Better Know a Guest: March 12 – 15, 2012

Hello, Hubsters,

The Colbert Report Guest Line UpIrene, good night. Irene, good night. I can’t get that song out of my head—which is an apparently documented scientific phenomenon, by the way. There are some strategies for stopping the music, but I’m just not sure I want to. I think I’ll let Irene stay in my dreams for a little while longer. If music be the food of Stephen, play on!

In short, last week was incredible. Stephen sang twice (and didn’t he look happy?); had an amazing WORD with a knockout closer; mocked Mitt and Santorum muchly as Super Tuesday proved neither super nor decisive; and parodied yet another brain-baffling Cain ad.

This coming week has a very different roster of guests, but I think they all sound great.

So, let’s go!

Monday, 3/12: Katherine Boo

Katherine BooIn addition to winning lavish critical praise for its writing and research, Katherine’s Boo’s first book was named an Amazon Best Books of the Month in February.  As the title promises, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity examines survival in the huge Annawadi slum just outside the metropolis—a shantytown like so many that exist in cities worldwide, such as Rio’s favelas, where people live in poorly constructed shacks and do their best to make it from day to day. Boo spent three years studying Annawadi, getting to know the people and the landscape, winning their trust, and uncovering the social and systemic realities that affect the slum’s inhabitants. One stream of her narrative focuses on governmental corruption, and how money that should help the poor gets funneled elsewhere. Her achievement is all the more impressive as the people in Annawadi spoke as many as a half-dozen different languages, none of which Boo understood.

Boo, a staff writer for The New Yorker who previously wrote and edited for the Washington Post, focuses on issues of poverty, and her investigative journalism has earned her a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, a Hillman Prize, the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, and a MacArthur Genius Grant. That grant gave her a precious gift: as the New York Times interview (link below) mentions, Boo suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and other immunological disorders. She can only type thanks to surgery paid for by the grant money.

I feel as if I should have known about this incredible book before, and I thank The Colbert Report for making sure that it gets the attention it clearly deserves. It is definitely on my must-read list.

Read an article about her book in Salon, and why her writing on the poor is so acclaimed. Boo’s comments here are fascinating, and she pointedly notes that the type of corruption she uncovered in India is hardly limited to that country; she saw the same thing in the US. No accountability.

Here’s a wonderfully informative interview with Boo in The New York Times. Interestingly, it says that she likes to remain “invisible” and “hates publicity.” Oh, Ms. Boo, but are you ready for your Colbert bump? Also of note: the article quotes Joseph Lelyveld, a former executive editor of the NYT, as saying that this book is “the best piece of reporting to come out of India in a half century at least.”

Hear her on NPR. The link takes you to both Fresh Air and The Morning Edition broadcasts.

Like her on Facebook.

There’s an article on her book in India West.


Tuesday, 3/13: Andrew Bird

Andrew BirdAndrew Bird brings us this week’s serving of music. A Chicago-based instrumentalist—primarily, but definitely not limited to, the violin—he has a new album called Break It Yourself.  Bird began studying violin at four years old using the Suzuki method, a style of training that has produced a number of skilled performers at an extremely young age. He released his first recording, Music of Hair, in 1996, but later moved from working as a solo artist to becoming a bandleader with such groups as the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Bowl of Fire. Ever since Bowl of Fire disbanded in 2003, however, Bird has returned to making music on his own. His style incorporates folk, jazz, and blues, and he also writes elaborate lyrics and sings. Right now he’s on tour.

Bird has performed on two film soundtracks: The Cradle Will Rock (directed by Tim Robbins) and Jonathan Segal’s Norman. Over the years has recorded for a number of small, independent labels, including Ani diFranco’s Righteous Babe.

Something in common with Stephen: Bird is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Visit his website.

He does have a MySpace page, where you can hear a number of recordings, listen to Andrew Bird radio, and watch videos.

Bird will be at Coachella. Read an interview with him on the festival preview page, see a fabulous video of his TED appearance, and use the links to buy his discs. I love the song here; very African-influenced.

Follow him on Twitter.

Get a free download!

Here’s his iTunes page.

Like him on Facebook.

He did a concert on NPR.

Read a review of the new recording on SoundSpike.

Take a look at an unofficial fansite. Unfortunately, some of it is still under construction.


Wednesday, 3/14: Mark McKinnon

Tired of the constant fighting between Republicans and Democrats? Sick of the sniping between conservatives and liberals? Do you wish that, just for once, people on both sides of the aisle would forget their partisan politics and think about the good of the country? Mark McKinnon does, and that’s why he helped found No Labels, an organization dedicated to helping “fix America’s broken government and break the stranglehold that the extremes currently have on our political process.” It’s just launched a campaign to “Make Congress Work!”, which includes such no-cost ideas as refusing to pay members of Congress if they can’t pass a budget, forcing them to show up (you’d think that was elementary; you or I would be fired if we didn’t), and getting them to agree not to engage in negative campaigning. My question is this: how can you get them to agree on these rules of behavior when you can’t get them to agree on anything else? The No Labels outfit—which includes such members as former Indiana senator Evan Bayh and John McCain speechwriter Mark Salter–is hoping that a public outcry might do the trick.

