Better Know a Guest: March 5th – 8th, 2012

The Colbert Report Guest Line UpHi, Hubsters!

No, it’s not Colbchella 2 this week, but we do have two fabulous musical women visiting the ReporT. So, may we hope for a little Stephen singing? I certainly do.

One thing’s for sure: our favorite comedy team should have plenty of material to play with. Rush Limbaugh’s already supplied a whopper, with his nasty, evil little diatribe against college student and contraceptive activist Sandra Fluke. Then, there’s Super Tuesday. I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with.

So here’s our lineup!

Monday, 3/5: Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald“Bess, you is my woman now. You is. You is.” If the critics are any judge, Bess is certainly Audra McDonald’s woman now, because even though she doesn’t sing that song, she has claimed the character. Currently, the great Broadway singer and actress is appearing in a somewhat tweaked version of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, along with Norm Lewis as Porgy and David Alan Grier as Sporting Life. The stagers, including playwright Suzan Lori-Parks, aimed to rectify what they saw as Gershwin’s now-outdated stereotypes of black characters. In advance of the revised show’s premiere, controversy flared, sparked in particular by comments from friend of the show Stephen Sondheim, who objected to the proposed alterations. Whatever the dispute, the show is doing superbly on Broadway, and its run has just been extended.

McDonald began training at a young age, attending Roosevelt School of the Arts in Fresno, California and later studying at New York’s famed Julliard. In addition to her many stage appearances—which include roles in Carousel, Ragtime, and Master Class—for several years McDonald had a recurring role in the TV show Private Practice. She also regularly gives concerts, performing both classical and popular music, and has sung at Carnegie Hall and with the New York Philharmonic. Her achievements have been amply acknowledged: by the time she was 28 years old, she had racked up three Emmy® awards. McDonald then won a fourth for her non-singing part in Raisin in the Sun, which was recorded for ABC TV.

Like her page on Facebook—which has a link to buy tickets for Porgy and Bess!

She records for Nonesuch Records, and her artist’s page on their site has plenty of links and news—and you can buy her discs there, too.

Follow her on Twitter.

She and Porgy co-star Norm Lewis performed just this past week on The Rosie Show.

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times music critic, had quibbles with this version of Porgy, but said of McDonald: “The best thing about it is the wrenching, humane performance of Ms. McDonald as the tormented Bess. She sings with lustrous sound and utter vulnerability…”

Here’s a video of singing “My Man Gone Now” from Porgy and Bess. (But not the new show version; this is from a concert.)

Tuesday 3/6: Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer

(c) David Shankbone

The film based on his book didn’t nab an Oscar, but it was nominated. Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the bestselling Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as well as Everything Is Illuminated, which won countless awards: the Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian First Book Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize. He then shifted gears, with Eating Animals, which focused on Foer’s concerns as a first-time father-to-be on how to feed his future child properly. He himself had dabbled in vegetarianism at times in younger days, but his search for a good dietary plan ultimately turned into a philosophical examination of our eating habits and traditions, and how we justify them. Because he visited factory farms while researching the book, I imagine much of what he saw wasn’t pretty.

Being Jewish, I find Foer’s newest project incredibly fascinating: he and author Nathan Englander collaborated on The New American Haggadah, a reconceived version of the pamphlet read at every Passover Seder table. Englander translated, Foer edited, and other writers offered additional commentary. For those unfamiliar with the Haggadah, it recounts the story of the Exodus: the Jews’ escape from the Pharaoh and slavery in ancient Egypt. You know—Cecil B. De Mille, the parting of the Red Sea, and “We were slaves. God set us free. Now, let’s eat.” Although Foer is reportedly not terribly religious, his mother is a Holocaust survivor, so I imagine that, at the very least, Judaism has shaped his cultural identity. That said, one of the contributors helping to explicate the Haggadah is Lemony Snicket, so I imagine this isn’t your average Passover text.

While a student at Princeton, Foer studied writing with Joyce Carol Oates, who nurtured and encouraged him; she even served as his senior thesis adviser. He graduated with a degree in philosophy, began studying medicine, and then veered into his stellar literary career. Foer has taught at Yale, and now does so at New York University.

Why is this Haggadah different from all other Haggadahs? Foer discusses the book in The Washington Post.

Like him on Facebook.

Read this interview with him in New York Magazine UPDATE: SINCE THIS STOPPED WORKING AWFTER I POSTED IT: Here’s a link to Foer’s earlier Colbert Report appearance.

Here’s some shots of the new book on Flickr.

Foer was on NPR’s Fresh Air to talk about the The New American Haggadah.

Go to his page on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for links to buy several of his books and more information.


