May 13, 2006

Who is clueless enough to think Stephen Colbert is a conservative?

At yesterday's Law School graduation ceremony, Gordon Smith got a chance to talk to Rep. Tammy Baldwin about -- well, what would you talk to her about? -- Stephen Colbert:
It turns out that she's a fan of Stephen Colbert, too. She asked whether I thought he was, at heart, a liberal or conservative. (Apparently, this is a matter of dispute among members of Congress.) I told her that I assumed he was a liberal, but she said that the congressman who claims to know Colbert best is convinced that he is a conservative.
Yeesh, are our representatives that dumb?

Here's a dialogue between Colbert and Terry Gross from the April 8, 2005 episode of "Fresh Air":
GROSS: Have you become much more political since doing "The Daily Show?"

Mr. COLBERT: Yes. I started off at the Second City in Chicago, which is ostensibly--it's an improvisational theater that ostensibly does social and political satire, but when I was there we generally didn't. And I made a conscious effort then not to do political stuff when I first started out, because I found so much political humor false, stuff that just told the audience what they thought already about a political situation.

I mean, the example is people making Ted Kennedy drinking jokes, which didn't seem to be informative or satirical. They just seemed mean-spirited and just told the audience what they thought already. And the people that I worked with--Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris for the most part--we had a little pact that we wouldn't talk about politics, we wouldn't talk about pop culture and we wouldn't make references to real places or people. We would just do scenes of--between--relationship scenes.

And then when I got to "The Daily Show," they asked me to have a political opinion--or rather Jon did. When Craig was there, it wasn't so political. Jon asked me to have a political opinion, and it turned out that I had one, but I didn't realize quite how liberal I was until I was asked to make passionate comedic choices as opposed to necessarily successful comedic choices.

GROSS: Boy, I like the way you put that, passionate comedic choices.

Mr. COLBERT: Well, yeah. I mean, Jon has asked us to be political and to share his interest in doing political comedy that actually has some thought behind it, and as a result, if you don't do something that you feel passionately about, if you're not talking in a passionate way about it, you're gonna sound just as false as a politician who's doing a stump speech that is to please his audience and doesn't reflect a dearly held political idea. And more than anything else, we don't want to sound predictable and we don't want to sound--or I don't want to sound like I don't believe what I'm saying.
A nice thing about Colbert is that he cared first about being funny and only explored his political ideas because it was part of the comic role he had taken. The passion was for comedy, not politics. That means he's not a natural politico. (I like people like that; I identify with them.) Forced to take a political position, he was surprised by how liberal he was.

Now, you could say, but the environment of "The Daily Show" is so liberal that perhaps an unpolitical person would falsely "discover" that he was a big liberal. Creating his own show, he embodied himself in a ridiculous conservative character. But why did he do that? Our Congressmen and -women are wondering! Maybe at some point, he saw that he was only a chameleon on "The Daily Show" and longed to express conservative opinions, so he created the "Colbert Report" character so he could say all those things and still not lose all his liberal friends.

Sorry, that's the best I can do in an effort to absolve our representatives of the charge of cluelessness.

27 comments:

knoxgirl said...

I've never understood the urban legend that Colbert is conservative. I watched his show once and, I dunno, I thought it was pretty obvious he's liberal.

Bruce Hayden said...

He is apparently Catholic, and his character sometimes did make "conservative" comments, but I always felt it was to mock that position. I think it was the combination of these two that gave that impression.

I found it interesting that Cobert admits how liberal Stewart's show is. I get into this argument a bit with my daughter, and she just says the Daily Show is funny. And, I suspect that a lot of those who follow that show are in the generation that sees it most as funny more than political.

But then, I was much closer to that generation with the original SNL, and thought at the time that their political skits were more funny than political. It is only now, looking back at them, that I realize that some were intensely political.

And, no, Chevy Chase, Gerald Ford was not a klutz. He was probably the best coordinated president of our lifetime. He had, by far, the lowest golf handicap, and could outski his Secret Service (and he didn't hit any of them either, just lost them on the slopes).

Too Many Jims said...

"Who is clueless enough to think Stephen Colbert is a conservative?"

Hugh Hewitt.

http://hughhewitt.com/archives/2006/04/23-week/index.php#a002000

Too Many Jims said...

"passionate comedic choices as opposed to necessarily successful comedic choices."

I wonder if that should inform how we might view Colbert's performance at the WH Press dinner. Might that have been a "passionate comedic" performance rather than a "successful comedic" performance.

The Drill SGT said...

Dumb?

How about delusional?

Or completely disingenuous?

I had no idea who Tammy Baldwin was. I went through a series of links to find her local political www site. The "We Love Tammy" pages.

I found evidence that she's a lesbian congresswoman, which frankly doesn't bother me, but I could find no indication in her political history and bio about whether she was a Dem or Rep. I call that gutless in the extreme.

So I have to conclude that she is either:

- Delusional, so far to the left in the universe that Mao and Marx look like Birchers, or

- Disingenuous, and is pretty smart and thinks the rest of us can't tell the difference between a liberal and Conservative without a tattoo on your forehead.

People get the representation they deserve.

Jon Swift said...

Isn't it obvious that the liberal media is attacking Colbert for his conservative views?

foxlets14 said...

WIKIPEDIA has an excellent bio on Colbert:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Colbert

Draw your own conclusion about his politics, but mine is that he's as liberal as a guy from a large Irish Catholic family who went to an exclusive Charleston Episcopal prep school, Hampden-Sydney and Northwestern can be.

Palladian said...

