Since I’m kind of new to this blogging thing, I’ve had to make peace with the realization that I’m just not going to be as current with the news cycle as… um, most of the rest of the blogosphere. Accordingly, it is only today that I finally post about my man Stephen Colbert’s address at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner (complete transcript and links to video have been posted by Frederick at Daily Kos; via Dan Froomkin).
When I first heard, I hit rewind to make sure I hadn’t dreamed it – and, to my delight, I hadn’t. Stephen Colbert had actually been given a live mic in front of a captive audience comprised of George W. Bush, a selection of his cronies and the White House Press Correspondents’ Association. In case you’re not familiar with Mr. Colbert, he is the host of The Colbert Report, wherein he poses as a right-wing blowhard pundit of the Hannity/Tucker Carlson/Bill O’Reilly mold, brilliantly skewering the lot of them. If his hilarious show hadn’t already, his turn at the correspondents’ dinner cemented Colbert’s spot on the short list of my comic idols.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Bush & Co. are not too happy about Colbert making fools of them – which makes sense when you consider that they have never needed much help looking foolish. Their humiliation has since been compounded by their own partisans, apparently in ignorance of the time-honored political media wisdom that if you find yourself rebutting a comedian, you’ve already lost. The whole scenario begs the question of what the hell they THOUGHT they were going to get when they booked Stephen Colbert. To gripe afterward that he was disrespectful, that he “crossed the line,” is to let the fox into the hen house and then blame him for being hungry.
Aides and reporters, however, said that [Colbert's speech] did not overshadow Bush’s own funny routine, which featured an impersonator who told the audience what Bush was thinking when he spoke dull speech lines… In fact, some aides crowed over reports that the president easily bested Colbert in the reviews of both comedy acts.
The major media outlets have, again, followed the lead of the White House, bypassing the story of Colbert’s satirical tour de force in favor of warm fuzzies about our funny president and the impersonator. My fellow lefties have sounded off in many a blog with conspiracy theories, but the explanation is simple: the savvier heads in the Bush press office have prevailed, knowing that attention to Colbert can only harm them, and hurried their press room of lemmings along to the next topic. The news industry honchos, also smarting from Colbert’s mockery, were eager to go along (for a more thorough indictment of the Colbert blackout, see this piece by playwright Christopher Durang, who knows a thing or two about comic absurdity).
Thus emerged the standard spin: Colbert was not funny. President Bush and the impersonator? Now that was funny. I can prove it – he got bigger laughs, and no one squirmed uncomfortably! That’s real entertainment.
Mmm-kay, well, I’ve watched both. Granted, what is and isn’t funny is a subjective thing. Speaking from my professional experience in show business I would advise President Bush not to quit his day job – if it weren’t for the fact that I really, really think that he should indeed quit his day job. As a matter of fact, the prospect of no more Bush is so desirable that I believe an exception is easily merited. Dubya literally running away to join the circus (or to open mic night at the Laugh Shack, whatever) would be such a jackpot for… well, the world, that the affront to Comedy would be a small price to pay. Hey, it I think I can safely speak for Comedy in general to vouch that it would be ready and willing to take one for the team, so to speak.
Here’s the pitch I’m rehearsing:
“Mr. President, I saw the sketch you did with the impersonator at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Can I just say, you were hi-LAR-ious! You absolutely killed! Seriously – you should be in show business. I absolutely mean it, sir. You have real talent. You are just really, really funny. Like, Three Stooges funny. No sir, I am not fooling with you, I’m serious as a heart attack. Hasn’t anyone ever told you? Naw, come on, sir, you’re just too modest to remember. I’m saying flat out: I know from my professional experience and my instinct, my gut, that you are a gifted comic, and I am never wrong about these things. The Good Lord doesn’t give that kind of gift to everyone. But he has to you. And now he’s put me here in front of you, because I know several agents.”