Kilborn was late to morning meeting, so everyone had a few minutes to take in the new writer. He was skinny, Jewy, with dark curls cut short and blue eyes in a long face. And he was quiet. Real quiet.
Madeline, who had been the one to push for hiring him, had pulled him into a conversation that seemed to be all her talking and him nodding seriously. When any of the writers tried to say hi, she would direct his attention to them, and after a quick introduction he would nod politely and let them go.
Finally the boss swept in. "People, people, let's calm down and get this thing started," he said, never mind that none of them had been particularly rowdy. "First order of business: our new hire! Jon Stewart has an impressively long résumé, including writing jokes for some of the funniest stars in Hollywood. Why he gave all that up to come here, we may never know." (Obligatory laughter.) "Jon, why don't you say a few words about yourself, and then we can jump right in?"
Jon started, features settling into an uncertain frown. His pointed at Craig, then spun his fingers in the air. Do you sign?
"Uh-huh," said Kilborn appraisingly. "So was that a really complicated rude gesture, or...."
Turning to Madeline, Jon pointed to Kilborn with a what-the-hell? expression.
Madeline had never looked this awkward. "It didn't come up," she admitted, before addressing Kilborn. "Jon's deaf, Craig."
"Deaf. Doesn't hear. Lip-reads really well, but when it comes to speaking—"
"I know what it means, Madeline!" snapped Kilborn. "I just thought I must have heard you wrong, because I thought when you recommended this guy you would have mentioned that he can't even keep up in a writers' room!"
"He can keep up! You saw his audition packet, you know he's good. Give him a chance, let him type things, and you'll see—"
Jon was tracking between them as quickly as he could, though it couldn't be easy when they kept cutting each other off. He was also shrinking into his chair, face carefully expressionless, though this had to be embarrassing. And maybe scary, because this business could be a feeding frenzy, hundreds of competitors for every spot in a room, and just when he thought he'd gotten one....
Enough of this. Stephen got up, punched Jon in the shoulder to get his attention, and signed, You're sure you want this job, here?
For a second Jon gaped at him like he'd hung the moon. Oh thank g-d you sign, he said, spelling out the G-hyphen-D. I don't even know. M thinks it's a good fit for my sense of humor, and she's worked with me a bunch so she would know, but if this is going to be a nightmare, I won't shed too many tears if they dump me. When did you learn ASL?
Nobody else needs to know this, Stephen warned him. I was born deaf. A couple of my siblings, too. When I was six someone came up with a surgery that fixed one of my ears. He tapped the one that was shaped properly. The other one still doesn't work, but I hear perfectly fine as long as people don't mumble.
Must help if it runs in the family, said Jon ruefully. I'm the only L who needs it. Mom signs okay, even if she doesn't keep up with jokes real well. My brother understands enough to ask how I've been at Thanksgiving, and that's about it.
How was he "an L"? There weren't any L's in his name. Stephen made a mental note to ask about it later. What about your dad?
Jon grimaced. Not important. Hey, I didn't get your name.
S-T-E-P-H-E-N...C-O-L-B-E-R-T, spelled Stephen. He'd have to teach Jon the sign his family used for him, so Jon didn't have to call him "S" all the time. Automatically, he added, The T is silent.
Jon stared at him for a second, then burst into giggles. They were high-pitched and kind of girly, but no way was Stephen going to mock him for that. It wasn't like he could help it, after all.
Several of the writers had noticed the silent conversation by this point, and decided it was more interesting to look at than the show's fuming host or irate co-creator. Kilborn hadn't realized anything was going on until this moment. "What?" he demanded, snapping out of the argument to glare suspiciously at Jon. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing to do with you!" said Stephen quickly. "He was laughing at something I said. I am the funniest person here, after all, so it's only natural." He fell without thinking about it into the habit of signing along as he spoke. It was the easiest thing to do at home, where the deaf people did best with ASL and the hearing people weren't necessarily looking at you. Even if you were as fabulous as Stephen.
Kilborn's brow furrowed. "You can do sign language?"
"Yes," said Stephen, though the sign he made along with it was Obviously. "If I make sure he always knows what's going on, will you quit worrying about him?"
"Fine!" cried Kilborn, throwing up his hands. "You. And you." He jabbed a finger at Stephen and Madeline in turn. "You're responsible for him, got it? If he can't hack it, on your heads be it."
Madeline signed a quick sorry at Jon. From the way he only nodded in reply, and the wordless way he'd asked her what was going on earlier, Stephen figured she'd picked up a handful of the most useful signs and left it at that.