McKinnon has worked as a political adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain, as well as he late former Texas governor Ann Richards (presumably before a meeting with Bush turned him from Democrat into Republican), Lance Armstrong, and Bono. He’s also Global Vice-Chairman of Hill & Knowlton Strategies, an international communications consultancy; the President of Maverick Media; and a contributor to The Daily Beast. Some fun trivia: prior to politics, he tried to make it as a country music songwriter under the tutelage of Kris Kristofferson. Things didn’t work out for him, however, although at one point it looked as if Elvis would record one of his songs. Then Elvis died, and McKinnon shifted gears to the career he has now.

Follow him on Twitter.

McKinnon discussed No Labels on Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC.

He (sort of) lives what he says: in the last election, he exited the McCain campaign (kind of) rather than fight Obama.

Perhaps because of his musical background, McKinnon has said that America’s artists are our ultimate entrepreneurs.

He spoke about his background and life at the TEDx conference, including his childhood babysitter (singer Judy Collins!) and, very poignantly, his wife’s cancer diagnosis.

McKinnon has advocated for third-party candidates.

Read a paper he wrote on reforming our system of political debates. Of course, since the paper was written, many things have happened—including the cancellation of the referenced “Trump debate.” But the problem as a whole still exists.

The Center for Policy and Economic Research criticized a column McKinnon wrote on Social Security. (Link to the original column is included.)


Thursday, 3/15: Dexter Filkins

Until 2011, Dexter Filkins was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2009, he wrote the well-reviewed bestseller The Forever War, about the battle for Fallujah and the larger conflict raging between the US and fundamentalist Islam. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Boston Globe, and Time magazine all called it one of the best books of the year, and it won a National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Nonfiction Book.

Now, Filkins writes for The New Yorker, where he still reports on the Middle East as well as on Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. His articles have gone beyond war issues, however, to focus on such topics as the imprisonment of Turkish journalists, the departure of US troops from Iraq, and whether or not Pakistan really is our ally.

His many honors include a Pulitzer, two George Polk Awards, and three Overseas Press Club Awards. Filkins, who has his BA from the University of Florida and his MPhil from Oxford University in international relations, also has been a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

The Observer wrote about his move from the Times to The New Yorker.

Filkins appeared on Charlie Rose.

Read the Times’s review of his “stunning” The Forever War.

Filkins spoke about Iraq on NPR.

Want to know what books Filkins likes? Here are a few of his recommendations.

Filkins was interviewed for PBS’s Frontline.

Oops. Despite his admirable work as a correspondent, he was perhaps not such a good husband. His ex-wife, renowned writer Ana Menendez, wrote a novel based on the demise of their relationship.

Like his Facebook page. (He doesn’t appear to Tweet.)


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

Thursday’s guest is MIA! Who will it be? Meanwhile, we have two high-profile entertainers and one politico.


Monday, 3/12: Grover Norquist

Time for a visit from the right wing! Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform and he’s trying to get every congressperson to sign a pledge never to raise taxes—not matter what, never, ever. And he means it; he’ll never not say never. He’s got a new book called Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future. I guess he hasn’t read, or won’t believe, the recent figures showing that our economy has added jobs this past quarter.

Follow him on Twitter (because he’s a twit).

Like him on Facebook. (If you’re so inclined. I’m not.)

Watch his previous appearance on The Daily Show.

or his two appearances on The Colbert Report: one in June 2011 and the other in May 2008.

60 Minutes did a segment on Norquist’s “hold” on the GOP.


Tuesday, 3/13: Will Ferrell

I’m always a little up in the air about Will Ferrell. When he’s brilliant—as he was with his amazing portrayal of George W. Bush—he’s REALLY brilliant. But sometimes I think he takes it too easy, just throwing on another outdated hairstyle and another weird athletic outfit and recycling an old plot for the third time. And sorry, but I’ll always hate Goat Boy and the Cheerleaders. Maybe it’s just me. His latest movie sounds like an interesting departure though: Casa de mi padre was actually shot in Spanish, set on a Mexican ranch, and features a Mexican cast, including the wonderful Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. It opens in theaters March 16th.

The New York Times interviewed Ferrell about the new film, for which he had to learn Spanish.

I do love his Funny or Die website,created with Adam McKay, which has had some incredible little comic videos.

