Steven Colbert is surrounded by MPACT staff and volunteers.
MONROE, Mich. — To date, 3.5 million YouTube viewers have watched Stephen Colbert’s guest host appearance on Michigan public access TV. The impending host of CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” — he doesn’t start until September 8, 2015 — turned up unannounced on Monroe Public Access Cable Television (MPACT) on July 1, 2015.
“Welcome to another edition of ‘Only in Monroe,’” Colbert said after watering a plant on “Only in Monroe’s” three-camera interview set. “I’m Stephen Colbert, filling in for your usual hosts Michelle Bowman and Kaye Lani Rae Rafko.”
During his amiable 41-minute appearance, “Only in Monroe’s” usual hosts joined Colbert to do their nails on camera, followed by a Monroe News segment about La-Z-Boy moving its headquarters to Monroe.
“As is tradition with all things La-Z-Boy, the company’s old headquarters will be dragged to the curb for anyone who wants to pick it up,” Colbert deadpanned. He then interviewed rapper Eminem—“a local Michigander who is making a name for himself in the competitive world of music,” said Colbert. “Please welcome Marshall Mathers.”
Colbert then persuaded the equally-deadpan rapper to sing Bob Seger songs.
Publicly, Stephen Colbert and his “Late Show” production staff portrayed his appearance on MPACT as a typical unplanned Colbert-esque whim. This message was is reflected in CBS’ own media release: “The once-in-a-lifetime television event was recorded under what experts have called ‘unnecessary secrecy,’ without so much as a heads-up to Colbert’s very capable public-relations staff,” complained purported CBS PR contact Alberto Rèalnamè. “‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ premieres on September 8th on CBS, unless that date has changed, but nobody tells me anything anymore.”
In reality, Colbert’s appearance on MPACT was very much a planned event.
“From what I can surmise, they chose our PEG channel because we have a good web site (mpactstudio.org) and high presence on YouTube,” said Milward Beaudry, MPACT’s executive director. “Whatever the reason, his people contacted us to ask if we’d be open to having him host a show on MPACT, and we said yes.”
Colbert’s staff were very careful to research life in Monroe, Mich., (population 21,000), and to properly brief the former host of the Comedy Channel’s “Colbert Report” before he appeared on MPACT.
“They certainly got all of their ducks in a row,” said Beaudry. “Colbert and his staff are very professional and very nice, easy-going people as well.”
When it came time to record “Only in Monroe,” Colbert used MPACT’s actual production staff to shoot and switch the program.
“Although there were 11 people who came from CBS, they left it to us to produce the show,” Beaudry said.
For MPACT's interns and staffmembers, working with the famous comedian was tremendous fun; especially because, “Colbert and his people were professional and easy-going,” Beaudry said.
Steven Colbert’s appearance on MPACT generated positive press in the world media.
“No music. No studio audience. Pure genius,” said the Huffington Post web site, putting the star back into the public spotlight as he waits to take over “Late Show.”
The appearance “also generated a lot of attention for MPACT,” said Beaudry. “It’s been great for us, and great for promoting PEG channels in general.”