Wednesday, 3/7: Willem Dafoe

Willem DafoeHe did play Christ in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a film picketed by Catholic groups upon its release. I wonder if Stephen will have anything to say about that rather unorthodox view of the savior—even if the movie was made quite a while ago. Willem Dafoe’s career actually began with a small part in the disastrous Heaven’s Gate, but he was fired and his scene cut. That may really have been a stroke of luck for him, considering what an  expensive mess it turned out to be. Dafoe’s newest release, on the other hand, looks like a potential blockbuster: the upcoming John Carter, based on the John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. This mix of sci-fi + pulp takes place on the Mars-like planet of Barsoom, where Civil War vet Carter (played in the film by the wonderful Taylor Kitsch, of the great, late, lamented Friday Night Lights) finds himself drawn into an interplanetary conflict and falling in love with a native princess. Dafoe’s character is Tars Tarkas, a Barsoomian warrior who meets and befriends Carter upon his arrival. We may not be able to recognize him, though, as Dafoe could be wearing some elaborate makeup and costuming to become an alien.

The prolific Dafoe has appeared in nearly 80 movies, from smaller indies and foreign films like Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, David Cronenberg’s Existenz, and one section of the multi-part Paris, je t’aime, to huge franchises, most notably Spider-Man. He’s worked frequently with Oliver Stone, and earned an Oscar® nomination for his role in Platoon, as well as one for Shadow of the Vampire. Also a fan of live theater, Dafoe is a founding member of New York’s Wooster Group. He has apparently said that: “Casting people feel that they have to get someone who looks a certain way, and I think that the jury is still out whether people find me attractive or not.” I personally think his rather unusual, offbeat look is quite appealing, and I admire his thirst for interesting work. By the way, Willem was a high-school nickname; his real name is the more typical William.

Here’s a little YouTube video of him.

Read an interesting little “science snapshot” of the John Carter novels, and its once cutting-edge, but now discredited, view of Mars.

Take a look at the IMDB page for the film.

Watch him on England’s Graham Norton Show.

Listen to him read a Nelson Algren short story, “The Lightless Room,” at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater.

Read a fabulous profile of him from The New York Times. I like the writer’s comment that he’d make a “sexy Satan” and Dafoe’s own reflections on Method acting, the body, and Botox.

Like his page on Facebook.

Playing Christ can be fun. Look at this photo taken during the Last Temptation filming.

Dafoe has visited The Daily Show.


Thursday, 3/8: Don Fleming, Emmylou Harris

Emmylou HarrisJust as the week began musically, so it ends, with indie rocker Don Fleming and folk/country singer Emmylou Harris. Not only do both make music, but both are dedicated to preserving music that might otherwise be lost or forgotten.

Fleming has belonged to several major underground groups including The Velvet Monkeys, a DC-based band that formed in the early 80s; the Dim Stars, and Half Japanese. He played in some of New York City’s most notable clubs, including the now-closed and much missed CBGBs. He also works as a researcher for the Alan Lomax Collection, now part of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center. Lomax was perhaps the seminal researcher of what is considered “ethnographic music,” various forms of folk and indigenous styles. The enormous trove of recordings he made often include the only extant versions of traditional songs.

Emmylou Harris of the silvery voice has won 12 Grammy® awards for her music, some of which she has written herself. Her style could best be described as country-rock and country-folk, but with a more traditional sound than the crossover-pop currently preferred by Nashville. I personally have always felt she was more true to herself than to commercial interests, which in the end has earned her respect from her fellow artists. Harris’s newest recording Hard Bargain looks back at some of the people who made a powerful impact on her life and work, particularly Kate McGarrigle, who died two years ago, and Gram Parsons, whose band she sang with and with whom she recorded an album, Grievous Angel. (Parsons died of an overdose before it was released.) A deluxe version of Hard Bargain comes with a DVD featuring performances and interviews.

Harris has frequently sung backup vocals for a number of acts and also often records duets. She has worked with the likes of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Alison Krause, and Willie Nelson, as well as with producer T-Bone Burnett. You can hear her on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers’ film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?  She also sang at the Shelter from the Storm concert in benefit of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A little-known fact about her: she runs a dog shelter on her property! That certainly wins my admiration.

Now, as for what these two are doing together, I cannot say. I have searched, and the only thing that comes up is this Colbert Report appearance!

Listen to some of Don Fleming’s music.

The Village Voice conducted a Q&A with Fleming, and the article includes links to music.

Indie Music also interviewed Fleming.

Check out Fleming’s discography.

Visit Emmylou Harris’s Official Website, where you will find links to articles, news, and even discounts.

