In an interview on Paul Mercurio's podcast, Stephen Colbert talks candidly about the month leading up to Daft Punk's scheduled performance, revealing that he and his writers were forced to write around the artists' refusal to talk or perform during their appearance on the show.
"They said, 'Do you want to cancel?' I said, 'No, this is an interesting challenge,'" Colbert said of the process, explaining that he originally intended to perform a six-minute monologue while Daft Punk nodded alongside him and he tried to enlist their manager for a speaking appearance, while also riffing on the fact that they refused to perform.
"I wish we could have done this joke. It was: 'Paul [Hahn, their manager], can I ask you – how do I even know it's them in the robot outfits, how do I even know it's them?' And he goes, 'Stephen, if it wasn't really them, they'd be doing the song,'" Colbert relayed.
As part of the gag, Colbert also had an idea to create a star-studded video of various entertainers rocking out to the group's "Get Lucky" in an effort to goad the duo into performing. While the video ultimately made it to air, the context changed.
Interestingly, said video was nearly cut, as Daft Punk is said to have been "uncomfortable" with the gag and requested that Colbert and his writers try again. "It's playing too much on the idea that they're not performing as opposed to the joy of them being there," Colbert recalled, noting that all parties were eventually able to agree on a new plan of action.
But just one day before Daft Punk was set to arrive in New York from Paris (on the show's dime), Colbert became aware of their previously unannounced Video Music Awards performance and was unsure if MTV Networks would agree to have them on both programs. While the funnyman was "confident it would work out," a deal was not arranged, and hours before the show, he was without a guest.
"Ultimately, I would say, I understand that the VMAs have got their own rules, and Daft Punk, that's a big important thing to have done," Colbert said, "but I'm the guy who's completely screwed here. I don't have a show tonight."
VMAs executive producer Jesse Ignjatovic, meanwhile, tells The Hollywood Reporter that it was the band and their management who decided not to appear on The Colbert Report.
"We don't put restrictions on anyone. I just think that we're talking to them about a moment and then things sort of change," he says. "I would not describe that as MTV putting restrictions on people – it was up to that artist and their management what they wanted to do."
Listen to Colbert's full interview in the audio below, and watch the clip that ultimately made it to air here.