Jon touched Stephen's arm. Did I just get assigned a babysitter? he asked.
Stephen shook his head. I'm sure you'll do great.
Stephen turned out to be pretty much the only thing that made this job bearable.
Madeline pulled up roots and quit a few months after Jon got there, and Jon was fairly sure nobody else there liked him. It wasn't just the language barrier, either, though it sucked how most of them couldn't be bothered to learn phrases like I understand and give me a minute. He watched the real news, the programs that The Daily Show's aesthetic riffed off of, and bristled with ideas for ways to take on the content too. He wanted to write jokes about politicians, not some poor schlub with grainy Bigfoot footage or an extensive earwig collection. He was aching to do satire.
He was, in short, a knife that had been dropped into a drawer full of spoons.
So sparks tended to fly when Jon got paired off with this writer or that to work on bits, and not in the good way. The only exception was Stephen. Not only was Stephen willing to keep up with Jon in conversation, he loved to talk about politics. During work they spent most of their time on adjacent computers with Instant Messenger open: ASL didn't have standardized signs for a lot of the more wonkish concepts, so it was easier to skip it and go with typing.
Stephen was self-important, often obnoxious, always willing to have a strong opinion even (sometimes especially) on topics he knew nothing about. If they had run into each other at a party or something, Jon probably wouldn't have put up with him for more than five minutes. But he was also charming, funny (whether he meant to be or not), enthusiastic, and fundamentally non-malicious. They ended up working together whenever Stephen was in the office, and Jon found himself enjoying it.
Less than half of the stuff they came up with made it to air. Kilborn didn't appreciate the sharper pieces; Jon had a hard time producing stupid ones. He was pretty sure he was going to get fired as soon as his contract was up.
There was no risk of Stephen going anywhere. Stephen was a correspondent first and a writer second, was responsible for all the show's most engaging field pieces, and had more presence on-stage than all the other correspondents put together.
Jon hoped they would still be able to hang out after they went their separate ways.
unicornprincess76: hey Jon
unicornprincess76: which of the other writers has been the biggest of a dick to you?
shamsky62: Uhhh...tough question.
shamsky62: Gonna go with Donovan.
unicornprincess76: ok, he's fired
unicornprincess76: well obviously I can't fire everyone at once, so it makes sense to start at the bottom. use your head, Jon.
shamsky62: Since when can you fire people at all?
unicornprincess76: since I finished the meeting with the network
unicornprincess76: half an hour ago
unicornprincess76: you are now talking to the new host of The Daily Show With Stephen Colbert
shamsky62: Stephen, that's tremendous! Congratulations!
unicornprincess76: eh, no biggie, we all know it was basically a lock
shamsky62: I have some panicked late-night IM sessions saved that say otherwise ;-)
unicornprincess76: don't know what you're talking about
unicornprincess76: also as my first act of delegation I am appointing you head writer
unicornprincess76: so start taking packet submissions for New Donovan ASAP
shamsky62: Stephen, I
shamsky62: I don't know what to say.
unicornprincess76: you can start with Thank You, My Glorious And Benevolent Boss
unicornprincess76: or did your mother teach you no manners?
shamsky62: Thank you, Stephen.
"Jon, I'd like you to meet Steve Carell." He spelled the name out, unnecessarily; Jon remembered the man who had nailed his audition. "Steve, this is Jon Stewart, the guy I told you about."
"Hi," said Jon out loud. It was about the limit of what he was comfortable voicing. Much more, and people started looking at him funny and treating him like he was slow.
The newest correspondent, a square-faced guy a couple inches shorter than Stephen, shook Jon's hand, then signed, Nice to meet you!
Jon did a double-take. Hi yourself! Stephen, you aren't just hiring people based on whether they can sign now, are you? (The sign for "Stephen" was "eagle", but tapped against the heart instead of the face.)
Steve looked blank, a white-toothed grin freezing on his face. "Stephen? What did he just say? Was it good?"
"No, I did not hire him because he can sign," said Stephen to Jon, hands whirling along with indignation. "He knows like eight phrases. I hired him because he'll look good in a suit, although not so good that he'll upstage me, and also because he has the common courtesy to learn to say 'thank you'. Don't expect too much more out of him — he's barely literate in English. He's probably going to need his scripts spelled out phonetically."
Steve waved a hand to catch Jon's attention. "Please tell me you lip-read."
Jon nodded. It was even easier now than usual: Steve was fantastically expressive, and had very clear enunciation.
