May 04, 2006

One Final Word On Colbert

I can't imagine any more useful information coming out about Stephen Colbert's White House Press Club Dinner key note address, so I'll try not to harp on it any more after this, but this article (hat tip to Atrios) was too good to let slide.

First off, he states that Colbert was not funny, not only as a statement of fact, but as an expert opinion. I mean, let's set aside the fact that comedy can take all kinds of different forms and that a person, even an "expert" on comedy, might like, say, Andrew Dice Clay but not like Woody Allen or vice versa. His use of the rediculous story about asking the teacher to "say something funny" as proof of his own comic pedigree is almost funny in itself, except for being terribly lame. It's like "Kids Say The Darndest Things", except this kid sounds more annoying than funny.

Moving along to his "commentary", however, is even more rediculous. Look, I'm not against the idea that the comedy at the White House Press Club Dinner should be kid gloves comedy. It's a bunch of stuffy politicians, journalists, and other Washinton luminaries. At the same time, what do they expect? If Reagan had invited Richard Pryor to be a key note speaker, would he have expected there not to be jokes about drugs and involving the word "pussy"? If Bush invited Lewis Black, would it be "rude" to yell? I mean, setting aside the idea that comics, and artists generally, should clean up their act for a room full of stuffy old people that don't like their stuff anyway, what would a Colbert routine look like that would not have been considered rude? I guess he could have made some remarks about the dangers of bears, but the vast majority of his schtick revolves around criticism of the Administration and the media. I mean, there are guys, like Drew Carey, who are quite amusing working blue but can clean up nicely for a thoroughly non-offensive show. I'm just not sure if there's anything you could take out of Colbert's repertoire that would make it accetable for conservatives.

Cohen's next assertion that there's nothing bold about doing a routine like Colbert's with the audience that he had is just crazy. Under his construction of what would be bold it's essentially impossible to be a bold speaker vis a vis the President. Is there any instance where criticism of the President would result in anything resembling "smiting" or "death"? Of course not, but that does not make it any less bold to address the most powerful person in the world and criticize him. I am extremely critical of the administration here on the blog and in real life, but I would have muster quite a lot of, oh what to call it, courage to say anything resembling those thing to President Bush if I ever met him in person. It's one thing to have a humorous spoof of the cowed media and the bumbling President in front of an adoring studio audience, it's another matter entirely to do so in an increasingly hostile room.

Let's just ignore the paragraph where Cohen admits that the President's self-depricating bit with a body double was humorous to him, while Colbert's bits about the President's flaws were objectively unfunny. I'm pretty convinced that Cohen isn't the beyond question expert on humor that he presents himself to be.

Finally, there's this, "[Colbert] failed dismally in the funny person's most solemn obligation: to use absurdity or contrast or hyperbole to elucidate -- to make people see things a little bit differently." Are you kidding me? First, let's move past the part where no ammount of critique, forceful or gentle, has been able to change either the President's course of action or the media's blase method of reporting of those actions. I'm curious as to what "things" Jerry Lewis made me see differently. Maybe he's trying to show me something very deep about the stolid conventions of conversation. Or maybe it's just funny when he waves his arms around like an insane person, screaming through funny fake teeth.

The bottom line is that, as Jon Stewart pointed out on Monday, Colbert did the same types of jokes he does every night on his program. I don't know what people were expecting from him, but if they expected anything different, well they're just morons. And the vast majority of people complaining about his routine are people that, whatever stories they concoct about being humor experts, are simply conservatives that don't like the points underlying his jokes.

I didn't think all of his performance was hitting on all cylinders, but when 75% of 174,000 respondents thought that it was between "somewhat" and "very" funny, he must have been doing something right.

As to appropriate, let's not forget another (video) past performance. Yeah, I know the alterations to the video are a little heavy handed, but I swear it's impossible to find a feed of the original. If anyone can find it, by all means link in the comments.

And just because it's still funny, here's something to remind us of better times.

Man, this post took way too much time away from studying...

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