Making a debut appearance on national television


The famous television host and comedian, Stephen Colbert, was looking deep into my eyes. His face was filled with loss and desperation. Everything felt very surreal, and all I could do was bite my bottom lip, forcing myself to keep a straight face. Was this a dream? What had I done to put that look on his face?

Two weeks before, I was walking a box of mail to the Viacom headquarters in Times Square. Because Stephen is so funny and Americans are so stupid, we have to get the mail scanned to make sure no one is poisoning him. Unfortunately, some people haven't full grasped the concept of satire.

I have always offered to do anything at anytime at "The Colbert Report" since I started my internship there on Jan. 3. I have traveled to Chinatown on a desperate search for slugs and snails that lasted three hours. I came in at 5:30 a.m. one Friday morning to work as a production assistant for the Stephen-Colbert-chases-Jon-Stewart-through-New-York film shoot, otherwise known as "The Super Pac Chase" (available for your viewing pleasure online at! No, Viacom didn't pay me to say that…But they did for staring into Stephen's eyes. More on that later).

On this particular afternoon, a bird had already dropped his own unique poop substance on me. It wasn't just your standard white poo, this stuff had some brown stuff and Case-of-the-Mondays mixed in. Immediately following said incident, a taxi cab driver/rabid werewolf-man (possibly a man-bear-pig) decided to drive incredibly close to the curb and doused me in rain water.

I was having a great day (hey, satire!).

After gritting my teeth and getting through that afternoon, my mood eventually went up. In New York, I genuinely am beginning to believe in karma. I really feel that doing good things even when no one is around will eventually be rewarded (I think I read that in the Bible once. Or "Boy's Life." One of the two). As soon as I returned to the studio, Jerry was serving up his newest ice cream flavor. Yeah, that Jerry. This, to me, felt like something of a sign. Well, my stomach felt good about it, anyways.

Two weeks later, after returning with, like, 40 pounds of meat for some kind of skit for Tuesday night's show, I was told to go upstairs and talk to the "talent" people. Usually, talking to them means I need to go get coffee for Drew Barrymore's really short, hipster boyfriend or hand-squeezed lemon juice for Bjork's consumption…or maybe for that ginger cat that now lives on her head. But that's not what happened!

"Hey Dave, we might have you on the show tonight. As you know, it will probably get cut, but we're going to have you sign some papers and come to rehearsal. Also, maybe put some makeup on that scratch on your nose." I walked away, subconsciously rubbing the gigantic red spot on my nose, trying to convince myself that this part — whatever it is — will be cut.

As I walked to rehearsal I was suddenly reminded by the decorations and tables of champagne this is the 1000th episode. Crap. Not muddy bird crap. Anxiety crap. 

No, I didn't crap. Instead, I grabbed some champagne and downed it to take the edge off. I can say that now because I'm 21. For all you under 21's, champagne is fancy alcohol. I bet you didn't know that! Satire's fun!

We didn't actually rehearse my part. Instead (and I'm not sure how much I can say about the actual production because I signed some confidentiality agreement my first day that I didn't read…so I'll sum it up), Stephen gave an incredibly emotional speech ending with the poem, "Ulysses." Man, can he recite poetry, in a powerful Heithaus-y way. If you haven't picked up on this, Stephen Colbert is a brilliant man. Who else could develop a satirical character and manage to make people want to watch him every day? Convincing hundreds of people to succumb to interviews at their own expense? Towards the end, he succumbed to his own emotions and brought his entire devoted staff of seven years into tears.

So, obviously, I became 1000 times more anxious. A few hours later, the show was about to air and there was still no word on what I was doing exactly and if it would happen. Suddenly, Stephen approached me.

"O.K., Dave." My heart fluttered. Er, I mean, him saying my name was cool.

"You're just going to stand really close to me when I call you over, like my shadow. Ask him if he has internships, then if they're paid. If he says ‘yes.' Just go stand by him."

Quick sidenote: The guest star was a big supporter of paid internships. He rightfully believes that students are getting scammed with unpaid internships. Not only do we not get paid, but we actually are paying for tuition simultaneously. Ultimately, it's like paying to come to work. It can be like getting pooped on (sometimes literally). I think that the real Stephen Colbert totally agrees with Ross. Unfortunately, it's up to Viacom — not him. And to be honest, if I could afford it, I would pay to work at the Colbert Report for the rest of my life. 

So here I am, just, you know, casually talking to Stephen. I automatically begin laughing at the man's brilliance. "Oh, O.K." I manage to stutter out. He clearly sensed I was nervous. Immediately he stuck out his hand to shake mine and assured me, "This is going to be great!"

And it was. It was awesome! Ross Eisenbrey (who is a great sport) immediately took the bait. For a good laugh, watch before I ask the question. I jump on stage and open and shut my mouth four times like a fish sucking in water. I had no idea when I was supposed to talk. It ended in me improving a sad stare into Stephen's eyes while he looked back into mine like he had just lost a puppy. 

So there I was, exactly two years after I made the decision to transfer to DePauw so I could be in the Media Fellows program and potentially work on the Colbert Report. Yes, kids, dreams do come true! Sometimes, you just have to get pooped on first. 

Ironically, the character "Dave the Unpaid Intern" was paid 300 dollars for having two lines. So, that should buy me maybe 4 glasses of champagne in Manhattan.

— Jorgenson is a junior from Shawnee, Kan., majoring in English writing and film studies. He is currently interning at "The Colbert Report" in New York.