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Pussy Riot Tell Colbert Why They're Free: 'They Got Fed Up With Us'
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina talk Putin, the Olympics and Olive Garden

When Stephen Colbert was introducing Pussy Riot for his show Tuesday night, he refused to say the band's name – instead he showed video of a succession of mainstream news reporters awkwardly push their way through the band name. It was a fitting introduction, considering the two recently freed members of Pussy Riot – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina – are making the media rounds. In addition to Colbert, they appeared on Irish talk-show host Brendan O'Connor's program for an awkward exchange and spoke more generally at a press conference in New York City. But it was on Colbert's show that they broke smiles and laughed at the first joke.

See Photos of Pussy Riot's Trial

"You are members of, pardon the expression, 'Pussy riot,'" Colbert said after he sat down with the women and an interpreter. After establishing that the pair had not yet visited an Olive Garden, the talk-show host asked them why they were put in jail. "We sang a fun song in a church," Alyokhina said, to cheers in the audience.

They also returned jokes to Colbert. When the talk-show host told them, "You will be searched when you leave the building, Tolokonnikova said, "We've had two years of practice hiding things from [being] searched."

Together, they conversed and joked about Russia's laws about homosexuals. The women discussed how, before Pussy Riot, they kissed about 40 policewomen, who would then ask them, "Why do you have to do this in public?" Regarding why Russian authorities had released "dangerous criminals" who sing in churches, Tolokonnikova said, "They got fed up with us."

As for the ramifications of Putin releasing the group as a political stunt, they said they didn't think it was a very effective way of improving people's impressions of Russia. Near the close of the interview, in response to how many members of the group there are, the women tell Colbert that anyone could be in Pussy Riot. He then ended the episode in a way that showed his newfound membership.

Irish talk-show host O'Connor didn't have such an easy time with the women. In his interview, which aired February 1st, the host asked how they felt about becoming famous. Tolokonnikova sighed, hung her head, and explained that they were activists, to which O'Connor realized he had been trivializing them. "I can see that I'm exasperating them with my questions," the host said. But things really hit the skids when he asked the women if they felt Madonna, who had defended them previously and who is introducing them at Amnesty International's Bringing Human Rights Home concert tonight in Brooklyn, was a freedom fighter like them. Tolokonnikova just laughed. She later explained that Madonna and another supporter, Sinead O'Connor, were able to condemn religion freely in their countries, but that Pussy Riot could not.

The Pussy Riot members expressed a similar disillusionment with Russia and the way it was presenting Sochi, the site of the upcoming Olympics, at a U.S. press conference yesterday. "It's not the Olympic Village you see on TV," Alyokhina said, according to Billboard. "Look beyond those buildings."

At the press conference, the women also expressed an admiration for "cool music" like the Clash and said they were holding on to their convictions.

"We are never afraid to perform," Tolokonnikova said.

"We are proud of what we did," Alyokhina said. "We are proud it landed us in prison."


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