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Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak
January 26, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Stephen Colbert interviews Maurice Sendak: part one (aired 1/24), part 2 (aired 1/25)

Maurice Sendak previously on MeFi: 1, 2, 3, 4
posted by flex (55 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is rare that Colbert's subjects get the last laugh, but when they do, like Justice Stevens did, it's great fun.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:16 AM on January 26, 2012


"It's terrible. You'll make a lot of money from it."
posted by Burhanistan at 8:17 AM on January 26, 2012


yeah, Maurice Sendak utterly owned that interview and it was awesome!
posted by supermedusa at 8:20 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not only is Maurice Sendak more awesome that I imagined, he might be more awesome than I can imagine.
posted by gauche at 8:21 AM on January 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


This interview gave new and delightful meaning to the word 'candid..,' especially Sendak's post-marker-sniffing haze.
posted by obscurator at 8:21 AM on January 26, 2012


Not only is Maurice Sendak more awesome that I imagined, he might be more awesome than I can imagine.

This. I caught part 2 last night almost accidentally. I don't normally watch Colbert's show and tuned in right when it came on. I laughed so hard I might have broken a few blood vessels.
posted by King Bee at 8:23 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is rare that Colbert's subjects get the last laugh, but when they do, like Justice Stevens did, it's great fun.

Thanks for posting the link. I hadn't seen it yet, and that was just great.
posted by graphnerd at 8:25 AM on January 26, 2012


Let's not forget that he rounded out last night with Terry Gross. "You are a MONSTER!"
posted by Madamina at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


For Canadians:

Part 1 starts at 3:02
Part 2 starts at 4:45
posted by gman at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


That was really funny. Another site described it as Sendak not being in on the joke, but I'm not entirely sure that's the case.
posted by codacorolla at 8:37 AM on January 26, 2012


Thanks for sharing this OP! :oD

Maurice is awesome. I'm so glad he's not a douchebag like Dahl.

He had a Mr. Incredible doll in his colored pencils. I love this guy.
posted by sydnius at 8:45 AM on January 26, 2012


Not in on the joke? Yeah, I'm pretty sure he was in on it.

Either way, he was so in control that it didn't matter.
posted by Jonathan Harford at 8:46 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


There were just too many good parts of that interview to list. Sendak is Awesome, Colbert is Awesome and the collision of the two, well, all I can say is "bag of penises"
posted by djrock3k at 8:52 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It's got to be as bad as that looks like it is"
posted by SharkParty at 8:53 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


For a long time, my mental image of "curmudgeon" was Barney Frank. Barney Frank has now been displaced as mayor of Curmudgeon by Maurice Sendak.
posted by ambrosia at 8:57 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The sad thing is I liked it
posted by InfidelZombie at 8:57 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd love to see the raw footage to see actually how much of this was just editted together.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 8:58 AM on January 26, 2012


My take was that Sendak was in on the joke but didn't give a shit, which was perfect.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:05 AM on January 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


I loved these interviews. I grew up with Sendak, but it didn't occur to me until I was an adult just how laden with loneliness and escape they were. To compound the experience of being a Jew during the Holocaust with later being a gay man through the era of AIDS, his blunt misanthropy at his age is not only understandable, but liberating.
posted by mkultra at 9:05 AM on January 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


(they = his books)
posted by mkultra at 9:06 AM on January 26, 2012


To really appreciate this interview, take a look at how Sendak chews through newspaper interviewers (like this hapless one in the Guardian, and - a better read - this one in the Globe) dispatched to his house so he can plug his latest book. You can tell he's cranky with the pious, repetitive media, and that the crank is a bit of a character act.

The best part of watching him butt heads with the Colbert character (who gave such grief to guests who were used to pious interviewers) is that it genuinely made him laugh. Both men wear their characters lightly, and the result is pretty wonderful to watch.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:19 AM on January 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


To compound the experience of being a Jew during the Holocaust with later being a gay man through the era of AIDS, his blunt misanthropy at his age is not only understandable, but liberating.

Oh my god. Maurice Sendak is Magneto?
posted by gauche at 9:22 AM on January 26, 2012 [27 favorites]


I've long wondered how these interviews go down. They're obviously edited together, and I imagine that the interviewee must be in on the joke at least to some extent. Are people given detailed instructions beforehand about what Colbert is planning to do, and told to play along? Do they do multiple takes?
posted by eugenen at 9:25 AM on January 26, 2012


That's fun. I don't seek them out, but every interview I've seen/read with Sendak always endears him to me.
posted by edgeways at 9:36 AM on January 26, 2012


I saw Sendak do a talk (and a signing) about 15 years ago and he was just as delightfully curmudgeonly. So glad he's still around to speak his mind.
posted by chowflap at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2012


All of Colbert's guests are told about the way it works before the interview: he's in character, he's probably going to act like an ass, but he won't deliberately try to ambush you...

If the subject isn't in on the joke, someone on Colbert's staff hasn't done their job (or the guest is just clueless).

