The Truthiness: Emerson Rocks

by Erin Connolly / Beacon Correspondent • September 29, 2011

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

When Stephen Colbert launched into a gesture-heavy commentary on a simplistic news story Aug. 11, Emerson students may have recognized the spoofed reporter.

Katie Eastman woke up one lazy August morning to information overload. Texts, voicemails, tweets, Facebook messages, every type of media outlet thrown her way. They all revolved around one theme: emThe Colbert Report/em. Eastman clicked on a link of the previous night’s show and watched in awe as her news story about the longest-running annual garage sale in Iowa played out on national television.

“Katie blew the lid off of garage sale-gate. Clearly, clearly Katie, you’re the only one I can trust. Call me,” Colbert said.

Eastman, a 2011 broadcast journalism alumna, said she kept telling herself it didn’t happen. It took only a few pinches to wake her up and realize that what she had just received was the “Colbert bump.”

It all started when emThe Colbert Report/em, a nightly satirical news show, created a Super PAC, a political action committee that raises money to support candidates. With money from the PAC, the show constructed commercials urging voters to write in the name Rick Parry–the true candidate being, Rick Perry — in the Iowa Straw Poll. One news station, ABC Channel 5 in Des Moines, refused to air the ad, worried it might “confuse” voters.

With comedic undertones, Stephen Colbert, host of the Colbert Report, attacked the station and asked who had the “courage to tackle the tough issues.” Sure enough, Eastman’s headshot appeared on the screen and her life went from a local Des Moines newscaster to Stephen Colbert’s definition of America’s sweetheart.

NPR, Yahoo, The Hollywood Reporter, and many other news sites quickly nabbed the story.

Colbert fans created a Facebook group, Intrepid Cub Reporter Katie Eastman should join emThe Colbert Report/em, and a Twitter account, @EastmanNation. These media outlets were the main force behind her increasing popularity, Eastman said.

Eastman is one of many Emerson alumni with a connection to emThe Colbert Report/em.

Liz Migliaccio, a 2011 visual and media arts alumna, found her way to emThe Colbert Report/em in a different fashion. She rehearsed countless answers that might impress internship coordinators but did not expect to have to brush up on her favorite television program from childhood.

“Who is the best Sesame Street character?” the interviewer asked.

Migliaccio racked her brain and responded with the Count. Why did she choose the G-rated vampire? “Because of the way he says his numbers,” she said.

Luckily, her wit and humor paid off: A few days later she scored an internship with emThe Colbert Report/em. Looking back, the silly and unique nature of the question mirrored Migliaccio’s entire experience with the show.

She worked Monday through Thursday performing simple tasks such as paper filing, and more unusual requests like running around Union Square in search of forty squashes.

“We had to make the set look Martha Stewart-y,” Migliaccio said about Martha Stewart’s guest visit on the show.

Along with Martha Stewart, other well-known names came on the show during Migliaccio’s time there. Every Tuesday she greeted each celebrity guest, bringing them coffee and giving them paperwork to fill out. However, she said the most intimidating part was working with Colbert himself.

When he would ask simple questions like whether she was enjoying the internship she became starstruck and wondered if he was really talking to her, she said.

Talking to Colbert has gotten easier now that she works full time for the show.

“They hire within,” Migliaccio said in a telephone interview. A spot opened up for a post-production assistant after her internship ended and they saved it for her until she graduated, she said. Migliaccio said she would be content with the same job forever.

“I love the comedy late-night adrenaline rush,” she said. “And to put together a show from the ground up.”

The show has given her a new-found interest in politics, and has made her a better writer, she said.

While Migliaccio got a chance to see how Colbert’s day was, Melody Conte, a 2011 visual and media arts alumna, interned as a writer for Comedy Central.

Both shows kept their writing room doors open most of the time; there were couches, TVs and whiteboards everywhere, and many writers had an iPad in their lap, Conte said.

Although Conte originally had no interest in late night comedy, she said she wants to get back into it, and plans to move out to New York City. She said she misses the lively writing room and all the hard-working people.

Conte watched Colbert rehearse in the studio. He was always cracking jokes and making interns feel welcome, she said.

“When rehearsal was over I asked for a picture and he said ‘not at all, let’s do it right here!’” Conte said.

At the end of her internship, Conte had the pleasure of having breakfast with Colbert, Jon Stewart, and a room full of Comedy Central interns. It was funny to see Stewart and Colbert in jeans and T-shirts instead of pressed suits, she said.

Yet Conte said she felt comfortable sitting in front of two of the most popular late-night show hosts.

“I asked, ‘is it hard to keep work life separate from home?’” Conte said. “Jon Stewart started to answer and Colbert acted it out.” She said that Colbert was more animated and Stewart seemed a bit more soft-spoken.

Conte and Migliaccio may have worked for the man, but Eastman’s reputation as an “intrepid cub reporter” has turned her into a Colbert punchline, and she doesn’t mind.

“It’s healthy to laugh at yourself,” she said. “If you take life too seriously it gets frustrating.”

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emConnolly can be reached at/em

em erin_connolly@emerson.edu./em

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emem/em

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