"Great! Well, has Stephen here ever told you that he has a crippling fear of bears? Not just real bears, either: teddy bears will set him off. He's gotten nightmares from Winnie-the-Pooh, cried like a little baby. It's pathetic."
Stephen shoved him aside. "Steve once got so high that he had an hour-long conversation with a fire hydrant. And at the end he tried to make out with it. Not only that, it was the most action he'd gotten all month."
Steve leaned over Stephen's shoulder. "Stephen doesn't understand the difference between macaroni and the Macarena!"
Enough, enough! exclaimed Jon, waving his hands emphatically to get the point across. Oh my g-d you two are terrifying. If we're ever short on material one night, we could do a whole five minutes of just you two yelling at each other.
"He's pitching a segment where we yell at each other for five minutes," Stephen explained to Steve.
I wasn't "pitching"—
Jon stopped mid-sentence; nobody was looking at him. Instead they were gazing into each other's eyes, faces right up next to each other, and, hang on, how did Steve know what kind of nightmares Stephen had, anyway? "That sounds fantastic," said Steve.
"Doesn't it?" agreed Stephen, grinning. To Jon he added, Have a list of at least six possible topics on my desk by this afternoon!
The thing Stephen had not realized, when he started approving more political stories, was that sometimes politics moved fast. While a story about hair replacement for G.I. Joe dolls or the Guinness world record-holder for "largest pigeon" was timeless, and could be tweaked or bumped indefinitely, a story about Super Tuesday had to be focused on, polished, and gotten out there by, well, Tuesday. Otherwise nobody would care.
It was only Monday morning, and he was already overwhelmed.
Once the morning's assignments were parceled out, for that night's show as well as for a head start on tomorrow's, Stephen dragged Jon up to his office. For a minute he wore a silent circle in the floor, while Jon watched, concern mapped all over his face.
What Stephen really wanted to do was collapse on the couch and nap for the day, then freeball the whole episode. He certainly had enough opinions to pull it off. Unfortunately, Chuck, their director since forever, would murder him if he tried.
He strode over to the desk, beckoning for Jon to follow. And bring a chair.
With the two of them seated side-by-side in front of the monitor, Stephen woke the computer up, opened a blank document, and typed:
why did I think it was a good idea to send everyone away? Vance in TX, Mo upstate, Steve in CA, Nancy in RI, there is nobody left to be the stern and wordy foil to my gut-based interrogative brilliance
Jon appraised him for a moment, then took over the keyboard.
It *was* a good idea. We're getting live on-the-ground reporting that cuts to the heart of the ridiculousness of the networks' live on-the-ground reporting. And you can carry the next couple shows on your own, Stephen. You've always been able to do that.
Stephen groaned and pushed him aside.
but I don't **want** to
And he flopped back in the chair, eyes closed. Jon gently removed his hands from the keyboard and added something. When he had finished typing, Stephen forced himself to sit up and take it in.
We can call Mo back early. Or any of the others, but obviously Mo is easiest. It's your call. What do you want to do?
Well, there was his opening. Stephen steeled himself and answered.
I want to put you on the air tomorrow.
Jon turned and stared at him, face twisted with incredulity. He didn't have to spell it out for Stephen to get the message.
I'm not kidding, signed Stephen.
What exactly are you expecting me to do? demanded Jon. Sit there and sign while you repeat everything I'm saying? If it's pre-scripted anyway, what would be the point? I'm a writer, not an actor!
There were a few words coming up that Stephen wasn't sure of, so he went back to the keyboard.
we can use subtitles! it will be a big step for diversity, liberals are supposed to be all about that right? you're adorable, you're funny, they will love you just for the faces you make. other people should have a chance to appreciate our amazing chemistry. and you've been on stage before I know it was on your resume and everything.
College standup, protested Jon. At a college where everyone understood ASL.
And they loved you, right?
A faraway look came into Jon's eyes. He hadn't wanted to think about it, maybe because he didn't want to brag (which baffled Stephen, who always wanted to brag), but yeah, they had clearly loved him.
Time to press the advantage.
somebody has to help me out here. this news is all about polls and statistics aka the devil's percentages, of which I understand nothing. also until we know for sure who the GOP nominee is my gut will have no idea who to fall in line behind. I need somebody to carry me through opinion limbo and I want it to be you.
Jon stared at the paragraph long enough to have read it three or four times before adding a reply.
