You have to finish the hat.

Stephen Sondheim was on Colbert Report again tonight. Both those interviews have been absolute treats. Double the Stephen, double the fun. It doesn’t happen often, but I love when you can see Colbert almost crack character, and you know he is genuinely in awe of whomever he is interviewing.

Tonight Stephen C. told Stephen S. that when he first explained to his mom why he wanted to be a performer, he showed her the lyrics to “Finishing the Hat.” I’ve never seen Sunday in the Park with George (have seen the painting that inspired it twice. The first time was in 2005, above. Pre-digital style.), so I had to look up the lyrics to see what he meant.

And now I see what he means.

While Colbert the character complained about the complexity of Sondheim’s lyrics, Colbert the person seemed grateful that someone had put his feelings in words:
Art is never finished…Artists want to feel understood…People who love artists have to understand unfinished feelings…

(Sondheim said it better):

Let her look for me to tell me why she left me
As I always knew she would.
I had thought she understood.
They have never understood,
And no reason that they should.
But if anybody could…
Finishing the hat,
How you have to finish the hat.
How you watch the rest of the world
From a window
While you finish the hat.

Mapping out a sky.
What you feel like, planning a sky.
What you feel when voices that come
Through the window
Go
Until they distance and die,
Until there’s nothing but sky
And how you’re always turning back too late
From the grass or the stick
Or the dog or the light,
How the kind of woman willing to wait’s
Not the kind that you want to find waiting
To return you to the night,
Dizzy from the height,
Coming from the hat,
Studying the hat,
Entering the world of the hat,
Reaching through the world of the hat
Like a window,
Back to this one from that.

Studying a face,
Stepping back to look at a face
Leaves a little space in the way like a window,
But to see
It’s the only way to see.

And when the woman that you wanted goes,
You can say to yourself, “Well, I give what I give.”
But the woman who won’t wait for you knows
That, however you live,
There’s a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat…
Starting on a hat..
Finishing a hat…
Look, I made a hat…
Where there never was a hat.

(See what I mean?)

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