VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Bringing his nation to the Winter Olympics, Stephen Colbert made peace with Canada, sang with Michael Buble and persuaded Bob Costas to climb aboard a stuffed moose.
Then he got down to cheering the U.S. speedskaters he helped bail out.
The Colbert Nation arrived at the Vancouver Games on Wednesday for a taping of his faux talk show in a most un-winterlike setting: a muddy park along the downtown waterfront on a morning that turned out sunny and unseasonably warm. In the afternoon, he headed to the Olympic Oval in suburban Richmond to chat with several U.S. skaters before the men's 1,000 meters, in which American world-record holder Shani Davis was favored to win gold.
Colbert proudly wore yet another title on the back of his red jacket — "assistant sports psychologist," which he can now add to Sir (he was knighted, sort of, by Jordan's Queen Noor) and Dr. (owing to an honorary degree in fine arts that he uses to dispense medical advice).
The host of "The Colbert Report," a late-night show in which he portrays a dimwitted conservative pundit, formed an unlikely alliance with U.S. Speedskating after its main sponsor went bust. Colbert's fans stepped in to donate more than $300,000 to the program, and it was only natural he would attend the Olympics after getting so much comic fodder out of it the past few months.
Colbert started a mock feud with Canada, calling them "syrup suckers" and "iceholes," but he seemed to have plenty of fans north of the border judging by several thousand who turned out at Creekside Park to watch him conduct interviews with Buble, Costas and 1980 hockey gold medalist Mike Eruzione from a temporary stage adorned with a moose, totem pole and stuffed beaver.
"Stephen! Stephen! Stephen!" the crowd chanted, one of them holding up a sign that said "Colbert for Prime Minister."
"This is a welcome we couldn't have imagined in our wildest dreams," Colbert said. "I take back everything I've said about Canada."
Working on bits that will air on future shows, Colbert persuaded Buble to join him in a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sung to the tune of "O Canada."
"I'll bite: Why Canada?" Colbert asked the Canadian singer, staying in character all the way. "Why not just more United States?"
Eruzione, who scored the winning goal for the U.S. in its epic upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Games, was up next. His exploits led to a natural question: How many times has he been offered pot since arriving in cannabis-friendly British Columbia.
"Twice," Eruzione said. "Last night and this morning when I woke up."
Costas was introduced by Colbert as "the host of NBC's $820 million Olympic coverage, but I got him at a discount." The diminutive sportscaster had barely gotten on stage when the crowd started chanting "Ride the moose! Ride the moose! Ride the moose!"
"Don't worry, he'll ride the moose," Colbert said, flashing a grin. "Let him talk for a few minutes first."
The crowd groaned when Costas refused to anoint Vancouver as the best Olympic host city he's seen.
"I do my pandering between 8 and midnight Eastern time for a higher price than this," he said.
But Costas won them back by going along with the moose gag, struggling to swing his left leg over the animal while Colbert held it around the neck, preventing it from tipping over.
Colbert also showed a Canadian-ized version of his popular segment "Better Know a District," in which he humorously profiles U.S. congressional districts and also interviews their elected representatives.
For "Better Know A Riding" (the Canadian term for parliament districts), Colbert had taped an interview with Ujjal Dosanjh, a Liberal MP for Vancouver South. Unfortunately, two video screens that had been set up on each side of the stage could not be seen by most of the crowd because of the blinding sun.
Colbert took note several times of the warmer-than-expected temperatures and heavy rains that plagued the first few days of the games. For instance, he asked Eruzione if the U.S. won another gold in hockey at these games, would it be known as the "Miracle on Mud" instead of the "Miracle on Ice?"
Colbert's Canadian fans said they don't take his digs seriously.
"This is the highlight of my life," said Dena Ellery, who lives right around the corner from the park and brought along a sign that described her as a "Colbert loving, syrup-sucking, icehole."
"He's a a jokester, man. We get it. Canadians get it."
Colbert closed the taping with these words of encouragement to his hosts:
"No matter whether you're Canadians, Indians or Asians, there's one thing that unites you: You're not Americans," he said, holding the stuffed beaver above his head.
"Beaver! Beaver! Beaver!" the crowd chanted.