Colbert Report’s “Atonement Hotline” Crashes Phone Switches

Peyton Duplechien • 16 May 2019 • 2 min read

Atlanta, GA – October 4, 2006 — An estimated 40,000 callers flooded comedian Stephen Colbert’s phone line Sept. 26, 2006 after he urged viewers of his Comedy Central television show The Colbert Report to call his “Atonement hotline,” which poked good-humored fun at his Jewish viewers.
The hotline was a real toll free phone number set up by VoiceNation, an Atlanta provider of virtual telecommunication services. VoiceNation set up the vanity number in a mere two days at the request of the show’s producers. But no one thought so many people would call the number, 1-888-OOPS-JEW (888-667-7539).
While a flood of calls overwhelmed one of the Eastern seaboard’s largest phone carrier’s switches and temporarily shut them down, as Colbert later reported on his show, it did not take down VoiceNation’s messaging system.
“We have years of experience handling large volumes of calls for television and radio shows such as the Steve Harvey Show,” said Jay Reeder, VoiceNation’s chief executive. “The line was so popular that it crashed the telephone company’s switches before calls ever reached us. Had the producers of The Colbert Report been able to correctly gauge the overwhelming number of calls they actually received, we could have better prepared the switch operator.”
Producers of The Colbert Report chose VoiceNation due to the company’s reputation for reliability and quick turn around. Engineers configured the digital phone lines and built the necessary application in less than two days. In fact, VoiceNation is one of the few voicemail, virtual PBX and phone system hosts in the country that can handle thousand-call bursts like these. VoiceNation’s proprietary technology configures phone lines that can handle an unlimited number of messages, and depending upon a customer’s needs, can provision lines that can easily accommodate bursts of 1,000 simultaneous calls, Reeder said.
For instance, on Thursday’s show, when almost 25,000 calls came in during one airing, the entire system worked flawlessly. Colbert’s popular line continues to receive thousands of calls a day from fans thanks to over 14,000 blog entries about the Colbert joke hotline. VoiceNation insiders revealed that the show has reserved the number indefinitely, due to its overwhelming popularity.
About VoiceNation:
VoiceNation, America’s leader in virtual PBX and voicemail was founded in 2002 by President Jay Reeder and opened their Next Generation call centers in 2009. The company has grown to serve more than 40,000 customers including FEMA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Dell, AIG and the U.S. Coast Guard. They leverage the very latest in proprietary technology solutions in order to deliver quality call answering services at the lowest cost to their customers. To learn more about VoiceNation and their services, please visit .
For more information, contact:
Graham C. Taylor
Media Relations
1.866.766.5050, ext. 150