Monday, May 01, 2006

Colbert at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

(Update) Check out the Thank you Stephen Colberts site, which has the full video.

If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly encourage you to view the routine by Colbert, in my view, the most brilliant political satirist on American television, and despite the lack of serious competition, he really is superb. Last night, he spoke truth to power, with President Bush sitting right next to him, and in front of the entire community of Whitehouse correspondents, the very people who haven't held the president accountable the way they should have the last several years. For those who aren't familiar with Colbert, he is a persona, and imitation of the right wing pundits who pollute American media; he has mastered the art of turning their words and mannerisms against them. See for yourself. Needless to say, the president wasn't very happy, nor was his cultic base, and today, despite the very positive reaction on the internet, television and print media ignored Colbert's performance, even though he was the main act.

Here is what Peter Daou has to say about it:
It appears Mash's misgivings about press coverage are well-placed. The AP's first stab at it and pieces from Reuters and the Chicago Tribune tell us everything we need to know: Colbert's performance is sidestepped and marginalized while Bush is treated as light-hearted, humble, and funny. Expect nothing less from the cowardly American media. The story could just as well have been Bush and Laura's discomfort and the crowd's semi-hostile reaction to Colbert's razor-sharp barbs. In fact, I would guess that from the perspective of newsworthiness and public interest, Bush-the-playful-president is far less compelling than a comedy sketch gone awry, a pissed-off prez, and a shell-shocked audience.

This is the power of the media to choose the news, to decide when and how to shield Bush from negative publicity. Sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission. And speaking of a sycophantic media establishment bending over backwards to accommodate this White House and to regurgitate pro-GOP and anti-Dem spin, I urge readers to pick up a copy of Eric Boehlert's new book, Lapdogs. It's a powerful indictment of the media's timidity during the Bush presidency. Boehlert rips away the facade of a "liberal media" and exposes the invertebrates masquerading as journalists who have allowed and enabled the Bush administration's many transgressions to go unchecked, under-reported, or unquestioned.

A final thought: Bush's clownish banter with reporters - which is on constant display during press conferences - stands in such stark contrast to his administration's destructive policies and to the gravity of the bloodbath in Iraq that it is deeply unsettling to watch. This may be impolitic, but wouldn't refraining from frat-style horseplay be appropriate for this man? Or at the least, can't reporters suppress their raucous laughter every time he blurts out another jibe... the way they did when Colbert put them in their place?
Christy Smith at Firedoglake says:
The toughest job in comedy is to do a roast — where you skewer your audience and your host — with some biting satire, some painful truths and some harsh reality, all the while cloaking it in a sheen of laughter. Comedy is a means of speaking truth to power in a form of message that allows the truth to sink in long after the laughter has died away.

Stephen Colbert pulled that off in spades last night at the WH Correspondent’s Dinner — and the sting of his delivery is going to ripple out for days among the press corps and the sentient members of the Bush Administration. And the reason is this: no matter how much they try to bury it, by ignoring the Colbert portion of the evening in the teevee news, or burying it with a one-paragraph bit in the print media — online it is going to gather steam and take on a life of its own.

The buzz of truthiness, ladies and gentlemen, knows no boundaries in the computer age. (And thank you C&L for helping that along. Bravo.) Especially when it is coupled with some seriously funny satire.

Video clips and quotes are going to make their way through e-mails everywhere — and the butt of all those jokes is going to have to come to terms with some harsh reality, or become even more of a joke.


Blogger Rob said...

Just watched Colbert's video for the first time in totality. I didn't find it especially funny. I simply found it to be the truth. He was like the screeching chalk on the blackboard. Effective and a necessary "stiff dose of the truth" (as Cheney put it the RNC National Convention in 2000).

10:31 AM  
Blogger Wulingren said...

I definitely laughed throughout the entire performance, but I recognized (and felt) the seriousness and sincerity of what Colbert was saying. Comedy need not be interpreted as mindless, help me escape reality funny, as those in the media who say Colbert was unfunny interpret the word. It can also mean hard-hitting, direct arrow of truth satire that hits the bulls-eye, or the heart of the opponent.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Maybe it's me. He just didn't tickle my funny bone. Instead, I found myself nodding a lot and thinking, "Yup. That's right. Yup, that's how they think. Yup, media are stenographers." The mere fact the far Right is in such a snit about him illustrates that he hit a nerve. May not have tickled my funny bone but he absolutely touched the right wing's nerve endings. For that he has my gratitude.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Wulingren said...


Whether you found him funny or not, all that is important (at least to me) is that he courageously spoke the truth. Bush's handlers and the stenographic automatons in the media have once again evaded the really issue and made this a question about what is funny. The real question is: what is true? Now I know where Bush's 33% support is coming from--many of the people in that room Saturday night.

8:57 AM  

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