Jon Favreau

  • Aired:  02/28/13
  •  | Views: 13,148

President Obama's former speechwriter talks about his collaborative writing process and the importance of storytelling versus sound bites. (6:15)

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK, EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FORMER SPEECHWRITER.

HE LEFT TO SPEND MORE TIME WRITING FOR HIS FAMILY.

PLEASE WELCOME JON FAVREAU.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

HEY, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANKS FOR COMING ON.

>> NICE TO BE HERE.

>> Stephen: CAN I CALL YOU JON.

>> YOU CAN CALL ME JON.

ALL RIGHT CALL ME MR. COLBERT.

>> Stephen: YOU WERE OUTGOING WRITER OF SPEECHES FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA.

YOU WORKED FOR HIM AS A SENATOR AND CANDIDATE.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: HOW OLD ARE YOU?

>> 31.

>> Stephen: YOU ARE 31 SO YOU WERE WORKING FOR HIM WHEN YOU WERE 23.

>> 23.

>> Stephen: AND YOUR PREVIOUS JOB BEFORE THIS WAS -- PLEASE USE THE WORDS FRY STATION, PLEASE.

>> I WAS A SPEECHWRITER FOR JOHN KERRY IN HIS 2004 CAMPAIGN.

>> Stephen: OBAMA STOLE YOU.

>> HE DIDN'T STEAL ME.

THE CAMPAIGN ENDED IN 2004.

JOHN KERRY DID NOT WIN.

>> Stephen: WHAT?

>> SPOILER ALERT.

>> Stephen: THEN YOU STARTED WORKING FOR THE PRESIDENT?

>> I DID.

>> Stephen: WERE YOU INVOLVED IN THE 2004 SPEECH HE DID AT�r THE CONVENTION?

>> HE WROTE THAT HIMSELF.A6kDfY

ephen: WO,i� r

YOU WROTE A LOT OF HIS SPEECHES AFTER THAT.

>> I DID.

>> Stephen: THAT'S KIND OF HEART BREAKING BECAUSE NOT ONLY DOES THE GUY USE A PROMPTER HE

IS NOT WRITING THE WORDS IN THE PROMPTER.

PLEASE, PLEASE TELL ME HE AT LEAST FLIES AIR FORCE ONE.

>> HE DOES NOT.

BUT HE WRITES A LOT OF HIS OWN SPEECHES.

WE WORKED TOGETHER.

IT'S A COLLABORATIVE PROCESS.

>> Stephen: KIND OF, GUYS LIKE YOU, YOU AND THE PRESIDENT SAME LEVEL.

[ LAUGHTER ]

NOW, WHAT IS THE PROCESS LIKE?

DO YOU SAY MR. PRESIDENT, I HAVE THINGS THAT I THINK WOULD BE GO TO SAY OR DOES HE SAY YOU KNOW

WHAT I'M THINKING TEACHERSERS ARE GOOD AND HOPE IS GOOD AND LET'S MAKE THINGS BETTER, SOCIALIZE

MEDICINE PUT SOME LIPSTICK ON THE PIG.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS?

>> SIT DOWN WITH HIM HE SPEAKS WHAT IS ON HIS MIND FOR 20, 30 MINUTES I TYPE EVERYTHING HE SAYS.

AFTER WE'RE DONE MEETING I GO BACK AND WRITE A DRAFT WITH MY TEAM, OTHER SPEECHWRITERS.

WE TALK TO THE DIFFERENT POLICY FOLKS IN THE WHITE HOUSE, EVERYONE WHO HAS A STAKE ON THE SPEECH.

>> Stephen: EVERYBODY GETS THERE TWO CENTS.

DO THEY SAY THAT'S MY TURF DON'T DESCRIBE IT THAT WAY?

>> YOU GET A LITTLE OF THAT.

EVERYONE WE WORK WITH IS WONDERFUL.

>> Stephen: SURE.

OF COURSE.

EVERY PLACE ANYONE WORKS IS FANTASTIC.

YOU ARE FREE NOW, YOU ARE GONE, YOU ARE DONE.

>> I HAVE ONE MORE DAY.

>> Stephen: (bleep) I BOOKED YOU 24 HOURS TOO EARLY BECAUSE BABY IT'S TIME TO DISH.