Watch a video of Harris singing an early song she recorded about her relationship with Gram Parsons, “Boulder to Birmingham.”

She appeared in Martin Scorsese’s wonderful documentary The Last Waltz singing “Evangeline.”

Read an interview with Emmylou Harris in Clash.

Like her on Facebook.


And now, let’s check in with our good friend, Jon Stewart!

All guests present and accounted for this week–hallelujah.

Monday, 3/5: Sec. Shaun Donovan

Shaun Donovan is the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—and with the housing crisis that has beset the country, he certainly has his work cut out for him. The department deals with such pressing issues as foreclosures, urban planning, and affordable housing. A native New Yorker, Donovan holds both graduate and undergraduate degrees from Harvard; in fact he earned TWO graduate degrees from the elite Ivy: a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Master of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design. He previously was Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. As a New Yorker myself, I can say that trying to bring affordable housing to this city is more than a Herculean task. It’s darn near impossible.

Read Donovan’s bio on the HUD website.

Want mortgage relief? Donovan says it must come from Congress.

Learn 10 things you didn’t know about him from the US News and World Report.

Politico wrote an article about his “new leverage

Follow HUD on Twitter or like it on Facebook.


Tuesday, 3/6: Julianne Moore

Tina Fey: Watch out! Sarah Palin isn’t yours alone anymore; you’ve got a competitor in Julianne Moore. Moore–who often appears as a guest on Fey’s 30 Rock—plays the former Alaskan governor in Game Change, an HBO adaptation of the bestselling book about Palin’s rise to fame after John McCain rather precipitously chose her as his running mate. The always-dependable Ed Harris is McCain, and the film is set to premiere March 10th. Moore, the multi-award-winning actress who has appeared in such movies as The Kids Are All Right, A Single Man, Far from Heaven, The End of the Affair, Boogie Nights, and Poison, also has carved out a successful career as a children’s book author. Her popular Strawberry Freckleface series has even been adapted for the stage.

She’s a friend! This is her third visit to The Daily Show. She was on in July 2010 and in February 2006.

Look at her IMDB page to see all she’s done on screen—and what she is about to do. Moore has four films in pre-production!

Follow her on Twitter.

Slate analyzed the Game Change trailer, and thinks she looks good.

Moore spoke about the role in the Tonight Show, and the New York Daily News covered that appearance (video clip included).


Wednesday, 3/7: Cecile Richards

Oh, this is timely: Cecile Richards is the president of the besieged Planned Parenthood organization, and her visit to TDS comes on the heels of the Susan B. Komen funding debacle and the contraceptive controversy. I’d be very surprised if she doesn’t get an extended interview in light of everything that’s going on. And with several days till her appearance, who knows what will happen in the meantime? There’s already been the Rush Limbaugh ugliness and with Super Tuesday coming up, Santorum could likely open his mouth and say something stupid on the topic. Richards, who was deputy chief of staff for Nancy Pelosi, became head of Planned Parenthood in 2006. She’s a graduate of Brown University, the founder of the Texas Freedom Network, and one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people. She’s also the daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards. I can’t wait to see her.

Follow her on Twitter.

Like her on Facebook.

Read an interview with her in the Washington Post.

Richards commented on something that people noticed recently: that Apple’s Siri device would not give directions to Planned Parenthood clinics.

Read her Ms. magazine blog.


Thursday, March 8: Trita Parsi

Iran is much in the news these days, and I’m very interested to hear John’s discussion with Trita Parsi on the subject. Parsi is president and founder of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which protests America’s sanctions against Iran because they believe it only causes harm to innocent, ordinary people without actually affecting the government. His newest book is A Single Roll of the Dice, about Obama’s policy on Iran, and he has also written the award-winning Treacherous Alliance about relations between the US, Iran, and Israel. Parsi is also an adjunct professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS (School of Advanced International Studies).

Visit his website.

Read an article by Parsi, discussing the possibility of war with Iran, in the Independent.

He appeared on Rachel Maddow.

Like him on Facebook.

Follow him on Twitter.

It looks like a great lineup to me. Who are you most looking forward to?
Have a great week, everyone!

  • Caroline

    All the guests this week sound great. About Limbaugh’s “slut” comments last week – as of today, nine sponsors have pulled their ads from Rush’s radio show! This has been mainly due to a massive Twitter and Facebook campaign pressuring Rush’s advertisers. If you are interested in following this, check out

    It’s cool to see the power of a lot of angry women (and men too). Rush even had to attempt a half-assed apology to Sandra Fluke.

