The celebrity world is rife with unlikely friendships, Stephen Colbert’s bond with departed country star Toby Keith, who passed away this week after years of struggling with stomach cancer, was akin to a friendship between “a horse and a duck,” Colbert said on The Late Show Tuesday evening, revealing the depths of his relationship with Keith to the audience. “For the record, I was the duck.”
Keith, Colbert revealed, was a very influential guest to him when he was just starting out as the host of The Colbert Report: there had been a plan to skewer Keith as a guest with a reference to his song “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American).”
“Right before I went on stage I remember vividly looking down at my shoes and saying, ‘What are you doing? You’re a host. He’s your guest. Make him feel welcome, see who he is,’” Colbert said he told himself at the time. “And what do you know? We hit it off like a house afire. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed talking to Toby Keith.”
Keith had the same impression of Colbert, telling the host on his way out, “Hey man, you do a great job. Whatever the fuck it is you do.” Colbert so treasured the compliment that he had his head writer stitch the phrase into a miniature pillow that he still keeps in his office to this day.
“Toby taught me not to judge people too quickly, and with his passing, I’m gonna try to remember that again,” Colbert said. “It’s something we all need to remember.”
“Because I’m sure Toby and I disagreed about many things, as so many Americans do these days,” the host continued. “More and more of us are angrier and angrier with each other. But tonight I will issue this invitation to anybody: I do not care who you are. I will meet you at this place. I will meet you at being brokenhearted that Toby Keith is gone.”
“Thank you Big Dog,” he concluded, his eyes welling with tears.