Stephen Colbert is clearly bored. In the break between the comedian’s last show on The Colbert Report (on December 18, 2014), and his new job taking over for David Letterman on Late Show in September, the satirist-on-hiatus has increasingly come up with new ways to fill the time — and keep his face fresh in the memory of fans while he’s at it. Colbert’s latest stunt is a hilariously awkward interview with Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers) on a public access show in Monroe, Michigan.
Channeling Zack Galifianakis’ similarly awkward talk show, Between Two Ferns, Colbert fills the first half of the 40-minute program by playing the role of a real public access TV host, complete with commercial interruptions from the Monroe tourism board.
About half-way through, Eminem hits the stage, and the strange tug-of-war between these two media titans on such a tiny platform is something to behold. As the interview gets underway, Colbert proceeds to make allusions to Eminem’s career as a dream that has to die sometime. Playing the fool, the host pretends not to know that Marshall Mathers and Eminem are, in fact, the same person, leading to a long-spun joke full of awkward interactions, strange questions, and even a manufactured physical beef between the two in which Colbert claims he won’t back down if pushed.
The tie-in to Michigan is obvious – Mathers is originally from Detroit. However, as he points out in the interview, he’s not from Monroe. Good thing, replies Colbert, who warns of the terrible traffic and flooding currently plaguing the town, then proceeds to give the rapper some advice: don’t drink the sewage, he jokes, for at least the next 24 hours.
Colbert asks about Eminem’s musical influences, citing fellow Michigan folks like Ted Nugent and, of course, Bob Seger as the obvious choices. The interview takes a turn into even more awkward territory as Colbert tries to fill time by asking the multi-platinum rapper to sing a few Seger songs to prove he’s a fan (to his credit, Eminem actually concedes and sings a few notes), while Colbert belts out a few hooks himself. He snaps at Eminem when the rapper suggests he’s going too fast by responding “I thought you were a rapper? Don’t you sing fast?”
There are some pretty priceless moments that slip into Colbert’s extended gag, including a point in which he asks Eminem what type of rap artist he is: more sing-song like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony or “street” like Will Smith, and also asks whether his songs are more political or more “booty rhymes.” Eminem holds his own, suggesting he’s “right in the middle.” And he doesn’t even crack a smile when Colbert asks him why he doesn’t remove the hoodie to reveal his “cute face.”
This will likely be one of the last such satirical interviews for the talk show host, who made his bones with the style on The Colbert Report, before he officially takes over for Letterman in September. Once Colbert is tasked with entertaining a broader audience, the humor will have to come over the course of real interviews, not fake ones.
For now, though, hilarious moments like this one remind us just how dryly funny Colbert can be, and have us looking forward to seeing just what the transition will look like as Colbert hits the late night circuit in his new role come September 8.