The two men also co-produce the HBO series Eastbound & Down, in which Ferrell also appears as a car dealer.

As we know, he briefly took over for Steve Carrell in The Office.

Ferrell has appeared on The Daily Show a whopping nine times, most recently in May 2011. To see his other clips, visit The Daily Show guest page and click on Ferrell’s photo.


Wednesday, 3/14: Rachel Weisz

Oscar®-winning actress Rachel Weisz starred in Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea on stage; now she’s essaying the role again for film. Both were directed by another Terence—Terence Davies. Set in the 1950s, the story focuses on a married woman who falls in love and begins an affair with a Royal Air Force officer. Tom Hiddleston plays her lover; Simon Russell Beale her husband. It’s a bleak tale, but one that should allow Weisz to display quite a range of emotions, from joy to suicidal despair. Sounds as if she could be in contention again come the next awards season.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote about the film.

The New York Times also published an article about the film.

Watch a video of Weisz discussing the film, made in Toronto during the film festival.

Visit her IMDB page. She has several upcoming films in post-production.

She has actually visited Jon four times—including two appearances in 2005. She most recently guested in July 2011. You can view her other clips on The Daily Show guest page.

This is kind of a strange one: her L’Oreal ad was banned in the UK for being “misleading.” Apparently, her skin was just too airbrushed.
Thursday, 3/15: ????


That’s it for this week! Let me know who you’re most looking forward to.
And…Irene, good night.


  • colbaby

    Really looking forward to Andrew Bird. He’s one of those people that’s just so talented it makes me angry. Stephen’s spoiling me with all these musical performers lately.

    Thanks, Karenatasha! I do have to correct you on one thing though: Goat Boy was Jim Breuer. I do agree though that Ferrell can be hit or miss. He’s usually hilarious with Jon though so I’m definitely looking forward to both of Tuesday’s guests.

    • karenatasha

      Oh, whoops! Thanks for the correction. And you’re right about him and Jon having a great rapport. I still hate Cheerleaders, though. :-)

      I didn’t really know Andrew Bird’s work but was completely entranced with what I heard and am getting the free download. Very interesting and original music.

  • lockhart43

    All of this week’s TCR guests sound pretty great, particularly Andrew Bird – I’ve never heard his music before, but after checking out a couple of his songs on YouTube, I think his music will be a good fit for the show. I’m a little wary about Wednesday’s interview, however, as it could go either way. No Labels sounds like a logical idea, but I’m sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hopefully I’m wrong.

    If you want to watch something really great on Grover Norquist without having to sit through Monday’s interview (Look. I’m all for hearing a person’s argument and forming my own opinion, but I’ve already heard Norquist’s argument and formed my own opinion. So no. Just no.), watch the segment that Samantha Bee did a couple of weeks ago about him. It was pretty fantastic. In other news, Will Ferrell! He’s so great on TDS. There’s a nice article about him in the March 15th issue of Rolling Stone as well that I just read today.

    • karenatasha

      I know exactly how you feel about Grover Norquist. He’s not likely to have anything new to say, and the only pleasure will be if Jon does a really probing interview that leaves him stuttering. I remember the Samantha Bee piece–that was wonderful.

      Also agreed about the “No Labels.” Something doesn’t sound quite right to me, but I’m hoping I’m wrong. The list of members seemed to include people from both parties, although not quite equally, and Mark McKinnon doesn’t seem hard right wing, so who knows? That said, I can’t respect anyone who was seduced away to the Repubs by George W.

  • CN Helper

    This whole week promises to be, once again, excellent as per usual. (I was going to say “epic,” but I have resolved to reduce restarting to trite internet-commenter speak.) Anyhoo, I lurrvve the Andrew Bird, so he should rock, as has been already stated. Ms. Boo sounds pretty cool as well.
    I am just glad Grover Norquist is on the other show!
    All in all, I am stoked for the week ahead.

    • karenatasha

      Ha! I agree with you about Norquist. He is definitely shaping up, on this site at least, as the the person we’d least like to see.

      I’m happy so many people are familiar with Andrew Bird’s work, and once again am glad to have Stephen & Co. introduce me to a good artist I SHOULD have known.

      And I also think the week looks all-around great. Stephen has been on a roll lately, doing some of his very best episodes. Just when you think, “How good can he get?” he gets better!

      • lockhart43

        and once again am glad to have Stephen & Co. introduce me to a good artist I SHOULD have known.

        I have Stephen and Co. to thank for a rather long list of bands/singers that I now love and listen to regularly. For example, after I heard him mention Ben Folds a few months back, something clicked in my head and made me think, “I have wanted to listen to him for a very long time and just have never had the chance. I think I’ll check him out.” And then after listening to some of his songs, my thought changed to, “How did I not know about this music before?!?” And both The Decemberists and The Mountain Goats are among my all-time (forever and ever) favorite bands, and I initially heard both of them on TCR. I’m so grateful for everyone at TCR for having magnificent tastes in music.

