Two presidential candidates, two best-selling authors, two guys who like to think with their guts, two fast talkers who aren't used to listening. That was the scene of the interview segment at today's taping of The Colbert Report. Garry Kasparov appeared on the famous Comedy Central show today and we just got back from the taping an hour ago. It airs tonight at 11:30 across the US. Garry was pretty exhausted since we flew in from DC this morning and he had to take a long detour to the financial district for a quickie interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC's Closing Bell. (For every five minutes of television you're on the air, there's at least an hour of time at the studio, plus transportation to and from.)
I'm a big Colbert fan and was really looking forward to this appearance. Not just because we met him before and after the show and got tickets for my wife and our friend Anna, who is a true Colbert fanatic. The interview segment flew by, feeling even shorter than the brief 4-5 minutes it is on the air. Garry was probably a little over-prepared. He has taken that chess diligence into everything else and we had worked out a few Colbert-specific soundbites that we thought would entertain the Colbert faithful. That was true enough but it didn't feel natural and Garry's always best when he's ad libbing or riffing on prepared themes. (The DC book signing talk last night was a great example of this. Just a few notes and he was in great form.) It was still funny, although I guess you never know how it's going to look on TV.
Colbert introduced him with "My guest tonight is Grandmaster Garry Kasparov. Finally, someone else who sees things in black and white!" It started out, as I suspected it might, with a chessboard on the table between them. Garry got a good crowd "ooooh" for saying, "You haven't read my book! You have broken the first rule by picking a battle you cannot win!" Colbert made one move and offered a draw, which was eventually accepted -- after Garry asked him if he had Deep Blue under the table and Colbert responded that he had Deep Red White and Blue under the table.
It was interesting to see how Colbert reacted to someone who was as used to being in charge as the character Colbert plays on his show. It almost seemed tense for a few moments because Colbert, who is trying to make his guests look good, tried to figure Garry out. Of course Garry knew the whole thing is an act; we'd looked at some shows and talked about it. But he still wasn't going to give an inch, which gave it a different feel from most Colbert interviews. Garry made a joke about the book being about "self-awareness and not wrist awareness," based on Colbert's jokey campaign to give out red "wrist strong" bracelets after he broke his wrist before a show a few months ago. Colbert took his off to offer it to Garry and he turned it down, saying he already had a watch. Garry didn't know it was an indication that "you're more famous than I am," as the tradition off the bracelets demands. [Hmm, they cut that! Wow, they cut a lot. Edited well together, but missing one good joke. When Stephen holds up the "Colbert - Putin 08" bumper sticker Garry said, "But if you win and Putin is your vice-president, make sure you buy lots of life insurance!"]
They ended the segment with a quick game of Rock'em, Sock'em Robots. Silly, but typical of the Colbert insanity. The show isn't the sort of thing Garry would usually do but it was a concession for the book tour and I think he had fun with it at the time. Afterwards he felt it was a little too much of a stunt for someone with such serious goals, but that's the strange thing about mixing his chess past with his politics and now a book tour. Going from an impassioned plea at a House Committee for Human Rights discussion to swapping jokes on a talk show is bound to mess with your head.
We'll it's on in 20 minutes so I'll probably update this item after having a chance to see it without being terribly nervous. Garry's staying up to watch it too and I hope he feels good about it.
The DC (Bethesda, actually) signing went great last night. The talk was very good and sold out of books and there was a humorous sequence with people sprinting over a nearby Barnes & Noble in search of copies and coming back winded. B&N had a few but soon sold out, so around a dozen people were left bookless. (One guy offered me $50 for one but unfortunately I didn't have one with me.) I suppose being out of books is the best problem to have. Again great to meet some Dirt folks, and I have some pics and names to dig out and put up after I get some sleep. WaPo chess columnist GM Lubosh Kavalek and his wife came by.
Garry will be signing here in NY at Barnes & Noble tomorrow at 12:30pm. 555 5th Ave (46th St.) It's a bit of a squeeze for time and space they say, so unless attendance is lower than expected they probably won't allow for signing anything other than HLIC. That's the first thing to go in a time crunch. Next to go is dedications, so if there are a lot of people it will be signature and date only. So if you really want it with your name, being early isn't a bad idea. We'll see how it goes. See you there! There's also a long talk with Leonard Lopate tomorrow evening at the famous 92nd St. Y. Details on that and all remaining appearances here.