    • karenatasha

      I agree, Caroline, I’m delighted that the sponsors are rushing away from Rush. And that apology only made things worse. So self-justifying. Slate’s “Dear Prudie” wrote a special column analyzing what he said vs. what he SHOULD have said.

      But even if he said the right thing, it wouldn’t matter. He wouldn’t have meant it.

      I’m quite sure Jon won’t let this go. Interestingly, Stephen seems to be going more off the beaten path lately, avoiding the obvious news story. With FRAUD!, I’d say that strategy has worked out very well.

  • lockhart43

    I really, really want Stephen to cover the Rush Limbaugh story; he would absolutely annihilate it. As for the guests, I’m excited for Jonathan Safran Foer – I’ve wanted to see Everything Is Illuminated (with Elijah Wood) for about 5 years now and still haven’t gotten around to it. I’m also happy that Willem Dafoe is coming on to promote John Carter, as I would like that film to do well. The reason for that is entirely because Taylor Kitsch is carrying it and I want the rest of the world to know what a good actor he is (“Friday Night Lights” is one of my ALL-TIME favorite shows and he was amazing in every episode he was in).

    • karenatasha

      Well, your wish came very, very true, Lockhart! What a great take-down. Brilliant, nasty, and very funny. Annihilation is yours, Stephen! (Jon’s hazmat suit was pretty funny, too.)

      And I am absolutely with you on Taylor Kitsch and Friday Night Lights. My friend introduced me to that show, and I was instantly hooked. Wonderful acting and writing and a very rich portrayal of small-town life.

      • lockhart43

        I’m a fan of Kyle Chandler (I used to watch “Early Edition”), so that was why I started watching it initially, and I loved it from the first episode. Whenever I try to explain it to people, I end up saying, “It’s a high-school football show that’s not really about high-school football,” ha, because it was about soo much more than that.

        Anyhoo, my favorite bit about Jon’s take on Limbaugh was what he said after they played that first clip of Fox News idiots. And the TCR segment was just so, so wonderful. Bless Stephen and that comment about Rush having to slip a woman a pill first.

        • karenatasha

          Agree about everything you said regarding “Friday Night Lights.”

          The “slipping the pill” line had me falling down. You can really tell when someone disgusts Stephen, because he goes to an extra level of nasty. He’s clearly not a gratuitously mean guy, so someone really has to disgust him to earn that savage contempt.

          I also adored Jon’s “whatever.”

    • anais0509

      I saw Everything Is Illuminated when it came to my college campus, and it’s so heart-wrenchingly poignant. If you find the chance, see it, and don’t forget to bring tissues.

  • Kris

    As much as I love the idea of Stephen singing twice this week, I’d most love to see him do a “formidable opponent” style face off with Dafoe. Dear lord that would be sweet!

    • Karenatasha

      Oh, him doing some sort of “scene” with Dafoe would be fabulous. We shall see. I’m really looking forward to that interview. Dafoe seems so smart and I think he’ll “get” Stephen–especially since so many people seem to confuse him with his characters, too.

  • CN Helper

    Is it me or are we having a lot of actors on the show these days? It seems the floodgates have opened and they are now allowed in, like musicians were after Manilow. Either way, I love when artists are on, just like I love it when scientists are too.

    • karenatasha

      There have certainly been more, but it may have to do with how much the buzz has grown around both TDS and TCR. I imagine actors were always welcome, but getting the biggest stars probably was once harder than it is now.

      I am hoping for four actors to eventually come on TCR: George Clooney, David Duchovny, Patrick Stewart, and Helen Mirren. I also think Emma Thompson or Kate Winslet would be fab.

      • lockhart43

        A resounding YES to George Clooney and Patrick Stewart! Patrick Stewart does hilarious voice work on “American Dad,” which leads me to believe that he has a good enough sense of humor to be a total it-getter. And just from watching Jimmy Fallon’s week-long tribute to Bruce Springsteen last week (with an unbelievable round of performances on Friday), it made me realize how much I want Springsteen to come on TCR. He would be so great.

        • karenatasha

          I’m sure Patrick Stewart is an it-getter. Springsteen would be a great guest; it would be fun to see how different he’d be with Stephen than he was with Jon.

          Speaking of Fallon: the former best friends turned enemies forever for six months can now be friends again. Jimmy, where are you?

  • lockhart43

    I don’t mean to scoop you, but since the new episode is in a few hours, I thought it would be easier to just post it on here. According to the teaser I just saw on Comedy Central, apparently Elvis Costello will be performing with Emmylou Harris instead of Don Fleming. Which is awesome.

    • Karenatasha

      Scoop me all you want with such great news! I’m out at a seminar now and wouldn’t have known. Yay! Thank you.