        • karenatasha

          And diverse tastes, too! Opera, Broadway, folk, indie-rock, country: they’ve had it all!

  • Kris

    I have to say, out of everyone Katherine Boo sounds like the most intriguing person of them all. I’m really looking forward to seeing them talk about her work.

    Another vote for Will Ferrel being so/so depending on what he’s up to. However, despite my great dislike of cheerleaders, I loved the SNL Spartans. They mocked it so honestly and dorkily.

    *Roll call! My name is Kris, (clap, clap) I have team spirit, (clap, clap) that you can’t dis, (clap, clap) so check me out!*

    Wow… that’s the last time I plan on doing that. Isn’t doing a cheer supposed to make you feel cheerful?

    • karenatasha

      I think Katherine Boo sounds wonderful, and can’t wait to get her book. I really recommend reading the New York Times article about her; she sounds like an amazing person, able to overcome numerous physical ailments to do her excellent work. Everyone says that this book, though nonfiction, reads as well as any novel. And that’s incredibly difficult to achieve.

      Should a cheer make you feel better? I guess it depends. If it were me…not if it reminded me of the Cheerleaders! But I do know others loved it. Chacun a son gout…

      • Kris

        Not only did I look up what Chacun a son gout meant but I also listened to the song and enjoyed it very much. I really, really need to make it to an opera.

        I love that your passionate hatred for cheerleading extends even to fake cheerleaders, making fun of cheerleading:) I suppose you should tell me to pick a side, we’re at war!

        • Karenatasha

          The song? I just know it as French for “each to one’s own taste.” I did not know there was a song!

    • colbaby

      “The Spartans hate to brag, but we’re a real humdinger. We’re gonna’ kick your butt like a guest on Jerry Springer. I say: ‘Who you talkin’ to? Who you talkin’ to? Who you talkin’ to?’ Uh!”

      I only remember that one because it was from the David Duchovny episode which I played on a loop for days. Days I tell you.

      • Kris

        If only Ferrel were coming on the Report, I could wish for Stephen to take Cheri’s place and join Will for a cheer.

        I may be wrong but I would bet good money that we will never see such from Jon ^_^ Though imagining it is all sorts of fun.

      • Karenatasha

        Ah–the David Duchovny episode. I will say no more lest I go off topic. I guess if Stephen were a cheerleader, I COULD deal. 😉

        • Kris

          *giggles giddily* How does Stephen manage to make even the most hated of events and people acceptable and enjoyable. Seriously!?! A cheerleader Stephen is too adorkable for words ^_^

  • anais0509

    I echo everyone in that I’m looking most forward to Boo, Bird and Ferrell and scrunching my nose at Norquist. By the way, on a very different sidenote, thanks for the link to the article on earworms, Karenatasha! As someone who’s always wondered how I’m able to actually hear a song clearly in my head as if it’s playing live and why it won’t go away sometimes, I found it very informative. One way of making a song go away (for me) is if I listen to the song live over and over again until I get fed up, or another song catches my ear and then the prior gets replaced. It’s not for everyone but it helps me.

    • karenatasha

      Glad you liked the article, Anais! I came across it just a few days before “Irene” started playing on a permanent loop inside my brain, and it seemed appropriate.

      I like the “scrunching my nose” image for Norquist! Yes–he’s like a bad smell you want to go away.

      • Ann G

        I just read that earworm article, and found it interesting that they referred to “the brain’s iPod.” My brother (the opera guy) calls the earworm phenomenon his “inner iPod.” I’m guessing since he’s a musician, his inner iPod’s memory is pretty full.

        And, to keep this somewhat on topic, I’m looking forward to hearing Andrew Bird.

        • karenatasha

          It is an interesting metaphor, but apt, I think, because it’s as if your brain is a broken machine that keeps replaying without moving forward. (I’d say “broken record,” but that would date me.)

          I wonder if professional musicians/singers are more susceptible to it than regular folks.

          • Kris

            I too, have “suffered” from this phenomena. In fact, I used to listen to the sound track for Braveheart while sleeping (I wore headphones). One night I woke up and went to turn my discman off (talk about dating, the spell check doesn’t even recognise the word) and the battery had died. It literally sounded like the music was still playing in my ears. As a relatively young person, it freaked me out and I can tell you, I stopped listening to music while sleeping.

            As Anais suggested I have found that listening to the song itself or attempting to get another song stuck in my head is the best way to deal with it. My go to song for this is “I don’t feel like dancing” by the Scissor Sisters. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all why ^_^