Oshawa preps for ‘Colbert Day’
TORONTO (CP) – Ever since his satirical news program took to the airwaves in late 2005, American comic Stephen Colbert has revelled in taunting Canada.
He welcomed Canadian viewers to “The Colbert Report” – pronounced “ra-PORE” – when it launched on The Comedy Network in November ’05 by telling them: “I am Stephen Colbert. I have balls. If you’re lucky, they might just rub off on you.”
When the Conservatives booted the Liberals out of power in last year’s federal election, Colbert was quick to take credit, crowing: “I fixed Canada in 77 days!”
Now Canada, it appears, is ready to thank Colbert for his repair work by holding a “Stephen Colbert Day” celebration, featuring none other than Don Cherry himself, the type of no-nonsense straight-shooter who would be well and truly adored by Colbert’s faux right-wing pundit.
A night of festivities, including a Colbert lookalike contest, is being held Tuesday in Oshawa, an industrial city east of Toronto better-known for its GM plant than its tendency to whoop it up.
“The only cool thing that has ever happened to Oshawa,” commented one blogger on her blog It’s Gonna Be a Blue Moon Rising.
Shannon McFadyen, a spokeswoman for the city of Oshawa, said Sunday that Colbert himself is not appearing at the event, but added “The Colbert Report” may send a field producer for a future segment on the show.
Nonetheless, more than 1,500 people are expected to turn out at the General Motors Centre, a gleaming new venue in downtown Oshawa that opened in November and seats 6,000, McFadyen said.
“We’re getting a really interesting mix of people who are coming,” McFadyen said. “There are hockey fans, Don Cherry fans and then sort of younger university students who are really into the Colbert show. We have a group of kids coming up from New York University, for example, and some interest from Newfoundland. It’s a real blend of people because the themes are hockey and comedy.”
It all started when about two million Colbert fans inundated an online contest to name the mascot of the Saginaw Spirit, a Michigan OHL team. Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle was born as a tribute to the comedian.
Colbert soon threw his support behind the squad and began trash-talking its OHL rivals, especially the Oshawa Generals.
After a public volley of taunts and counter-taunts, Oshawa Mayor John Gray issued a challenge to Colbert on the eve of a recent showdown between the two teams: if the Generals won, Colbert would have had to wear a Generals jersey for an entire show. If the Spirit won, Gray had to declare Colbert’s birthday “Stephen Colbert Day” in Oshawa.
Colbert, whose pundit was inspired by Fox News’s belligerent Bill O’Reilly, accepted the challenge but had a more humiliating suggestion: he wanted “Stephen Colbert Day” to be declared not on his own birthday, but on Gray’s – March 20. And so it was.
“How old are you going to be?” Colbert asked Gray in a recent interview on his show. “Old enough to know better than to take on Stephen Colbert?”
“Hopefully, in the future, yes,” Gray, who turns 48 on Tuesday, admitted sheepishly.
One of the highlights of the night’s festivities promises to be the selection of the winning Colbert lookalike.
Five semi-finalists have been chosen from across Canada and the winner will be determined by the competitor who gets the loudest cheers from the audience on Tuesday night. The victor wins a trip to New York City, where he’ll attend a taping of the “The Colbert Report,” a spawn of Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”
There will also be a hockey challenge featuring a showdown between the team’s mascots: the Generals’ Shooter and the Spirit’s aforementioned Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle.
For the $5 cost of admission, there will also be free cake and Dr. Pepper – Colbert’s favourite soft drink.
For McFadyen, the entire Stephen Colbert event signifies that the city of Oshawa, which has long lived in Toronto’s shadow, has a sense of fun all its own.
“It’s just one of the things we are doing to say Oshawa has a lot to offer. It’s an exciting place to be.”
Oshawa preps for ‘Colbert Day’