YOU ARE A YOUNG GUY, WHY DOESN'T THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECHES HAVE MORE YOUNG LANGUAGE LIKE OBAMA

CARE IS AWESOME SAUCE.

>> I TRY KEEP THIS OUT.

THE PRESIDENT HAS A GOOD FEEL FOR WHAT HE WANTS TO SAY ON ANY GIVEN SPEECH.

WE'RE THERE TO HELP HIM GET IT DOWN ON PAPER.

HE SPENDS A LOT OF TIME WRITING IT HIM IS.

WE'LL GO BACK AND FORTH.

HE WILL TAKE YELLOW LEGAL PADS AND SIT THERE AND WRITE LONGHAND UNTIL 2:00 OR 3:00 IN THE

MORNING AND SEND US BACK SIX OR SEVEN PAGES.

>> Stephen: ANYTHING YOU WROTE BROKE YOUR HEART THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT IN?

>> THERE'S LINES THAT YOU THINK O YOU KNOW.

WHEN HE SENDS YOU BACK EDITS HE WRITES IN THE BEST PART OF THE SPEECH, THE MOST AUTHENTIC

SPEECH AND THAT GETS IT.

>> Stephen: I DON'T ALWAYS AGREE PER SE.

BUT HIS SPEECHES ARE OFTEN VERY LONG AND MORE WORDS IS ALWAYS BETTER.

>> ALWAYS.

>> Stephen: THERE'S NOT LIKE LITTLE PHRASES, CATCH PHRASES LIKE ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY,

OR NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF OR WHERE IS THE BEEF?

YOU KNOW.

[ LAUGHTER ]

WHERE IS HISS WHERE THE BEEF?

IS THERE -- WHERE IS HIS WHERE'S THE BEEF?

IS THERE A PHRASE?

>> IN HIS 2004 CONVENTION SPEECH WHICH WAS THE SPEECH THAT LAUNCHED HIS NATIONAL CAREER.

WHY I LIKED IT SO MUCH AND WE TALKED ABOUT THIS IS BECAUSE IT TOLD A STORY FROM BEGINNING TO

END AND TOLD A STORY ABOUT HIS LIFE AND HOW IT FIT INTO THE LARGER AMERICAN STORY AND HOW

THERE ARE VALUES WE ALL SHARE.

WHEN WE SIT DOWN WITH A SPEECH, WE DON'T -- WE THINK LESS ABOUT THE LINES OR WHAT IS QUOTED AND

WHAT WE MAKE SURE MOST OF SAUL WE'RE TELLING A STORY FROM BEGINNING TO END AND THAT

THERE'S A LOGICAL ARGUMENT IN THE SPEECH.

THAT'S HOW HE SPEAKS AND THINKS.

WE TRY TO REFLECT THAT.

>> Stephen: THE RACE SPEECH FROM PHILADELPHIA DURING THE CAMPAIGN OF 2008.

I CALLED A FRIEND AFTER I HEARD THAT SPEECH AND I SAID, YOU KNOW, THE THING THAT I LIKED

ABOUT THAT IS THAT I FELT LIKE UNLIKE A LOT OF POLITICIANS I THINK I ACTUALLY HEARD THAT GUY TALKING.

I FELT LIKE I WAS HEARING THAT MAN SPEAK AND NOT HIS SPEECHWRITERS.

WAS I ACTUALLY HEARING YOU SPEAK?

ANY CHANCE YOU ARE THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT?

>> THERE'S NO CHANCE.

I WILL TELL YOU SORTIE OF THAT THAT -- STORY OF THAT SPEECH.

HE CALLED ME AFTER A LONG DAY AT NIGHT TWO DAYS BEFORE HE WAS SUPPOSED TO GIVE YOU THE SPEECH.

HE SAID I'M GOING TO GIVE THE THOUGHTS OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD.

DO A DRAFT TOMORROW AND WE'LL WORK ON IT TO THERE.

HE SPOKE TO ME FOR 45 MINUTES AND KNEW EXACTLY EXACTLY WHEN HE WANTED TO SAY.

THE STUFF THAT I CONTRIBUTED WAS STUFF THAT YOU COULD HEAR ALMOST ANYONE SAY.

>> Stephen: LIKE CONJUNCTIONS.

>> LIKE CONGRESS JUNCTIONS.

>> Stephen: THANK YOU JOINING

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