Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviewing Stephen Colbert

“Stephen Colbert’s Most Meaningful Musical Moments”

As the second part to her radio interview with Colbert began, Gross gave a lot of background information on him. She tells her audience what he is known for, what his latest accomplishments are, and what he likes to do. The latter of these allows her, then, to transition into music – one of Colbert’s favorite pastimes.

To begin her discussion on Colbert’s three most meaningful songs, which he had selected for the interview, Gross asks many open-ended questions such as, “How did you hear it?” (referring to the first song she was going to play). This question prompted him to explain why he chose the song and how it affected him as a child hearing it for the first time. He remembers the song as being comedic and scandalous.

(They listen to Jesus Christ Superstar “Harrods’s Song”)

She then transitions into the next song by asking, “Tell us what this recording is and why you chose it”. Colbert then reminisces about his relationships with Elvis Costello, how they admire Bruce Springsteen, and how Costello’s lyrics have taught him how to write songs in character (with a little added factor of hypocrisy)

(The listen to “Jump Up” by Elvis Costello)

Gross adds a follow-up questions: “Anything else you want to say about the song?” Colbert answered yes, and revealed a story about Costello trying to mimic songs of Bruce Springsteen.

Then Gross transitions into the third song by Ben Folds “The Best Imitation of Myself”, by mentioning how he was just on the Colbert Report. This would be an interviewer strategy – she did her homework on Colbert’s show. After, she asks, “So what’s some of the music you grew up with in the house?” This is another open-ended questions that leads him into telling the audience about his family with 11 kids and how it made his music taste well-rounded.

Since Gross recognized Colbert’s love of music and singing (which he had done throughout the show), she ends the show by asking “if you could perform in any music venue, what would it be?” Colbert answers Broadway.

The whole interview showed me the benefit of asking open-ended questions, knowing background information on your subject, and how to properly use good transition by bringing up one point which inevitably will lead into another. All of these things seemed to make Colbert feel comfortable speaking to Gross and allowed him to open up to her much more than if she had asked “yes” or “no” questions.