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2008 Spring Issue 5 (May 9, 2008)

Alum, “Colbert Report” writer visits Carleton

May 9, 2008
By Sam Benshoof

Last Saturday night, Peter Gwinn ‘93, founder of Carleton improv group Cujokra and currently a writer for the hit Comedy Central series “The Colbert Report,” gave an informal lecture in the Concert Hall. Gwinn also gave a workshop for the current members of Cujokra.

After graduating from Carleton, Gwinn worked briefly with other comedy groups such as Upright Citizens Brigade until he realized that comedy was not a profession that paid well. “I loved doing improv,” Gwinn said, “but at some point I realized that people won’t pay you for it.”

Regardless, Gwinn felt that his experience with Cujokra prepared him for the real world better than his Political Science major, although the ability to write, he said, can be invaluable after graduation.

After a brief introduction, Gwinn spent the first half of his presentation discussing the differences between Carleton when he was here and Carleton today. “You probably didn’t know that there was such a thing as Gridley Hall,” Gwinn said. “Did you?”

Not long into his lecture, Gwinn was interrupted by two streakers who were former members of Cujokra (and were at Carleton for the CUT alumni game). Gwinn shook his head, and, provoking laughs from the audience, said, “You don’t show that without Schiller!”

Gwinn then described his time working with “The Colbert Report” and showed a series of clips from parts of episodes that he had either written or co-written. In one, Gwinn brought his newborn baby onto the set; “that baby is wearing Carleton socks,” Gwinn pointed out, drawing laughter and applause.

The high point of the presentation came when Gwinn told a story of when he and another writer accompanied Colbert to Fox News to appear on “The O’Reilly Factor.” In the car, Colbert announced to the writers that they were going to steal a VCR from O’Reilly’s show. The only thing in the Green Room, however, was a microwave; “Stephen decided that we were going to steal that instead,” Gwinn said.

After Colbert appeared on O’Reilly’s show, Gwinn said, Colbert told the Fox News host that he was planning to steal the microwave, to which O’Reilly smirked and nodded - all the affirmation that Colbert needed. In the Green Room, as Colbert and the writers were preparing to steal the appliance, an assistant walked in on the theft and asked, “Are you stealing that microwave?”

“Bill said we could,” Colbert said.

Then, just as they prepared to leave, a producer walked in and asked the group why they were stealing the microwave.

“It’s okay,” the assistant said. “Bill said they could.”

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