBERT: And then this week, we did three shows, three monologues, whatever you want to call them, at my house.

SAGAL: Yeah. Do you...

S COLBERT: I shot it with an iPad and then emailed the files to my producers, who filled in all the graphics and all the footage.

SAGAL: Yeah, you haven't seen them, by the way, everybody listening, you can find them. They're on YouTube on the "Late Night With Stephen Colbert" channel. They're amazing. You did one from your bathtub in a suit...


SAGAL: ...With bubble bath...


SAGAL: ...One from your back deck fire...

S COLBERT: No pants, though.

SAGAL: Really?

S COLBERT: No pants. Why would you wear pants if you don't have to go in to work?

SAGAL: Actually, just speaking as a radio guy, you're living the dream. And you filmed them yourself? It was just you. You set up your iPad, and you...

S COLBERT: Yes, my son...

POUNDSTONE: Well, who else wanted to be in the bathroom with him?

S COLBERT: My wife operated the prompter because we have a little prompter program on the iPad. She would basically start the prompter program, so I could start talking in the bathtub.

MAZ JOBRANI: Stephen, this is...

S COLBERT: And then my two sons operated the machine on the next couple of days.

SAGAL: Well, it's nice to have them around.

S COLBERT: So I'm not entirely alone, but, you know, it's not the usual situation.

POUNDSTONE: You will be if you keep getting in the tub with no pants on like that, inviting people in. You'll be alone, mister.

SAGAL: Wait a minute. Paula, do you wear pants when you get into the bathtub?

POUNDSTONE: I don't get into the bathtub. I shower fully clothed.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

POUNDSTONE: It's just - you know what, Peter, Stephen? Can we go back to the prompter thing? Your wife has a prompter.


POUNDSTONE: Can you not spontaneously talk nicely to her? You have a prompter.

S COLBERT: Listen. We're happily married for 25 years. I recommend giving your wife a prompter.


S COLBERT: The first line of every script is, I'm sorry.


POUNDSTONE: By the way, Stephen, this is an important thing I have to tell you. I was supposed to do your show at the end of April. I'm not going to be there.

S COLBERT: Yes. Why?


POUNDSTONE: Because I am not going into that bathroom with you in the tub, naked with no pants on. I'm not going to do it.

SAGAL: We have - I have one last question. I just wanted to ask...


SAGAL: ...If there's, like, a joke you would like to tell since you're not doing your show.

S COLBERT: I'll tell you one of my favorite jokes. This is a joke that my daughter came up with when she was 3.

SAGAL: OK. Go ahead.

S COLBERT: What does the dog say?

SAGAL: The dog says ruff ruff.

S COLBERT: Exactly right. What does the cow say?


S COLBERT: No, the cow says ruff ruff.

SAGAL: Why does the cow say ruff ruff, Stephen?

S COLBERT: There's a dog in its mouth.


SAGAL: A round of applause for your daughter at the age of 3.


JOBRANI: That would be the best joke of the week on this show.

SAGAL: It probably is.

S COLBERT: That's a quality joke.

JOBRANI: (Laughter).

SAGAL: You're reduced to telling your children's jokes. Well, Stephen Colbert, as we have said, we had another guest lined up, so we're just going to ask you the quiz we came up for this person. We can't say who it was, so I'm sorry. But you just get - I guess here are the leftovers. It's a game we're calling...

KURTIS: The Sneaker of the House.

SAGAL: Yes. This was a great idea for our original guest. We're going to ask you three questions about sneakers of the house - that is, burglars. Answer three questions about some notable robberies, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone they may choose on their voicemail. Bill, who is he...

S COLBERT: Let me get this straight.


S COLBERT: So this quiz was for the person who was supposed to be here who you cannot reveal.

SAGAL: Right. We were - we just didn't want to embarrass this person by saying that they backed out on us. I can't imagine what they had to do that was more important than being on our show.

POUNDSTONE: It was sudden.