Your faith in me is very touching, bu
Stephen grabbed Jon's shoulders and pushed his gaze away from the monitor before he could finish. Jon. (The sign they used was writing, mirror-reversed to be left-handed, with the hand in the shape of a J.) Please, give it a try. For me?
And he topped it off with his most winsome, pleading, helpless-kitten eyes.
We'll have to bring in someone for a consult. See if NTID has any political science professors available, signed Jon at last. Nobody's going to have enough patience for this if I always have to spell out things like E-L-E-C-T-O-R-A-L....
"Joining me now to explain what all these numbers mean, and why I should not be afraid of them, is Senior Tuesday Correspondent Jon Stewart!"
In a badly-fitted suit and one of Stephen's extra ties, part of Jon had never felt so awkward. On the other hand, when the cheap platform beneath them vibrated with the audience's applause, part of him was twenty-one again, watching hands fly into the air across the college auditorium and realizing that oh, okay, this was what his brain was for.
"Before we start, I have to explain that Jon is not so much with the talking thing," Stephen told the camera. "So we're going to be giving him subtitles. And if you happen to be blind or illiterate...suck it up."
He turned to Jon, who had been waiting for the cue. The script hadn't specified that Stephen should break into sign here, but he fell into it anyway. "Jon, what can you tell us about the polling so far?"
Cut to camera three, full frame on Jon.
Before we start, Stephen, I have to ask about my title, he began. Does it mean I'm a senior correspondent on the subject of Tuesdays, or that I'm only a senior correspondent on Tuesdays?
Cut back to camera two. Both men in frame, Stephen adorably irritated. "No, Jon, you're a senior correspondent on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, alternate Saturdays, and the third Friday of the month. Read your contract. Now what about those numbers?"
Jon flowed on to the setup for the next joke like he'd been born to do it. He had no clue what the audience was doing now, whether each punch line was hitting home or bombing, but he didn't have to worry about that until the wrap meeting. All he had to do now was keep up the banter with Stephen.
At half past two in the morning and with the Florida returns still not in, Jon was up three cups of coffee, down to stale shirtsleeves and no tie. Scribbling notes on a laser-printed map of Florida districts with one hand, he reached for a slice of pizza with the other.
Stephen's fingers, smudged with so much newsprint that it had even dulled his wedding ring, reached the crust at the same time.
He looked like more of a wreck than Jon felt, tie hanging loose and dark hair plastered to his forehead, so Jon let go and gestured that he should have it.
Stephen stared at his hand like he wasn't sure what to do with it. He really must have been exhausted; he looked unsure and vulnerable, and not in the deliberate way he used to manipulate people, either. Had something about the accidental contact caught him off-guard? No, it couldn't have been that big a deal; they touched each other all the time, attention-getting taps and tugs and hands-on-arms.
Jon went back to his map. If Stephen needed him for something, Stephen could always poke him and ask.
He fell asleep on the studio floor at a quarter to five, using his wadded-up suit jacket as a pillow, unpoked.
The announcement was finally put over the PA system by the new stage manager, a guy named Bobby who in Stephen's opinion perpetually needed a shave. People started to break away from the clusters that had formed around each of the office televisions, gathering their things, putting on their coats. There were somber back-pats, murmured well-wishes. Be safe. See you soon.
Stephen tore himself away from one of the clips of smoke billowing across the skyline, scanned the break room for Jon, then went jogging down the hall. He had a wild thought in mind that because Jon couldn't have heard the announcement, Jon might not have realized there was anything going on at all, and when the lights went out and the building shut down he might be left here all alone in the dark.
No sign of him in wardrobe. None in the adjacent men's room. Nobody in the rows of cubicles where they stacked all the administrative staff not important enough to have offices with doors....
Stephen spun on his heel, nearly crashing into the wall. Jon had just come around the corner, breathing hard, and was waving for his attention. That was what it sounded like when Jon said his name.
(Six years old, surrounded by a clamor of new sensation he didn't understand how to filter, the day had come when he realized one particular string of sounds from his mother matched up with the letters he signed on all his drawings, that that was the noise meaning him....)
Sam said you were looking for me? signed Jon, closing the distance between them. (Samantha Bee was well on her way to learning more ASL than either Steve or Nancy. The sign they used for her was "bee", at her own insistence.)
I didn't know if you knew, explained Stephen, feeling stupid now. We're all going home. So...you can go home.
Jon grimaced. I don't think I can. My apartment is close to the...the two....
Stephen flashed I understand, sparing him the need to figure out signs for this. You have somewhere to go, though, right?
Just bought a little beach house in NJ, admitted Jon. I can go there.
