You know it is not an average day when going on the Colbert Report is not the strangest thing that happens to you

So I survived my interview on the Colbert Report. He asked crazy questions. I smiled and did the best I could. At least I did better than this guy, which was my goal. Not much interesting to report really, except that before the show, Colbert introduced himself and made sure that I understood that in real life he is not a moron, he just plays one on TV. Also, in the spirit of the Daily Show, the Colbert Report gives out great goody bags. I can’t say everything that was in there because most of it will end up in my wife’s Christmas stocking, but they give you some pretty bizarre stuff, like enough Altoids to last a normal person two lifetimes.

Here’s a trivia question for economics buffs: what economic fact did Colbert unintentionally get completely wrong during the interview? You have to be a real geek to know the answer to this one.

The really strange part of the day, however, happened earlier. I agreed to be part of an ad campaign that will benefit my favorite charity, SmileTrain. (Just to be clear, this is not an ad for SmileTrain, it is an ad for a commercial venture, and in return for my participation, they are donating money to the charity of my choice.) As part of that, I had to have my picture taken. Couldn’t they just use a picture I already had? Nope. They needed a new picture.

They gave me an address to show up at. I ring the bell and the door opens and there are about 20 people there. I figured I had the wrong address, but they said no come on in. In addition to me and the photographer, there are 3 people helping the photographer, one “groomer,” two wardrobe people, 3 people from the ad agency, 4 people from the place where the ad will run, 3 people in charge of filming the whole thing for the “behind the scenes making of the ad video,” and 3 more people I never could figure out what they were doing there.

They told me I looked absolutely fabulous in what I was wearing, but how about if they just changed my shirt, sweater, and pants? Conveniently, they had two dozen shirts, a dozen sweaters, and as many pairs of jeans, all in my size. The two wardrobe experts found just the right combination. Then it was on to the groomer. Not only did she fix my hair and give me makeup, she clipped my nails and perfected my cuticles, just in case. Then on to the main course, the photographer, whose name is Platon. I was starting to get the idea that he was not just your run-of-the-mill photographer. Indeed, he has shot everyone from Bill Clinton to Pamela Anderson (dressed only in an American flag). CNN has a neat interview with Platon, although at least on my computer the visuals are about the size of a pinhead. Or, you can buy a coffee table collection of his works, cleverly titled Platon’s Republic.

Those of you who know me know that I hate to be photographed. I can’t stand looking at cameras and I get very grumpy very fast. Rarely, however, have I had more fun doing anything than I had with Platon. He’d put me in some kind of pose, and when he liked the way the shot looked he would scream “WICKED!” Every time he did it, I practically fell down laughing. But that was good, because it gave the wardrobe specialists and groomers the chance to fix my various problems. One or two times he really got excited and then he would yell “WICKED…WICKED…FUCKING WICKED!!!” Rudy Giuliani calls him, appropriately, “Mr. Wicked.”

After hundreds of shots we were done. I’m happy to say I kept my clothes on the whole time…no rolling around naked in the American flag for me, although I am a little disappointed that he didn’t even ask.


fkaJames

angryman, I'm pretty certain that while economic modeling generally has a more steady paycheck than fashion modeling, on a per hour basis I'm guessing fashion modeling owns econ modeling. Sad but true: some stimuli are more valuable to modern humans than others.

sugarysalvation

Is the answer to the trivia question that even though Colbert claimed that you were the third winner of the John Bates Clark Medal to appear on his show, you're actually the second, after Paul Krugman.
Contrary to Colbert's claim, Jeffrey Sachs has yet to win it.

Steven D. Levitt

Sugarysalvation,

You are exactly right.

Steve

Steven D. Levitt

I'll send you a signed book.

yahelc

Blast! I was beaten to the answer.

Four

The interview is on Youtube now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNZeSssfn_0

albinofrenchy

You can see the full size video here:

http://www.platonphoto.com/cnnquicktime/cnnWebstreaming.mov

unreal75

I just wanted to say Mr. Levitt, that I'm a huge fan of your book and that it is my favorite non-fiction book of all time. Screw "The World is Flat." I even almost switched to economics because of you, but decided not to when I realized economics isn't really about names and crack dealers and fun stuff like that. Seriously though, I just wanted to say that I love your book and recommend it to everyone I know.

SAMIam

As someone who was getting ready to make a contribution to SmileTrain this holiday season, I have to hope that the majority of what had to be a great a expense to get photograph - so that they could raise more money, had to be donated. But I'd like to know for sure, because I think that a charity that can afford to spend their own money this way, doesn't need mine.

Great weblog btw, thanks for taking the trouble to do it.

Jun Okumura

On the other hand, that guy was much, much, much funnier. You lose!

Jun Okumura

I mean Mr. Westmoreland, of course.

snubgodtoh

Sugarysalvation,

You are exactly right.

Steve

Not really, Sachs can't win due to the age criterion, therefore he is excluded from the "has yet to win it" category. He was right, not exactly right. If only I too suffered insomnia....

snubgodtoh

Post Script: Agree completely with SAMIam. Were Platon and his ensemble working pro bono? Doubtful; effing wicked, I think I'll start incorporating this phrase into my daily routine, at least once.

Steven D. Levitt

Just to further clarify to everyone, SmileTrain had nothing to do with the photo shoot. I participated in this campaign for a commercial venture in return for them making a donation to the charity of my choice.

angryman

In effect, Levitt donated his pay cheque for this gig to charity.

So what pays better Levitt, fashion modelling or economic modelling?

caveatBettor

SAMiam: I agree that some charities get more dollars to the intended recipients than others, i.e. they have lower overhead. I never go to charity events if a significant part of the donation covers event expenses. But I also admire Leavitt and others who use their celebrite to help the needy, at the expense of their own time, energy, and privacy.

scott cunningham

The problem with Colbert Report is unless he humiliates you, it's not so funny. So the fact that you weren't humiliated made is just so-so . But I liked his Gladwell opener. His wit is fast as lightning.

Weesul

Steven, I saw your interview on The Colbert Report and heard a statement that I would like to comment on. No, not the drug dealing statement. It's about the comment about a person's name not affecting there life. Am I allowed this question in this Blog? I haven't read your book, but it does sound interesting.

Odile

It seems to me like a nightmare, all this grooming. Is it really necessary to go through all this when you write a succesful book?
I heard about your book in the Netherlands. It´s appreciated in academic circles.

fkaJames

angryman, I'm pretty certain that while economic modeling generally has a more steady paycheck than fashion modeling, on a per hour basis I'm guessing fashion modeling owns econ modeling. Sad but true: some stimuli are more valuable to modern humans than others.