May 2, 2006

On the radio.

I'm waiting for the call to go on Open Source Radio and talk about Stephen Colbert. I hope Steve's listening!

I'm checking out various websites, trying to get a read on opinion. Are righties slamming him and lefties exulting? Sorry, I'm in the middle on this one. I like the Colbert character, but think it works better in his studio, which symbolizes his cocoon and his self-love. Surrounded by others, he can't really play such a pompous and insular character. It seems desperate, and we worry about him, standing so close to people who must be quite intimidating. It's damned hard to be that good of an actor, but he did pretty well, and it took a lot of nerve.

I'm on around 7:20 Eastern, after Helen Thomas and Noam Scheiber, and along with Michael Scherer of Salon.

But first up is Jay Rosen of PressThink. He was at the event. His theory is that people weren't laughing because the subject of the routine was the administration's disregard for evidence. I can't see why that makes it unfunny. I wonder if Rosen watches "The Colbert Report," since he pronounces the "t" at the end of his name a couple times.

Noam Scheiber, who was also in the room, thinks Colbert was just off that night. He thinks Colbert didn't quite have a grip on his character, and he slipped into ranting criticism of the President, and just didn't have good enough jokes. He notes that Ed Helms (of "The Daily Show") wasn't finding much to laugh at. Only people who "put politics ahead of comedy" are finding a lot to laugh at.

Helen Thomas is saying that one reason people in the room didn't laugh is that they think it's not right to laugh in the President's face.

***

That was fun! Did you listen? And, more importantly, did Steve listen?

***

Now, Robert Thompson is on. He's a TV & pop culture professor. I'm jealous of that job! "The President has now been roasted by one of the coolest, hippest guys in the country," and the President "didn't blow," so "in an odd sort of way," the hipness rubbed off on Bush. Was Bush hurt? No! He got an injection of coolness!, says Thompson.

Then, I got back in at the end. I had to disagree with some assertions about what a new thing criticizing the President and the press is. It might be new to criticize the President when you're a guest at a big event and standing a few feet away from him, but it seems to me Americans have been mocking the powerful and piercing phony rhetoric since before we were a country.

UPDATE: You can stream the show here.

30 comments:

Dave said...

Well I looked at a bit of the video that you linked to in your previous post and thought the whole schtick pedestrian and boring. (I had never heard of this Colbert guy until you blogged about him, so I don't know anything about his regular stuff.)

Only in Washington could something this bland erupt in scandal.

Jacques Cuze said...

Go with your gut Ann, be a gut goer.

retired randy said...

Obviously Dave must live in a cocoon, or a backwater someplace where they don't have cable yet.
I have to chuckle about some of the people that don't understand, or think he's a republican. Precious.

John Jenkins said...

All I've seen from the right (admittedly that's just NRO's Corner) indicated that the writer likes him generally and thought he bombed the other night because it just wasn't funny, not because of any political message.

Troy said...

I watched the DVR (Tivo) again and thought it gratingly unfunny. I watch the Colbert Report regularly and even check out the Colbert Nation every so often so I'm a fan -- and I'm conservative. His jokes came off as too one-sided. They were neither good-natured enough nor contained enough universally recognized truth (truthiness?) to be funny. In the end it came off as a screed -- almost no different than a Janeane Garafolo/Al Franken roast of George Bush -- and Colbert is better than that. It was slightly better than an Ann Coulter monologue at a WHCA Dinner during the Clinton era would've been.

Patrick Martin said...

I agree. It just wasn't that funny of a routine. I'm a strong supporter of the President, yet I've laughed at plenty of Saturday Night Life skits which absolutely skewered him. "Strategery" is funny.

I think the problem is that too many people in this country confuse humor with legitimate political criticism. The fact that a professional comedian like Jay Leno or John Stewart can make fun of some program, policy, or speech of the President's does not mean that the program, policy, or speech was actually bad or stupid. Professional comedians can make fun of just about anything. Likewise, the fact that some routine criticizes the President does not, ipso facto, make it funny.

