The Real Timeline of the Daft Punk 'Colbert' Appearance That Never Was

Despite some popular speculation to the contrary, Stephen Colbert did not plan Daft Punk's dramatic, MTV-ordered no-show.

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Despite some popular speculation to the contrary, Stephen Colbert did not engineer Daft Punk's dramatic, MTV-ordered no-show on The Colbert Report as a promotional stunt.

In a podcast interview with lawyer-turned-Daily-Show-writer Paul Mercurio, the host laid out an extensive timeline of what went down when and confirmed that everything he claimed on the show was truthful (albeit with exaggerated anguish for comedic effect). Responding to Pitchfork's smoking gun of sorts—that the stunt must have been planned, because how could he have gotten all those celebrity guests to join in the "Get Lucky" dance sequence at the last minute—Colbert explains that, yes, the sequence had been planned because Daft Punk had not been willing to perform on the show. This was meant to spice things up.

But they really were supposed to appear, logistics aside. Here's a timeline of events, according to Colbert:

  • Six weeks before the show: Colbert is approached by producers saying Daft Punk is available: "They said they're fans and they'd like to come on." He enthusiastically consents: "They don't even talk, right? That'd be fun!"
  • Five weeks before: Colbert learns Daft Punk didn't want to be interviewed, either. He plans a rambling, six-minute monologue of a question where the band members would simply nod along.
  • Four weeks before: He learns Daft Punk doesn't want to play their song: "I said, 'Well, we're dropping some coin on these guys! We're flying these guys in from Paris, and not on coach!'" But he regards what other hosts would see as a logistical headache as an intriguing challenge: "I want to figure out how to have Daft Punk on and not have Daft Punk on. Like, not perform, and yet we still get the joy [of them]." So he plans the celebrity dance number.
  • Two or three weeks before: Robin Thicke agrees to go on. But then Thicke has to cancel, because he is also slated to appear on the VMAs. So Colbert has people at his network call up MTV's network president, Van Toffler, to work it out: "And they worked it out. And that was cool."
  • The weekend before the show: Daft Punk's camp reads the script and is unhappy with it. ("They didn't want the robots doing nothing, they wanted the robots to be doing some fun stuff.") So Colbert spends hours on Sunday rewriting it and making sure Daft Punk is pleased.
  • The Monday before the show, 2 p.m.: Colbert's co-exec approaches him. Colbert learns that Daft Punk is also slated to go on the VMAs; MTV is claiming an exclusivity deal. Meanwhile, Daft Punk is in Paris, trying to figure out whether or not to fly to New York. Colbert urges them to come: "It's gonna work out! Guys, trust me." Since it worked out with Thicke, he assumes it won't pose a problem.
  • Late Monday night.: Still no word from MTV. The show is on Tuesday. But Colbert hasn't rewritten anything, "because I was confident it would work out."
  • Tuesday morning, 11:30 a.m.: Colbert finds out MTV won't budge: "I really was kind of gobsmacked. [. . .] I understand, the VMAs got their own rules. But as I said to people on both sides, 'I'm the guy who's completely screwed here! I don't have a show tonight!'"
  • Tuesday afternoon, hours before the show: Colbert and his team rewrite the show, channeling frustration into scathing comedy. This is what results.

Despite all this, Colbert isn't as peeved as he seemed on air: he got a great show out of the whole debacle. "There's an emotional state from the guy who's completely fucked, the guy who never ever wants to lose," he told Mercurio. "I found the whole thing joyful. We all said, 'Yippee! Look at what we get to do.' This gives us an emotional state. We always want to approach the show from an emotional state."

He also confirmed that Comedy Central read the full script and never asked him to tone down the attack—even though MTV is part of the same family of networks. Nor does he hold a grudge against Van Toffler: "I don't know Mr. Toffler. [But] I have friends who know him and they say he's a great guy, and I believe them." He just thinks the exclusivity policy is ridiculous. "I never want you do to the 'If you're on them, you can't be on us' [deal]," he told his staff.

Listen to the podcast interview here, or below. The Daft Punk discussion begins at around 24:18.

Update: Now MTV is claiming that they "don't put restrictions on anyone" and it was Daft Punk's decision not to appear on Colbert. Go figure.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.