My Failed Attempt to See Stephen Colbert


Today I was going to write to tell you all about the top secret Stephen Colbert taping that I attended in Manhattan yesterday.

Instead, I’ll tell you the sad tale of why I didn’t make it to the event.

Earlier this week, I decided to start investigating how to reserve tickets to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Obviously, I like going to tapings and since I know from experience how hard it became to get tickets to The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon once the show got popular. I figured that the best way to score tickets to see the new Late Show would be to rely on the element of surprise and snatch them up early in the run. So it was during this search that I discovered that there was something that they were referring to as a “top secret taping” that was happening somewhere in Manhattan on Sunday August 16th. I was intrigued – I knew it wasn’t a test show as those tickets had already been available – and the early start time (9 am) and the “to be announced” location piqued my interest. I was already scheduled to be visiting a friend in Westchester on Saturday, so I the early start time wasn’t as big of a deterrent as it would have been had I been coming from Albany. I decided to see if there were any tickets left and to my surprise, I was able to snag one. I was excited, especially because of all the mystery surrounding the event. What would we be doing? My best guess was that perhaps it had something to do with filming the opening sequence of the show, but really it could have been anything. I received an email late Saturday night which at least told me where I was to go – a fountain in Union Square. Still had no idea what I’d be up to, but this was beginning to feel a little like a scavenger hunt which both thrilled me and gave me anxiety. I like to have everything well planned out and I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants, figuring out which trains I would have to take and when I would have to leave to make it in time to secure a spot in whatever was happening. I also wanted to make sure that my friend was cool with me taking off early Sunday morning, but that wasn’t a hindrance. Stephen Colbert – here I come!

I woke up at 5:40 am so that I could get myself to the Chappaqua train station to catch the 6:44 train to Grand Central Station. Check-in started at 8:15 am for the event and I knew that they would have overbooked, so I wanted to get there as soon as I could and to allow myself some extra time for missed subways or to make sure that I found the right fountain. I had a few minor hiccups along the way getting ready – par for the course when getting ready at someone else’s house where you don’t know where everything is and don’t want to wake anyone up – and I remember thinking to myself that this was going to be a day filled with minor annoyances. But I would soldier on and defy these minor setbacks; I grabbed my bags and bounded down the steps from my friend’s house to the driveway. It was on the very last step that I felt my ankle give out and the combination of moving down the stairs and the pace which I was moving meant that when I fell, I fell HARD. To paraphrase the late great Howard Cosell: “Down goes Heather! Down goes Heather!”




Now, my ankles have the tendency to twist pretty easily, so I am no stranger to falling down. I don’t even have to be doing anything; one time I was standing talking to co-workers and then I just fell after my ankle buckled when I shifted weight. This is why I will never have a career as a professional ice skater. But this fall was different; I’d never been in the amount pain that I was in as I was when I got up. After being relieved that my head did not smash into the SUV in the driveway, I realized that I was in legitimate agony. I had skinned my knee and my left ankle was pulsing with pain.

Now this is the part of the story when most people would have gone back into the house, woken people up and sought immediate medical attention. But I am not most people. Nope – I still tried to make it to the taping. I assumed that it hurt as badly as I did because I had just fallen and that the pain would subside. So I got in the car, willed myself not to cry and drove the short distance to the train station. I paid for parking, bought my train ticket and just kept telling myself that the pain would go away once I had a chance to sit down on the train and rest for an hour. It was right before I got on the train that I noticed that my ankle had swollen up to the size of a tennis ball, which even in my deep denial I realized was probably not a good sign. That had certainly never happened before. I took out my smart phone and started Googling to see what this meant and none of it was promising.

The more logical and realistic part of my brain finally kicked in and I realized that going to the city for an event where I’d have to stand for several hours was probably not the best decision. The worst thing that I could do is get myself into New York and then be in so much pain that I couldn’t get myself back, so I resigned myself to the fact that the Colbert experience simply wasn’t in the cards for me. If I had any doubt about my choice, the pain I was in once I stood up again and hopped off the train in North White Plains would have dispelled that. Climbing up two flights of stairs to buy a return tickets was proof enough that I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the event anyway and that I should probably seek out some professional assistance. I had realized on the train that I didn’t have my insurance card with me, so once I returned to Chappaqua I figured the only thing to do was to drive back home and seek medical attention when I got there. Because it was my left ankle I could still drive pretty easily, so I dragged myself from the train platform to my car and then began the 2 hour and twenty minute drive back to Albany. I found my insurance card, called my mom to let her know what was going on and then called a friend to drive me to Urgent Care and have this swollen and painful monstrosity checked out. After waiting around for a long time – Urgent Care is definitely a misnomer –and getting X-rays done, I at least knew that neither my foot nor my ankle were broken or had any fractures. This was good news, and once I started taking some ibuprofen the pain also subsided a fair amount. So instead of being part of the secret Colbert taping, I was laying on my couch with my ankle wrapped in an Ace bandage and on a bag of ice occasionally. Not the Sunday that I imagined, but it could have been a lot worse. The doctor said that I should be back to normal in a week or so, which is good news since I have two Yankee games and a Broadway show already booked for the upcoming weekend. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get a cool cane that I could pimp our (or cool painkillers), but I think I’ll survive. I’m just moving a lot slower when I do walk – stairs in particular are still a challenge – and trying to stay off my feet as much as possible.

I still don’t really know what the top secret event was for; Colbert posted a few tweets on Twitter that don’t provide much context, but based on the fact that people appear to have been standing for all of it, I wouldn’t have been able to participate anyway.

My body betrayed me – or my friend’s daughter put a hex on me when she told me to “break a leg” when I went to the taping. Might be wise to stay on that kid’s good side.


The Late Show with Stephen Colbert debuts on September 8th on CBS.

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