Neil Young is as busy as ever, promoting a new book, Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life and Cars; an upcoming album, Storytone; and the heavily hyped Pono Music Player. Oh, and he’s also trying to help save the planet by calling for an end to fracking. The rock legend dropped by The Colbert Report on Tuesday and discussed all of the above with host Stephen Colbert, whose ultra-conservative persona (naturally) took issue with just about everything Young had to say.
“Thank you for dressing up for the occasion,” Colbert tells his guest. “Really nice of you for putting on your formal T-shirt.” From there, the two engage in a spirited and hilarious liberal-conservative dialogue – first with Colbert calling Young a “hypocrite” for writing a book about cars while claiming to care about the environment. “You’re one of these ‘Save the Earth’ guys, right?” he asks. “You got the T-shirt. Cars! There’s a lot of pollution with cars!” But Young fires back by referencing the “green” fuel source (“electricity and cellulosic ethanol”) used to power his vehicles. “You caught me right in the middle of driving a 1959 Lincoln from San Francisco to the Tar Sands in Alberta and to New York City without using one drop of gasoline,” he says.
Elsewhere, after sneaking in a cheap insult about Young’s Canadian heritage, Colbert asks if the rocker wants President Obama impeached for the country’s military involvement in Iraq. “I think we should impeach him for fracking,” he says. “It’s not in the interest of the American people. . . I am part of the free world, and he is the leader of the free world!”
As for the Pono player, Young compares his high-quality music device to the iPod – the latter of which he considers a “bargain” but at the expense of quality. “You get to have millions of songs,” he says, “but you just get a tiny little bit of each one.” “You don’t have to listen,” Young says about the Pono. “You feel the music!” (Slow clap for Colbert’s follow-up wisecrack.)
Following the interview, the duo teamed up as “Neil Young and Crazy Host” for a comedically modified performance of Young’s stunning new track “Who’s Gonna Stand Up.” In the clip below, the singer performs his environmentally conscious verses (“End fracking now; let’s save the water / and build a life for our sons and daughters”) with a straight face, while Colbert sings from the perspective of a disinterested conservative caricature. (“I know it feels good to save the Earth / but what if the dolphins attack us first?” goes one line. “Solar power is bound to fail / I say it’s time we frack the whales.”)
Young’s involvement made this a memorable Colbert Report, but it was also important for another reason. As Colbert notes in the below clip, there are only 32 episodes of the series left, drawing a numeric parallel to the show’s origins.
“There are so many important stories out there right now: ISIS, Ukraine, Ebola,” Colbert says. “But tonight, we explore the most critical story of all: me. Back in 2005, when I started the Colbert Report, it was initially for an eight-week try-out – in other words, 32 episodes. And as of tonight, there are only 32 episodes of The Colbert Report left. Don’t worry, nation: Even though my show will be off the air, I’ll still be in here – provided that your heart has a DVR.”
Colbert vows that the final 32 will be “instant classics” full of “deep poetic thoughts, heavy-handed symbolism and massive foreshadowing,” and he drills home the point by conversing with a Grim Reaper-styled character named Grimmy.