The idea hit Stephen right in the gut, and not in a good way. No, he said, making a snap decision. (He was good at those.) My giant real house is in NJ. Come home with me.
Jon faltered. You should be with your family right now.
Moving so fast it came out barely more than a sloppy blur, Stephen said, I don't have a family.
Jon did a double-take. Your wife? Your kids?
I made them up. So I wouldn't have to feel inadequate around people like Steve and Sam. Stephen paused to pull off the ring, the gold band that looked convincingly enough like a wedding ring, until you noticed the Black Tongue of Mordor engraved on the inside. Finest custom jewelry for the rich celebrity geek.
Stephen, that's ridiculous, signed Jon weakly.
Stephen didn't argue. If you tell anyone, I will say one of us must have gotten our signs mixed up, and heavily imply that it was you, he warned.
There was a long moment while Jon took it all in. Then he shook his head. You know what? I don't care. It doesn't matter right now. Come on, let's go crash in front of your TV and obsessively watch the news from there.
unicornprincess76: just threw out draft 24
shamsky62: Do you want some help?
unicornprincess76: this is not what I signed up to do
unicornprincess76: I was supposed to be famous and beloved and have my name in a title and my face on screen while I make witty and debonair comments on the current state of negotiations on the capital gains tax
shamsky62: Stephen...I don't know what to say.
unicornprincess76: WELL THAT MAKES TWO OF US DOESN'T IT
shamsky62: Hey now. Capslock is uncalled for.
shamsky62: Don't make me come up there and hug you.
unicornprincess76: sorry Jon
unicornprincess76: the vaxachillpill is taking a while to kick in
shamsky62: I understand.
unicornprincess76: what do you think of this for draft 25:
unicornprincess76: just me saying "America" fifty times in a row, in various levels of tone and expression ranging from heartbroken to reassuring to patriotic inspiration
unicornprincess76: because it's better than anything I've come up with so far
shamsky62: It could work...
shamsky62: But look, you don't have to be Shakespeare here, okay? People aren't going to be turning to a fake news show, two weeks after the fact, as their main source of emotional support.
shamsky62: The audience just needs you to acknowledge their pain, and share some little place you've found hope in.
shamsky62: Even if it's stupid.
unicornprincess76: I guess
unicornprincess76: so where do you find hope, Jon, because I am tapped pretty low on options here
shamsky62 is typing.
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unicornprincess76: are you afk?
shamsky62 is typing.
shamsky62: I could see the towers from my apartment.
shamsky62: But when I look out that window now, I can see the Statue of Liberty.
unicornprincess76: wow Jon
unicornprincess76: that is really beautiful
unicornprincess76: how did you come up with something like that?
shamsky62: ...I didn't "come up with" it. It's true.
unicornprincess76: yes exactly! it's so moving because it gets at essential truths of the human spirit!
shamsky62: No I mean it's literally true.
unicornprincess76: all the best poetry is "literally true"!
shamsky62 is typing.
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shamsky62 is typing.
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shamsky62 is typing.
shamsky62: You know what, forget it.
unicornprincess76: so can I use it in the speech?
unicornprincess76: or is it (c) Jon Stewart?
shamsky62: You can use it in the speech as long as you make sure to say that it's my specific apartment you're talking about. Okay?
unicornprincess76: yes that is a compromise I can live with
Jon and Stephen were going over the breakdown for the next week, rearranging multicolored cards on the cork board, when Chuck stopped by. "Hey, Stephen? Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Can you give us a minute? signed Stephen. Jon nodded and grabbed a nearby script to edit, taking a seat facing away from Stephen as he went to greet the director. "We're doing very important work here, all right? Work so important that Jon assures me it trumps my need to have the cards arranged in a pretty rainbow design. What do you need?"
Chuck glanced uncomfortably in Jon's direction. "Can we do it without him?" he asked in a hushed voice.
"You don't need to whisper," said Stephen irritably. "As long as you don't start playing a bass drum or anything, he won't notice a thing. It'll be like he's not even here."
"Yeah, okay," said Chuck, though he was still fidgeting. "The thing is, Stephen...I know you're really excited about the way this show has been picking up...but I don't think I can keep pace."
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, the graphics, for one. When I started out here there were a couple dozen graphics cues to call in any given episode. These days you're pushing hundreds. And the camera work! You can't keep writing bits that call for ten different shots in thirty seconds. I know you can keep up, but you're burning me out, here."