The bit with Helen Thomas COULD have been funny, but the timing felt off. It would have been classic WH Correspondents dinner material, poking fun at both the press and the President. But it was just off, and it fell flat.

Jennifer said...

I listened (to Noam Scheiber and you, anyhow)! I thought you had the most salient points. It's a funny routine that works much better in its cocoon. Outside of it, the bit falls flat.

Joe Baby said...

Even the meanest dog on the block gains sympathy after being kicked 20 times in a row w/o a breather.

Half of Colbert's problem is he should have spread the wealth around. Started in on the Prez, then sawed into the press + dems who were by then fat and happy.

Finally, this event is more of a roast. Fair game to pick on a guy's mannerisms, etc., but when it ends up being all about policy -- bleh.

Chris O'Brien said...

Love Colbert. Love his show. I love Stewart and The Daily Show. Even love Doonsbury.SomeofmybestfriendsareBushhatingliberalsetcetc.

Steve's stuff was clever Saturday. But, mostly, not ha ha funny.

Dave said...

Yeah obviously I live in a coocoon.

Actually, the real problem is I don't watch most TV because most of it is too boring/dull/predictable to watch. Hence I don't pay attention to most "comedians" because they simply are not funny. Life is too short and I am too busy for me to spend time trying to figure out who is funny and who is not.

I rely on filter--like Ann--to see what is interesting out there. In this instance, it was anything but interesting. Quite pathetic, actually.

Dawn said...

Colbert? Who?

Well, I must live in a cocoon as well, but then again, nursing school and raising a family take precedence over watching the tube (except on Tuesday night!).

Jay Rosen said...

Ann: Correction: I was not at the event. Noam was. I do watch Colbert (not every night, but semi-regularly) and I did mispronounce his name, and also Noam's name.

Too excited I guess.

You said "His theory is that people weren't laughing because the subject of the routine was the administration's disregard for evidence." I haven't been able to listen to the show, but what I think I said was that if press people weren't laughing, it's because they didn't think it was funny.

I also said the theme of Colbert's routine was the disregard for evidence.

smasha said...

Colbert wasn't supposed to be (ha ha) funny, it was intended as satire. It is supposed to make you think . I know we hate to do that here in America. But, soon we will have to start to be more critical of what we are being fed by our politicians and the corporate conglamorate media outlets.

knoxgirl said...

smasha said: "It is supposed to make you think . I know we hate to do that here in America."

...except for you, of course... you're a real THINKER.

Not a speller, though, apparently. Hard to spell with all that thinkin'...

Ann Althouse said...

Jay: Sorry, I've made the correction. I want to hear the recording, but it seemed to me that you said that people weren't laughing because of what he was saying, which was about the disregard of evidence. Either you connected two thoughts you didn't mean to or I misheard that.

Jennifer said...

Not a speller, though, apparently. Hard to spell with all that thinkin'...

Now THAT'S funny! Ha ha funny, even.

Jay Rosen said...

It's possible I did connect them, or left that impression. I will have to listen to know for sure. I know I said the press wasn't laughing because the press didn't think it was funny. Thanks for the correction.

Brendan said...

Bush was gracious; Colbert was vicious. Like I said, this event is not a presidential roast. Never has been. Colbert simply misunderstood the format or was fed some bad advice. Guests don't attack their hosts.

Jacques Cuze said...

He's a TV & pop culture professor. I'm jealous of that job!

Very seriously Ann, you should consider this. With your art degree and your law experience you have the background, and frankly, it's clear from your day to day posts, that it is where your heart lies.

You have tenure. What better way to make use of that than to find something interesting for yourself, your students, and society. Not everyone can make the jump, but you can.

Go with your gut.

Danny said...

Even for those who lean to the right, wouldn't you relish in an opportunity to sit with George W. Bush and together watch a rousing episode of the Colbert Report? Wouldn't it be a much more entertaining experience than watching, say, Everybody Loves Raymond or America's Funniest Home Videos?

