May 3, 2006

Colbert

Posted in Comedy, Criticism, Politics at 2:44 pm by antonello

I love Stephen Colbert. Have for many years, even since dare-I-mention Exit 57. He has a fantastic delivery, excellent characterization and can be very very clever.

His performance this weekend at the Press Correspondents' dinner was a tour de force. Many disagree how much laughter it may or may not have stimulated in their laugh generators (quite a lot in mine, but that really is, besides the point). Some have mentioned that it wasn't any material that was that new, and that very well may be true.  But that ain't the rub: Colbert was playing his character, his O'Reillian blowhard, in the belly of the beast, quite literally steps from W and an often self-congratulatory press.  

The irony was from being there, playing the shill with every bit of shrill, in the home of the shrill shill.  Max Sawicky compared it to A Modest Proposal and I think that gets at it.

Chris Lehmann has a good piece in the Observer about it too.  Were the people there mortally offended?  I agree with Lehmann here:

The President’s turn at Rotarian-style “look-at-silly-me” spoofery was comforting to most of the grandees on hand, to be sure. But that didn’t mean they took mortal offense at Mr. Colbert, as has been widely alleged by the flying wedge of blog-style commentators on the left.

Any attempt to take apart the evening joke for joke, I think, misses a grander point. His conclusions, which are better than mine and helped me focus my ideas:

In a 60 Minutes profile that aired Sunday night, Mr. Colbert explained to Morley Safer that he doesn’t allow his kids to see his eponymous Comedy Central show. “Kids can’t understand irony or sarcasm, and I don’t want them to perceive me as insincere. Because one night I’ll be putting them to bed and I’ll say, ‘I love you, honey.’ And they’ll say, ‘I get it. Very dry, Dad. That’s good stuff.’”

And that may have been Mr. Colbert’s biggest problem. The media kids he was babysitting that night were not even remotely equipped to calibrate irony, intentional or otherwise.

Kudos to Lehmann for the most Musto aside I've seen this week

(I, for one, found neither act [ed. Colbert or Bush impersonator] of the evening uproarious: Who, I must plaintively ask in the high ardor of pop-cult disenfranchisement, speaks for me?)

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