When Penn sat down for the interview, he revealed, "You've inherited a little of the Ambien I had to take to get to sleep after a red eye last night."
In hopes of getting Penn to rally, Colbert said, "I've got a challenge for you. So Jimmy Carter is my guest on Friday -- he's 93. Let's see if you can bring more energy to this interview than Jimmy Carter will bring on Friday."
While Colbert was talking, Penn took out a yellow pack of cigarettes and started smoking. Colbert quickly grabbed an ashtray from behind his desk and offered it to the actor-turned-author.
Colbert had seen Penn's interview on CBS Sunday Morning and noticed that he smoked quite a bit. That is why he was prepared, but also why he was concerned.
As the interview was heading into the first commercial break, Colbert told Penn, "I wish you would move on, please don't smoke anymore. I don't mind, my parents smoked when I was a child so it gives me happy memories to smell cigarette smoke, but we want you to be around for a long time and those are bad for you."
Penn replied, "This is job security for oncologists." Penn did put the cigarette out, but after they returned from commercial break, he lit another one.