This only applies to on-set interviews, though, not necessarily to segments like the old "Better Know a District."
posted by asnider at 9:39 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've read that the problem with comedy interviews is when guests try to do their own comedy rather than playing along as a straight man/woman to the interviewer's act.

It's rare in this genre for the final edit to leave the guest outshining or even matching the host. Kudos to Colbert for allowing it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:21 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've long wondered how these interviews go down. They're obviously edited together, and I imagine that the interviewee must be in on the joke at least to some extent. Are people given detailed instructions beforehand about what Colbert is planning to do, and told to play along? Do they do multiple takes?

Agreeing largely with asnider.

Although I don't know for certain, I suspect in many cases (although possibly not with many politicians i.e. better know a district) they prep the interviewee beforehand in case they are not aware of what exactly Colbert is playing at.

I say this because early in the first season there was an interview (I thought the first episode, but clearly it is not) was in some ways a small disaster. I can't find who it was, but his guest was an author I believe who dealt with LGBT issues. And Stephen was of course doing his usual sting of intolerance. The guest was visibly upset, and it seemed like Stephen was as well. Either this was a one-time thing and the guest wasn't properly prepped, or it was just the early days of the show and all the kinks weren't worked out yet.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:25 AM on January 26, 2012


Although I don't know for certain, I suspect in many cases (although possibly not with many politicians i.e. better know a district) they prep the interviewee beforehand in case they are not aware of what exactly Colbert is playing at.

I read a piece on Colbert and the show a while back that indicated that they do, in fact, prep the interviewees (for on-set interviews, at least). I'd link to the article, but I can't remember where I read it.
posted by asnider at 10:28 AM on January 26, 2012


It could have been his AMA on Reddit.

No one doesn't know I'm in character. I tell everyone first.
I admire Sacha Baron Cohen, but I am not doing Ali G.

posted by ODiV at 10:36 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've seen candid footage of Colbert (I wish I could remember which guest it was) talking to the guest backstage and explaining how the interview segment works, so there's no way that a guest out there doesn't get it, unless they really are just that stupid--which is always possible. But not here.

Thanks for the post! I'd have missed this one.
posted by tzikeh at 10:40 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The AMA is from last year, so I don't know if it's possible that things have changed since 2005. To be completely clear I have a hard time believing Colbert would jump into an interview without informing his guest; he's an incredibly courteous guy in a lot of ways.

I really wish I could find that interview, though, because it's nearly painful to watch. I suppose it's possible his guest just didn't understand fully, or did and was offended anyway.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2012


I loved his rant about e-books. Of course this bit from the Guardian interview relates, as well as being great on it's own:
Sendak shakes his head beneath the low-beamed ceiling, in this room full of art and old rugs. "I can't believe I've turned into a typical old man. I can't believe it." He smiles and his face transforms. "I was young just minutes ago."
posted by delmoi at 10:55 AM on January 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


That is the best thing I've watched all month. I was in tears.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:57 AM on January 26, 2012


I enjoy Sendak's art but I think his Holocaust memory is bogus.

He told this story which brought tears to everybody's eyes about his monster mom chiding him for being late to the dinner table by saying (this is a direct quotation the memory is seared into my brain) "your cousin Benjamin would like to come to dinner on time but he can't because the Nazis killed him".

If anything like that ever happened it was nothing like Sendak says. He, an American born in 1928, would have been eighteen years old when the full reality became common knowledge. The way he tells the story, he was a little boy and his mom was abusing him. If she was cooking for him at age eighteen and he couldn't be bothered to be prompt he deserved worse than verbal abuse.

I pulled that on my mom and that might have been the last time she bothered to cook me dinner. She was not a monster.

So his terrible experience of being a Jew is excessively dramatized. I suspect his terrible experience of being Gay may be the same.
posted by bukvich at 10:58 AM on January 26, 2012


The Nazis were killing Jews long before the war broke out or the introduction of concentration camps. While the genreal public may not have been paying close attention, do you really think Sendak's family would have had no contact with extended family in Europe? Surely something like that would have been mentioned in a letter. And yeah, that totally sounds like something my husband's now deceased grandmother would have said. :/
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Of course I haven't seen the same thing as you did bukvich, and actually have little knowledge of Sendak's personal life, but there is a big difference between "common knowledge" and family or personal knowledge.

"I" know that an unknown Minnesota legislator tried to close down all foster homes in the State last year, and managed to get language slipped into the final finance bill that would do so. It isn't "common knowledge" though. Most people in the state do not know this. It doesn't make it untrue.


I don't see it as implausible that many families living abroad, even int he States knew of family members killed by the Nazis, and the Nazis didn't kill everyone in the camps, lot of violence unrelated to the camps. In '38 7,500 Jewish shops destroyed and 400 synagogues burnt down, in a single night for instance.


I think it is wise to be questioning of what people claim, but if that is the main argument against his story... I gotta say it is a little weak, and does nothing to discredit Sendak's ccount.
posted by edgeways at 11:14 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


And ...If she was cooking for him at age eighteen and he couldn't be bothered to be prompt he deserved worse than verbal abuse.

really?
posted by edgeways at 11:15 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is rare that Colbert's subjects get the last laugh,

Completely false. Colbert is constantly trying to hand his guests soft-pitch straight lines. Fewer manage to hit them out of the park than you'd like, but it happens frequently.
posted by straight at 11:16 AM on January 26, 2012


bukvich: He, an American born in 1928, would have been eighteen years old when the full reality became common knowledge.