Stephen drew himself up stiffly, eyebrows a sharpened arc. "I have a vision for this show, Chuck," he said. "A vision that sometimes involves getting all possible angles on my very photogenic face in a very brief span of time."
"We all know you've got a vision, Stephen." He was doing the awkward-glance-at-Jon thing again. "And other times it involves quick-change subtitle gags, and you two will improvise on the pacing, and I'm only getting cues from half of it anyway, so—"
"Are you saying you have a problem with Jon?"
"I'm saying I have a problem directing this show!" cried Chuck. He winced, reassured himself that Jon hadn't twitched, and went on. "And either you two need to dial it back to a manageable level of visual chaos, or you need to let me know what reasonable amount of time it'll take to interview my replacement."
When he was gone, Stephen collapsed onto the couch in a huff, wadded up a spare bit of paper, and lobbed it at the back of Jon's head. Chuck says either we slow down the visuals or he's quitting, he signed miserably, once he had Jon's eyes.
Instead of looking affronted, Jon seemed to be thinking this over. I could slow down the visuals, he replied. Write more low-effects bits. The bells and whistles are fun, don't get me wrong, but we can create solid material that will hold up without them.
Stephen decided not to mention the fuss Chuck had made about subtitles. Bells and whistles are very important to my vision.
To his relief, Jon didn't fight it. I understand.
So that was it, then. Decision made. Farewell party to plan. And...Who do we know who's experienced at directing late-night and currently looking for a job?
Jon shook his head. We don't go looking in late-night.
What? Where else, then?
We put out a call for people who are experienced in directing news.
"And the Emmy goes to...The Daily Show with Stephen Colbert!"
Stephen grabbed Jon's arm and pulled him out of his seat, just in case Jon hadn't realized what it meant that clips of their show were playing on all the screens, or had missed that all the other writers were getting up. They filed down the aisles like a row of penguins toward the gold-and-white stage, while the announcer continued, "Accepting this award will be The Daily Show's head writer, Jon Stewart!"
The presenter, an actress whose name Stephen had already forgotten but whose dress was a stunning Versace, handed Jon the Emmy and stepped away from the microphone to leave him room. Jon looked blankly at it for a second, then turned an adorable sheepish smile on the audience while Stephen darted around him to skid into the spot.
"Hi everyone," said Stephen, as Jon turned to keep an eye on his mouth. "I'm Stephen Colbert. As some of you may know, Jon here is amazing with the writing, but has a terrible voice." Appreciative laughter, at least from the people who weren't stuck wondering if they were allowed to laugh. "So he's going to do a quick acceptance speech in American Sign Language, and I will do the translation. Also, hold onto that Emmy for him." He grabbed at the pretty statue in what he felt was a very subtle way. "Gimme."
Jon relinquished the award, then signed, You're going to give it back, right?
"Of course I'm going to give it back!" cried Stephen, affronted. A ripple of laughter ran through the seats. "Do your speech, already. We're running out the clock here."
With a nod, Jon faced the cameras and the crowd. Even to the side of the microphone, he was getting plenty of well-deserved spotlight. This is a huge honor for all of us here on The Daily Show, he began. Especially since we were up against some stiff competition. I'd like to thank the Academy...
Stephen dutifully echoed him up to "...'to thank the Academy'," then added, "although the fact that they didn't give Stephen here the Best Host award is a criminal lack of judgment — ow!" Jon had driven an elbow into his ribs. "What was that for?"
Hands flashed; Stephen automatically translated. "'You were going off script.' And how would you know? 'Because, Stephen, you're just that predictable.' Now wait just a minute, I— 'Can we get back on track now?' Oh, fine."
Jon took a moment to give him a soothing pat on the shoulder before continuing. ...the good people at Comedy Central who've given us this opportunity. All the members of the crew who do such amazing work behind the scenes, especially our amazing director, Jimmy. AOL Instant Messenger for being our primary mode of communication around the office. The friends and family who have supported us all year, hi Mom, are you going to stop asking when I'm going to become a doctor now? And of course, my wonderful boss....
"...'my wonderful boss....Stephen Colbert'?" Stephen's interpretation faltered due to a sudden attack of choking up. "You really mean that? I didn't make that up!" he added to the crowd. "He really said that one!"
Now Jon turned to smile at him, and nodded. Tears sprang to Stephen's eyes; his bottom lip was wobbling. Jon put an arm around him, inviting Stephen to sob on his shoulder, then waved a no-translation-needed farewell to the audience.
They were unobtrusively wrestling over the Emmy as the crowd clapped them off the stage.