Stephen Colbert & The Colbert Report are getting an entire week’s worth of material out of a recent trip to the Deep South, and a county that spells– but doesn’t pronounce– its name the same as he does.
The joke is that Colbert would revitalize one of America’s depressed communities by offering them the opportunity to house the “Stephen Colbert Museum & Gift Shop.”
But don’t go thinking the phony blowhard is pulling a mean Borat trick and making fools of the poor rubes in Colbert County, Alabama…The whole event played out a couple of weeks ago the way it does in one of those David Mamet movies: everyone was in on the joke.
While hundreds of residents of rural Tuscumbia turned out to see the mayor cut the red ribbon to open the museum, with actor Paul Dinello (who plays “Tad” on the show), standing alongside, everyone, from county officials to the high school band and cheerleading squad knew it was all for laughs. In fact, they filmed the “closing” of the gift shop and museum before they taped the grand opening.
And while all the locals had fun pronouncing their county name without the “l” or “t” sounds for a day, Colbert didn’t even show up in person. He appeared as a cardboard cutout in the “museum,” and made a “surprise appearance” via TV monitor, thanking Colbertians for “one of the happiest moments I’ve ever prerecorded.”
The bit also pokes at the Colbert Musuem’s local competition: the birthplace of Tuscumbia native Helen Keller. The grand opening includes a scene from The Miracle Worker, with Keller at the water pump, spelling out her first words: “S-t-e-p-h-e-n C-o-l-b-e-r-t” instead of “w-a-t-e-r.”
The saga of the Stephen Colbert Museum & Gift Shop begins November 27th.