Colbert Report Rube Goldberg Machine

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Intro – Rube Goldberg Machine
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I built this Rube Goldberg Machine for the Colbert Report, and set it off in front of a live audience to begin the show.

Some things that may not be clear: The book dominoes close a switch which activates the little music box toy piano. This plays out the opening notes of the Colbert Report theme song (which was, incidentally, written by Cheap Trick, but is arranged and performed here by OK Go).

The drum of the music box releases a weight that drops and releases a stuffed eagle that flies down a string, crashing into the pyramid of ice cream containers.

Viewers have assumed that somehow the ice cream pyramid triggers the little car- it doesn’t. The eagle continues and knocks over a hammer which closes a switch, activating the remote-controlled car (with custom paint job, naturally).

The car rolls along a kind of treadmill, that takes up fabric. The fabric then pulls a stick out from beneath a ramp, and the ramp drops.

A hot dog (originally a ball park frank, but the hot dog rolled unpredictably. Ultimately it was a thick dowel rod painted to look like a sausage) rolls down the ramp, landing in a bun, which is in a little red wagon. There’s a little catch that the hot dog triggers, to allow the wagon to roll down another ramp.

The hot dog wagon rolls down the ramp and through a life-size cutout of Ronald Reagan, who has just put an apple pie on a windowsill to cool. The hot dog passes through Ronald Reagan’s crotch, crashing into the pie, which falls off the window sill, tripping a lever.

The lever releases an Eagle paperweight which drops and causes a Jesus Christ Action Figure to rotate on a lazy susan to trip another lever, which drops a cage over a customized “Godless Killing Machine” teddy bear.

This releases Stephen Colbert’s Emmy Award Statuette, which is mounted on a hinge, and has a razor blade attached to the wingtip (the original plan was for the Emmy to be skewering a hot dog on the wing, and drop the hot dog in a bun, but as mentioned before, hot dogs are unpredictable).

The razor blade on the emmy wing pops a balloon, which releases a hammer. The hammer swings down, knocking a big “C” backwards.

The C rolls off the table, but just before doing so, snags a metal loop. The C drops off the table pulling the loop with it, and unfurls the “Colbert Report” banner, also triggering a cutout of Stephen Colbert to swing into view.

The End.

The machine was built in pieces in my studio in Irvine CA, and shipped to New York City. It was assembled there the night before the show. You are watching the second take (the first one that Mr. Colbert initiated).

Here’s a short “behind the scenes” video shot by Thoma Kikis while setting up the night before:

I’d like to acknowledge the help of Thoma Kikis, Jessica Banks, Jess Bressler for their assistance with this project.

Also a special thanks to the crew of The Colbert Report, particularly prop master Brendan Hurley, supervising producer Tanya Bracco, and talent coordinator Emily Lazar and director Jim Hoskinson. There are also a number of crew members whose names I never quite got, but these were some of the most generous and supportive people I’ve ever met!