How Stephen Colbert’s show is made

I am insatiably curious about what goes on behind the scenes in the production of films, TV, and radio shows. The mechanics of how these things are put together fascinate me because unlike the products of largely solo creative processes like a book or painting or sculpture, these involve a lot of people.

David Plotz has started a series of podcasts called Working that asks people about the work they do and in his first episode, he lets Stephen Colbert walk the listener through the step-by-step process of putting a show together.

Since the show is topical, it is a very intense process, involving as it does bringing together the contributions of many people to produce a show within a very short time frame. I found the 38-minutes quite engrossing. What impresses me is how they get the timing of the graphics, the sound effects, and video clips just right to coincide with his words, with only one rehearsal. I had thought that after they tape the show in front of the audience, they go back and have do-overs of any mistakes but that does not seem to be the case, except with video editing. And yet, I have never seen any real goof-ups, the only ones involving the timing being very slightly off. That’s real professionalism.

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