Steven H. said...

Those of you who might not have thought that Jay Rosen watches the Colbert Report probably don't remember his appearance on the Daily Show. Sorry Professor Rosen, this is something no NYU journalism student will ever forget.

Ann Althouse said...

Steven: Thanks! I'd forgotten that one myself and certainly wouldn't have remembered Rosen in connection with it. But I'd apply Robert Thompsons hipness-coolness theory to that appearance.

Ich: How hard do you think it would be for me, in my current job, to have one of my classes next year be "Law and Popular Culture"?

Walt said...

I think the people who are critiquing Colbert's comedy routine like they were some professorsorial afficionados or, worse yet, Simon (a la simon says on American Idol), need to take a step back and realize what was so funny. It had nothing to do with Bush. Sure all the harshest jokes were on the topic of the Bush administration, but the jokes were really barbs against the media. That is why his guest was Helen Thomas. The audience didn't like it because it was an indictment on them. Let's face it, the Bush bashing is no longer a liberal past time. Some of my most ardent supporters of Bush no longer speak glowing of him. Instead, they use words like disappointing and unbelievable.

Of course, who enabled this administration -- the media. Who is Colbert attacking -- the media. Instead of discussing if the routine was funny or not or if the Helen Thomas video went on too long, let's discuss the real issue. Why did we go to war? And the funny thing is that it took a faux newsman from comedy central to get the media discussing that very question -- the question Helen Thomas is still asking.

You might want to check out Colbert's interview with Bill Kristol:
http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/videos/most_recent/index.jhtml

Walt said...

The amazing thing about the Bill Kristol interview - It aired the Thursday before the dinner. Colbert set the pundit up beautifully. Please watch the clip. It is one of those rare times when a squawk box actually says, "I'm speechless." Of course, and this is what makes the dinner speech so brilliant, this interview answers the question, "Why did we go to war?"

Jacques Cuze said...

Ich: How hard do you think it would be for me, in my current job, to have one of my classes next year be "Law and Popular Culture"?

I truly have no idea. I don't know if it as simple as build it and they will come, or what any of the complexities are.

I suspect it's easier than my becoming a Rockette (my own personal dream job.)

Troy said...

Except Walt -- that if anyone who really cares about WHY we wnet to war -- all they have to do is go to the various clearinghouses where the transcripts of the speeches are stored and Bush et al. laid exactly the multiple reasons why we went to Iraq.

The real tragedy is that the media ignore all of the other reasons given (and with some help on the Bush admin. part focus entirely on WMD). Just because people SAY that WMD is the only reason we went to Iraq doesn't make it any more TRUE. That is called the BIG LIE -- tell it enough and it becomes the accepted version.

Did Bush emphasize WMD over the other reasons -- most certainly he did, but was it the only reason? No it was not -- and verifiably so.

Was oil the reason? I don't think so -- it would've been cheaper and easier to invade Norway and mexico to get oil. Bush's supporters have a nuanced view of him -- he does some good some bad. Bush haters have a fundamentalist view -- he is McChimpy Hitler -- all evil all the time -- which is funny from a group who never sees evil in anything other than Bush-Cheney.

aaron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
aaron said...

Very refreshing to hear from someone who has more than a two week memory of current events and context. Thanks Troy.

Jon Swift said...

It seems very obvious to me that the liberal media is attacking Colbert because of his conservative views.

Walt said...

Troy,

Thanks for reminding me about the connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam. Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the smoking gun or was it a mushroom cloud. All I know is that, and I'll quote Bush on this, I don't know where bin Laden is and I don't care. To tell you the truth, I don't think much about him." You can label me anything you like. I know I voted for Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss for Georgia Senators, and I know it is wrong to use the ferver of anger after 9/11 to convince over 70% of the population that Saddam and Al Qaeda were one in the same.