Stephen Colbert became the talk of the Internet on Wednesday after a star-studded dance party to the Daft Punk hit “Get Lucky” went viral. Given the level of attention generated by the clip — and the last-minute cancellation and corporate in-fighting that proceded it — it was only a matter of time before the conspiracy theories began.
On Wednesday’s “Colbert Report,” the host set the record straight: No, the Daft Punk incident was not, as one writer at the music website Pitchfork alleged, an elaborate ruse to drum up publicity for the VMAs later this month on MTV, a network also owned by Comedy Central’s parent company, Viacom.
“You got me!” he declared. “We thought we had tricked you by flying the disco Decepticons from Paris, in a sophisticated pantomime to fool everyone — even myself, so committed was I — that Daft Punk was coming all just to help someone else’s show on another network a month from now.”
Despite the heaping dose of sarcasm, “Good Morning America” ran a segment touting the hoax theory and using Colbert’s sarcastic confession as evidence.
For those of you not up to speed on Daftpunkgate, allow us to get you up to speed: The elusive French pop duo was scheduled to appear on “The Colbert Report” as part of the show’s summer music series, “StePhest Colbchella '013.”
According to Colbert’s version of events, the band canceled on Monday afternoon, citing an exclusive agreement to make what would have been a surprise appearance on the VMAs this month on MTV. The no-show put Colbert and his producers, who had procured a sponsorship deal with Hyundai for the music series, in a difficult situation.
Despite the setback, Tuesday’s “Report” ended up being one of the most memorable episodes in the show’s seven-year history. After lashing out at MTV president Van Toffler, Colbert received a surprise visit from Ashton Kutcher, who joked that Colbert had been “Daft Punk’d” — a reference to Kutcher’s MTV prank show. Then it was time for the “Get Lucky” video, which featured cameos from Hugh Laurie, Jimmy Fallon, Matt Damon, the cast of “Breaking Bad,” Jeff Bridges, Charlie Rose, the Rockettes and, perhaps most amazing of all, Henry Kissinger.
Colbert capped off the broadcast with a seemingly spur-of-the-moment performance by Robin Thicke, whose catchy “Blurred Lines” is easily “Get Lucky’s” biggest competition for song of the summer.
Even without the dramatic back story, it would have been a remarkable half-hour of TV, but under the circumstances, it seemed all the more spectacular.
A little detective work, however, indicates that while Colbert and his staff deserve credit for their crisis management skills and for creating one of the year’s most thoroughly entertaining viral videos, not everything was as last minute as it seems.
Consider the evidence: Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn of “Breaking Bad” fame and appeared on “Charlie Rose” Friday night. Cranston, meanwhile, was a guest on Colbert's show on Aug. 1 and on “Tonight” Monday, suggesting he most likely taped his roller-skating routine while in New York last week.
And while Comedy Central, Colbert and MTV declined to comment on the matter, a spokesperson for NBC confirmed that the segment of the “Get Lucky” video in which Colbert strutted across the stage of “America’s Got Talent” was taped July 31 — a full five days before Daft Punk reportedly canceled.
Then there’s Henry Kissinger, who, judging by the prehistoric phone and non-existent computer on his desk, is not an easy man to get in touch with at the last minute.
So while the evidence suggests the “Get Lucky” video was in the works before Daft Punk bailed on Colbert, it doesn’t mean the entire incident was a hoax — only that Colbert skillfully used the video to save face.
Nor does it mean there weren’t improvised elements to the show. Specifically, Kutcher was able to join in the fun because he was in the building to pre-tape another interview that appeared on Wednesday’s show.
A hoax? Not likely. Sometimes you just get lucky.
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