First of all, I cannot find any record of this interview you're describing, but here's something from The Jewish Museum's intro to their Sendak exhibit:
As a child of Eastern European Jewish immigrants who came to America just before World War I, Maurice Sendak grew up in a household with strong ties to the Old Country. When he was 13 years old, Sendak learned that his paternal grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins had perished in the Holocaust. The realization that children his age could die was a great shock to Sendak and became a preoccupation in much of the work he has created.
Second, footage of the concentration camps being discovered/liberated by American soldiers was being shown in newsreels in the U.S. before the war was over.

So his terrible experience of being a Jew is excessively dramatized. I suspect his terrible experience of being Gay may be the same.

I think you should quit while you're way, way behind.
posted by tzikeh at 11:16 AM on January 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


The American press reported Nazi violence toward Jews as early as 1933, and by 1938, published reports of anti-Jewish measures such as the Nuremberg Laws, along with other incidents of antisemitic violence, had multiplied dramatically. In 1941, as the magnitude of anti-Jewish violence increased, newspapers began running descriptions of the Nazi mass murder of Jews, some even using the word "extermination" to refer to these large-scale killings.

I'm not sure where anybody could get the idea that a Jewish person with close relatives in Europe could not have heard about the deaths of their own family members until 1946.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


What an unpleasant derail of an amazing post. Can it stop please?
posted by calamari kid at 11:38 AM on January 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


LOVED that interview. Can we get Maurice Sendak his own talk show?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:01 PM on January 26, 2012


I was really worried that this interview would go very badly. Mr. Sendak is very old, and probably unaware/indifferent to the Colbert phenomenon, and I was concerned that Colbert would be too.... I dunno...Colbert, and I didn't want him trying to make Sendak look bad.

I worry too much. Mr. Sendak gave as good as he got. It really was as good as a bag of penises.
posted by dejah420 at 12:28 PM on January 26, 2012


In the NYTimes Magazine story on Colbert (probably the one six-or-six-thirty is referring to), it says Colbert "is particularly careful to visit guests beforehand in the green room and prepare them for what’s going to happen. When John Lithgow was on recently to promote his new memoir, “Drama,” Colbert warned him that his character would become the biggest jerk Lithgow had ever met. “Just pretend I’m the drunk in a bar who won’t shut up,” he said.

Great interview, thanks for posting.
posted by Mchelly at 12:35 PM on January 26, 2012


I was so pleased to see Maurice Sendak enjoying himself in this interview. The last interview I'd heard of his was this one from Fresh Air (transcript), and he candidly discusses the sadness of old age. "I cry a lot because I miss people. I cry a lot because they die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more."

What a beautiful, beautiful man.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:34 PM on January 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


Two archetypes - the misanthrope and the satirist. One real, one fabricated: both wonderful.
posted by incandissonance at 1:45 PM on January 26, 2012


So his terrible experience of being a Jew is excessively dramatized. I suspect his terrible experience of being Gay may be the same.

Seek out and watch Spike Jonze's excellent documentary about him "Tell Them Anything You Want". It's a much more clear view about Sendak's life as a gay man. He didn't come out until 2008, so certainly the tyranny of the closet had some toll on him overall.
posted by hippybear at 5:56 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I never expected my morning to be punctuated by seeing a baggy of penises and butt cracks. I cracked up and went to my OB/GYN exam in great spirits.
posted by jadepearl at 7:16 PM on January 26, 2012


What an unpleasant derail of an amazing post. Can it stop please?
Metafilter version of this guy
posted by delmoi at 10:07 PM on January 26, 2012


Also, I love that Sendak reportedly loved Jonze's film interpretation of Wild Things, a film that was far more moving and affecting to me as a father of two boys than I expected it to be. Jonze got Sendak and Sendak got Jonze.

Also, Colbert really is the smartest, funniest, and most compassionately human person in entertainment today and this was really great.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:29 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope Colbert does publish that book about the pole, complete with Sendak's blurb.
posted by delmoi at 7:39 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This Fresh Air interview is breathtaking and heartbreaking. Thank you.
posted by sixacross at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2012


FINALLY got around to watching this, then looked forward to checking out the thread. Geez, kinda wish I hadn't. I figured Sendak/Colbert might be one those untouchable kind of posts (in a Mr. Rogers/Jim Henson GOOD way). But no. What a bummer.
posted by Glinn at 9:13 AM on February 25, 2012


So, if I'm not mistaken Colbert is riffing on Calista Gingrich's recent page-burner "Sweet Land of Liberty," staring Ellis the Elephant.
“This is really a patriotic book. It’s not a Republican book, it’s not a conservative book. It’s a pro-American book.”

I was disappointed by the lack of sarcastic Amazon reviews..let's get on this, people!
posted by obscurator at 9:46 AM on February 25, 2012


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