Colbert brings show to Canada

VANCOUVER — It appears relations between American comedian Stephen Colbert and this nation of ice-holes” have thawed.

Late-night comedian Stephen Colbert

Late-night comedian Stephen Colbert

VANCOUVER — It appears relations between American comedian Stephen Colbert and this nation of ice-holes” have thawed.

Hundreds lined up in the wee hours of a chilly Vancouver morning to watch the comic film his satirical talk show at a muddy public park.

Fans held aloft homemade signs, chanted the 45-year-old’s name and dressed up as beavers and bears for the occasion. Colbert, who has been poking fun at Canadians on The Colbert Report,” soaked up the adulation.

This was a welcome that we could not have imagined in our wildest dreams,” a grinning Colbert said to more cheers.

I take back everything I ever said about Canada.”

The comic has jokingly taken on Canada for the last several months, calling Canadians ice-holes,” syrup-suckers” and Saskatche-whiners” because he felt U.S. speedskaters weren’t getting enough practice time on Canadian ice.

But Colbert took it easy on Canada on Wednesday. He only directed a few jokes at the weather, which has been balmy by Winter Olympic standards.

Welcome to the Olympic swamp,” he shouted during his introduction, before eyeballing the enthusiastic swarm in front of him.

Thank you so much for coming out. Isn’t there anything else to do in Vancouver this week?”

Colbert welcomed three guests during the show — local crooner Michael Buble, former U.S. Olympic hockey player Mike Eruzione and NBC commentator Bob Costas.

When an audience member cried out to ask why Wayne Gretzky wasn’t going to be on the show, Colbert responded: Doesn’t he live in Los Angeles now?”

To Eruzione — a member of the U.S. team who upset Russia in the Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Olympics — Colbert asked: What do you think will be the miracle this year? Snow?”

And to Costas, Colbert quipped: You’ve covered Winter Games, Summer Games, (and) whatever season this is.”

The outdoor stage was decorated with tufts of cottony fake snow, plastic wildlife (a beaver, penguins and a moose that Costas eventually climbed at the urging of the audience), a snowman gnome dressed in Christmas colours, a ski rack and a totem pole with an eagle’s head. A snow machine above Colbert’s head provided the only precipitation on a dry, sunny Vancouver morning.

Flyers for the event featured the words Vancouver 2010: Defeat the World” and bore the image of a heroic-looking Colbert, clutching the Olympic torch while riding a massive eagle.

And while Colbert’s self-propagated image as a salt-of-the-earth super-American is intended with irony, the shrieking throngs present Wednesday certainly gave him a hero’s welcome.

(I’m) here to greet the sovereign lord of the Colbert nation,” said 22-year-old Vancouver native Kenneth Dodge, who showed up at 6 a.m., wrapped in a Canadian flag.

It’s an unforgettable, epic experience — like meeting the Pope.”

Fans seemed to appreciate that Colbert has paid Canada so much attention these past months.

Many carried hand-made signs to the event — Make toques not trouble,” These iceholes love Colbert” and U.S., eh?” — while chants broke out so often that Colbert reprimanded the assemblage as chanting whores.” This, too, was adopted as a chant.

If there were any hard feelings over Colbert’s prodding of the Canucks, it wasn’t obvious on this day.

I was really entertained reading the blogs and seeing people getting really upset by what he’d said, and not realizing that he’s a satirist,” said Vancouver native Rhonda Bennett.

It’s supposed to be funny, and it was funny just to see how irate people were getting, and I wanted to see if any of them were going to come out here and try to have their two cents worth.

(But) it doesn’t seem like anybody’s here to throw down with Stephen Colbert.”

Added local resident Clayton Bundschuh: We know it’s in good fun.”

Colbert, clad in white pants and a blue Ralph Lauren Team U.S.A. cardigan, appreciated it.

Michael, I am really loving Vancouver,” he said to Buble. They’re friendly people, and incredibly easy to pander to.”

Buble, meanwhile, credited his home country’s unique sense of humour.

We’re humble, we have a great self-deprecating sense of humour, we’re sexy, as you can see,” he said.

You certainly sound humble,” Colbert replied.

Colbert did poke a bit of fun at his Canadian hosts.

After noting that Vancouver had the third-largest film industry in North America, he said: Paparazzi ambush stars after first politely asking permission to ambush them.” And after claiming to be bewildered by the strange names” Canadians have for ordinary things, he pulled out an English-to-English” dictionary to clear the confusion.

What we call ’Canadian bacon,’ they call ’back bacon,”’ he explained. And what we call ’Canadian geese,’ they call ’Canada geese.’

And most bizarrely, what we call patriotism, they call ’Loving Canada.”’

Following Colbert’s persistent criticism of the Canadians these past few months, he accepted an offer from the City of Richmond to be the ombudsman for the Olympic speedskating oval — so long as it required no work on his part.

But he put in his time on Wednesday in his honorary role on the U.S. speedskating team.

Wearing a red fleece jacket with assistant sports psychologist” printed across the back, the unofficial member of the U.S. Olympic team appeared at the Richmond Olympic Oval to kibbitz with a handful of American speedskaters who had just finished their training session.

During one exchange, Colbert — who helped raise more than US$300,000 for the U.S. speedskaters after a major sponsor pulled out — pointed to his accreditation and was heard joking about how difficult it would have been for him to navigate the tight Olympic security without it.

He interviewed Tucker Fredericks (one of the questions was about the ice) and Lauran Cholewinski on a landing above a media tribune overlooking the finish line.

— With files from Shi Davidi.