JOBRANI: Name rhymes with Pancy Nelosi (ph).

SAGAL: All right. You're ready. Here we go. So, Bill, who is Stephen Colbert playing for?

KURTIS: Kerry King (ph) of Providence, R.I.

SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this?

S COLBERT: One hundred percent.

SAGAL: All right. First question. An Ohio man was arrested for trying to rob his own mother's house. But he explained to the police that he couldn't possibly be guilty of burglary. Why? A, because if stealing from your mom was illegal, every baby who breastfed would be a criminal; B, because he tried to rob the house in the daytime, and you can only commit burglary at night; or, C, because he had a note allowing him to take whatever he wanted, signed my mom.

S COLBERT: Those are all really good excuses.

SAGAL: They are.


S COLBERT: They're all - they would all hold up in court. I'll go with A.

SAGAL: You're going to go with A, if stealing from your mom was illegal, every baby who breastfed would be a criminal. I'm afraid it was B. He said he was robbing a house in the daytime, and that can't be burglary.

All right. Next question - you still have two chances, Stephen. A man trying to steal a refrigerator from a Washington home was arrested when he made what mistake? A, he didn't realize the car in the driveway was not his getaway driver but was instead a police officer who had pulled in to turn around; B, he forgot to unplug it, so he ended up tripping, and it fell on top of him, pinning him down until the owner came home; C, he forgot to take 60 pounds of ice out of it, resulting in an immobilizing hernia.

S COLBERT: The first one, the cop one.

SAGAL: You're right, Stephen.


SAGAL: That's exactly what happened. He walked out with what was a small refrigerator, saw a car and the driver, said, oh, my ride's here, got in. And the police officer said hello.

All right. Last question - criminals were dumb even back in the olden days of 2009. How did the authorities track down burglar Jonathan Parker in Pennsylvania? A, well, he signed the guest book they'd put out by the front door; B, he had told his friends that if they needed him, he'd be over at this particular house robbing it; or, C, before leaving the house he robbed, he logged onto his Facebook account on the owner's computer and forgot to log out.

S COLBERT: I would say C.

SAGAL: You're going to say C.

S COLBERT: Or the third one. I don't know what...

SAGAL: Yeah, C, the third one. Yes. That's exactly right, Stephen.


SAGAL: He logged onto Facebook because he just had to see his news feed.


SAGAL: Maybe he's was - like, typed in his status - hey, I'm robbing somebody. And he left it online, so they caught him. Bill, how did Stephen Colbert do on our quiz?

KURTIS: You know, Stephen won. We don't let friends go away empty. And he won. He won.

SAGAL: Congratulations, Stephen.

POUNDSTONE: Peter, that - Stephen...

S COLBERT: I'm bragging to my family. I won the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME quiz.


JOBRANI: That's awesome.

SAGAL: Oh, the - finally, you got some applause this week.

S COLBERT: My family right here.

LUKE BURBANK: We are playing for a live crowd after all. This is great.

S COLBERT: Yes. Daughter of mine.


S COLBERT: I told your cow joke on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

M COLBERT: Oh, yeah. It never ends.

SAGAL: Would she like to tell that joke or any other joke on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME?

S COLBERT: Would anyone here like to tell a joke on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME? You have a joke at your fingertips? Now my wife is leaving the room. She doesn't want to tell a joke.

POUNDSTONE: She's going out to punctuate.

SAGAL: Stephen Colbert is the host of "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" and a dear friend of ours.

Stephen Colbert, thank you so much for joining us again on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


POUNDSTONE: Bye, Stephen.

S COLBERT: And thank you so much for doing your show. I will be listening. God bless you all. Stay safe, everybody.

SAGAL: We shall. You, too.

POUNDSTONE: Bye. Thanks, Stephen.

KURTIS: See you later. Thank you.



SAGAL: When we come back, Bill helps you with things you don't need any help with, and Samin Nosrat tries to figure out how to improve our taste. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.