Sometimes I like to write open letters to people or things that bring me joy in the pitiless world in which I inhabit. My new husband says I am dramatic and ‘over react’ but I just tell him to turn off the lights and leave me to wallow in my despair. This is one of these letters. Not the despair part. The Open Letter part.
Dear Mr. Colbert,
I had intended in crafting this perfect piece of prose prior to your public parting from The Colbert Report, but then it occurred to me that a) I really didn’t know what to say, and b) I hate alliterations so very much. So here we are, just over a month or so since your cultural phenomenon has ceased and desisted, and my world is a lonely, lonely place.
We were in Paris when your last episode aired, and I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it. It’s a bit like every time I get to the last season of Strangers With Candy or Alias where I think to myself “If I turn it off now I can preserve it forever in my memory as the glory it always was. But if I keep watching I have to acknowledge there was a distinct change to the show that makes me feel very uncomfortable and often comes back to me at inappropriate social moments.”
Basically what I’m getting at is that I’m just not ready, man. I’m not ready yet.
You see, Mr. Colbert, Stephen. Can I call you Stephen? I’m going to. It won’t make any difference. The thing is, Stephen, you have played an integral role in my upbringing and the person I have become. Now, this may seem like a bit of an impressive feat given we have never met and you have no idea who I am, but it’s true. My first introduction to you was actually as the character of Phil Ken Sebben and Reducto in Harvey Birdman on Adult Swim. Yet another one of my eldest brother’s impressive finds that might not have been wholly appropriate for me at the time (“Roll of quarters – wait, that’s not a roll of quarters.”) Not long after that I learned about the Report and started watching whenever I could (given it was on rather late and, as a Canadian, I always felt like there was a chance you would know I was watching and silently shame me through the screen. I know. I know. We have out own pundits to turn to. I’m sorry, but This Hour Has 22 Minutes has got nothing on The Colbert Report or The Daily Show.)
I was intrigued by your brand of comedy, given how sarcastic you were and how sarcastic I was told I was. You had a highly trained sense of timing. You knew how to insult while still being sincere. You knew how to get the laughs just by saying something contrary to the expectations of everyone around you, and you killed at it.
Then I learned about Strangers With Candy. Oh my gosh, Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and you. What a combo. Every time Sedaris or Dinello showed up on the Report I felt like I was part of some little secret. I knew how you folks had a long history working together. I loved Strangers With Candy and Wigfield. It was like watching the cool kids at school hang out and knowing you had a slight connection to them because you let Tommy the quarterback toss you into the dumpster after you did his homework that day. You were practically one of them. Of course, I’m just assuming that metaphor works. I wouldn’t know because as a Canadian my experience with the public education system was not a giant stereotype and the coolest kid I knew had some of the best Pogs.
I guess you could say I’m a fan of your work, which might be enough for a basic open letter, but given how much your hilarity through voice acting, satire, and sarcasm has influenced my life, I felt the need to expand on your influence just a bit more.
You see, Stephen. I’ve got chronic pain, and a rather natty spine that’s been through surgery not once, not twice, but five times. It’s really a bit of a shame because I’m sure I could have been an Olympic gymnast if I was ever actually interested in gymnastics or the Olympics. The point is now none of us will ever know. Potential, snuffed out.
So to make up for all the lack of physical activities I couldn’t do (pause for joke) I took to writing and humour, sometimes together, often apart. It’s almost true what they say, about laughter being the best medicine. I mean, it’s not like it’s going to cure that melanoma or get rid of that cyst, but dammit if finding humour in every day life situations won’t make it at least marginally better when the doc tells you that your lung is punctured and could you please blow into this tube one more time to test your lung capacity (Hint: Turn tube upside down and breathe in. You’ve just beaten the medical system again.)
I basically devoured everything you were associated with because a) I appreciated your ability to raise your eyebrow like no one else’s business, and b) your sense of humour spoke to me. There was something almost cheeky about the way you would cut down cocky politicians by pointing out blatant hipocracies.
During my numerous convalescences I would watch repeats of the Report at home. Maybe they weren’t actually that funny. Maybe it was just the percs they prescribed me. All I know is that by the time surgery three or four rolled around I wasn’t nearly as prone to succumbing to my teenage angst. I understood that through laughter I was feeling emotionally stronger, and that gave me the ability to look at my hospital strained oats and declare that nothing on god’s green earth would give me the strength to eat those oats, but if they had some drywall needing patching I certainly had the resources to help out.
I’m serious. Those strained oats were the worst.
But it didn’t just end there. As I learned to be more emotionally happy, I started to understand myself. It was as if my ability understand the value of laughter translated into my own ability to share that laughter with the ones around me. I’m not good at math, Stephen, and I can barely form a coherent sentence when talking (ironic, for a Communications Major), but dammit if I can’t make people laugh. I can also make a mean bacon-maple candy, but that’s probably more the Canadian in me than anything else.
I was sad when I heard the Report was ending because it meant three things. 1) I would never see the Report live; 2) I would never be interview on the Report after becoming a wildly successful author and/or space-pirate-marine; and 3) I would never get the chance to hand you my resume, shake your hand, and tell you that I wanted to write stuff that would make people laugh for the rest of my life. Still, I’m exceptionally happy that you’re taking over for Letterman, although it does mean my access to watching your program will be slightly inhibited by the fact that I don’t have cable and also am Canadian (which I am starting to view as a negative thing when it comes to accessing some of my favourite media. Don’t get me wrong, loving the ‘free’ health care. Wish I could see more TV.)
When I got married this summer I thought it would be hilarious to send you an invitation. I never expected a response, but lo’ and behold…
It was proudly displayed on our gift table, and even though most of our relations probably didn’t notice it, I was still tickled pink to see that little bit of Colbertmania present on the big day. To make matters even better, one of my professors gave us an autographed copy of I Am America (And So Can You!) as a gift. I say ‘we’ but the fact of the matter is that if I get divorced that book is coming with me. He can keep the kids or something. Whatever.
So thank you, Stephen Colbert, for teaching me the value of laughter and, dare I say, helping me navigate the rather murky waters of my own adolescence. I can’t imagine not loving to laugh, or having the rather… erm, questionable sense of humour I do now. If I hadn’t been inundated with your works I probably would have continued on being viciously snarky to those around me, acting as a rain cloud of misery instead of the clearly awesome ray of sunshine I so proudly am. Okay, okay. Not ray of sunshine. Maybe, like, I don’t know, a mildly cloudy day? +18? Whatever that is in American terms. -932 degrees or something, you Americans use weird scales.
The point is, Stephen, thank you. You fan base is obviously impressive, and will no doubt follow you in whatever you do, so one more comment about how balls-to-the-walls awesome you are is like a drop of water in the bucket. You really did help me become who I am today, and when I look around and see how blessed I am with a husband that loves me, and two cats that aren’t plotting my death, I realize that I’m even more lucky to be happy with me. Not enough people are, but you’ve taught us how to laugh at ourselves and each other, and that’s a gift we can never repay.
Kathleen Sawisky, esq.
PS: Was very pleased that whoever addressed that envelope to us remembered to put ‘esq’ at the end of my name. Mad props to that particular office assistant.