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Dan Rather, Steve Carell, McCain and Me

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Nearly nine years ago, a friend of my wife’s told her, “Hey I saw Chris on TV last night!”

Thinking I was just spotted in some shot of reporters at a news conference on Capitol Hill, she asked what channel it was on.

“Comedy Central,” her friend said. “He was sleeping on the McCain bus.”

Sure enough, I had been caught by Steve Carell _ now a big star, then a traveling “reporter” for Comedy Central _ taking a nap on Sen. John McCain’s “trailing bus” in late 1999 in New Hampshire.

Look for me exactly one minute into this video:

In point of fact, I had been on the Straight Talk Express earlier that day. I think we boarded about 6:30 a.m. after a long night; there was a Republican debate in New Hampshire the previous night.

So I’m making excuses here about getting some shut-eye. I was running on very little sleep, and I had been rotated off the main bus so some other reporters could sit with McCain and ask questions.

But here’s my Dan Rather story. He was on the bus that morning, too (it was obviously a great day to be traveling with McCain, huh?)

I met Rather first thing that morning, when we all got on the bus.

A little while later, we stopped at a high school for McCain to give a speech. After he gave it, and was working the crowd, I headed back to the bus and, when I got on, Rather and I were the only ones there for a few minutes.

I sat across from him, and he looked at me and said, “So, Daily Oklahoman Washington Bureau, huh?”

“Yep,” I said.

“That’s a great job,” Rather said.

Having just met the man, I didn’t know whether he was messing with me or what. I mean, I think it’s a great job, but did Rather?

“You think so?” I said.

“Sure, I’d love to have that job,” he said.

I was about to call my editors and see if we could offer him something part-time, but McCain and the rest of the gang arrived and I had to get back to work (or sleep, depending on whether you believe me or the video).

It was actually quite a fun and interesting day, as campaign trips go.

I was on the bus when Carell asked the question about pork barrel politics and earmarks. It was hilarious. McCain also recited a poem for Carell, though I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

I had no idea I’d been caught napping until my wife’s friend told her. And I didn’t even see the clip until a few months ago, when my daughter, who had heard me tell this story, looked on Comedy Central and found it.

And one more admission: As much as I remembered about that day, it surprised me when I saw the video that it was Steve Carell. Even though I was sitting right across from him when he asked McCain those questions, I had no recollection of him when he became popular.

That’s what happens when you get older. Like me and Dan Rather.

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Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›