Be wary of "passionate" people, at least in the arts. "Passion" is too often a cloak for poor discipline and an excuse for lack of artistic ideas. This was (is) the central problem with "political" and "identity" art.

I think people, especially younger people, often don't recognize political messages in entertainment and art because the "liberal" position is, in most of what young people see in the media and in schools, the default position. "Liberal" ideas are more in tune with the way young, inexperienced people see the world and their lives. I'm not saying that all liberals are naive, adolescent-minded people, just that in general the soft "liberal" position often seems more "in synch" with the idealistic, malleable, emotional, impulsive nature of younger people. I think the 1960s cemented (accurately or inaccurately, for better or worse) the relationship, real or imagined, between the "do your own thing" mindset and political liberalism. The idea of personal (and artistic, to tie this into the topic at hand) discipline is often anathema to the "do your own thing" thinking of young people.

Would that political conservatism as it is manifested in one of our political parties had not forgotten the concept of personal discipline. Oh for the return of Classical Liberalism, to either party.

Back to Colbert, I'm still waiting for him to be "disappeared" for his Correspondent's Dinner performance, as I actually saw an alarming number of people predict.

foxlets14 said...

Correct link for Colbert bio:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Stephen_Colbert

Seven Machos said...

I guess I just can't get my head around why Colbert's politics, or his act the other day, is important. I'm not sure why the White House allowed this guy anywhere near the Correspondents' Dinner. I'm not sure why there IS a Correspondents' Dinner. I don't know how or why comedians became important political figures.

These are the true mysteries, to me.

The Drill SGT said...

Seven Machos said...
I'm not sure why the White House allowed this guy anywhere near the Correspondents' Dinner.


The error in you understanding is that the correspondents are the HOSTs, Bush was the GUEST.

Bush or any other President would not be rude to his guests, but reciprocity does not apply on the part of the media when there is an opportunity to score political points against Bush.

Seven Machos said...

You'd think a couple phone calls could have gotten a change in the lineup. I mean, I though Karl Rove was a genius. You'd think such a genuis would know who would be a bashing comedian. President Bush should say, "Thanks but no thanks," and go to a minor-league baseball game next time.

Jeff said...

Colbert isn't conservative, but he has been unbelievably un-PC in the past on the brilliant "Strangers WIth Candy".

john dickinson said...

I don't think the question is whether he is liberal or conservative, but whether he is left-left or center-left. I think there are various hints that he at least occassionally sympathizes with his character.

XWL said...

Who looked more stupid in the aftermath of his WHCA dinner, the President who accepted the barbs without retaliation, the Press Corp who sat in stunned silence when someone had the nerve to say out loud what they themselves had been insinuating, or the liberal blogosphere who have gone ape over this comedy piece and have loudly proclaimed that the MSM were too chicken to laud Colbert's courage in speaking truth to power?

(and if folks will recall the piece itself, the main gist of it was, Helen Thomas is a zombie-like unstoppable, unthinking, monstrosity)

I say it was the liberals who have looked silliest in the aftermath of that dinner.

Doesn't that suggest that it was all part of Colbert's plan (as a closet conservative) to distract and radicalize the left, to the point where they utterly and totally lose their minds while simultaneously turn-off the folks who actually vote?

(Come November, it will be, 'but the polls, the polls, the polls . . ., Diebold did us in again!?!')

Craig said...

I've got to disagree with people who 'trust those who are not into politics', but who are only active reluctantly.

Politics, at the end of the day, is nothing but a machine for how our values are implemented in society - and so there should be a direct connection between your values and your politics. If you care about mankind, then you care about politics, because politics affect mankind.

I understand that politics CAN be far less, filled with the egos and corruption and special interests, since it's a center of power, but broadsides against it are misplaced, IMO.

I think far too many who pride themselves on not having too much interest are defending flaws from negligence to ignorance, not virtues, reflected by the disinterest.

As for the dichotomy between politics being the 'noblest profession' and the sleaziest: it is what the people make of it.

amba said...

Colbert is like a Rorschach inkblot -- everyone looks at him and sees something different. I LOVE that.

I'll claim him for the political center -- those who mix up liberal and conservative traits in their own being and find both extremes equally garish and preposterous.

Simon said...

Seems to me that Colbert had plenty of good-natures insults (and a few less good-natured ones) to go around.

riki_da_klein said...

This is an interesting thread. The comments about whether a person is "liberal" or "conservative" is an example of the kind of distraction that the powerful want us to engage in.

It is about who is getting screwed and who is doing the screwing.

Wake up and think for yourself! It's uncomfortable but who said that life was fair.

DO YA WANNA BE A CONSUMER OR A HUMAN?

Your choice.

JML said...

"Now, you could say, but the environment of "The Daily Show" is so liberal that perhaps an unpolitical person would falsely "discover" that he was a big liberal. Creating his own show, he embodied himself in a ridiculous conservative character. But why did he do that? Our Congressmen and -women are wondering! Maybe at some point, he saw that he was only a chameleon on "The Daily Show" and longed to express conservative opinions, so he created the "Colbert Report" character so he could say all those things and still not lose all his liberal friends."

I can't quite make out if this is Althouse, but (whoever) - Are you serious?

Your assertion that Cobert is finally sharing his conservative views with us is a perfect example of "truthiness." - Truthiness = that which one assumes to be true simply because one wants it to be, without the consideration of evidence or facts that might challenge one's assumption of truth.

How is the environment of the Daily Show explicitly liberal? How does one "falsely discover" that one is either liberal or conservative or some combination thereof? Please respond.

I have seen politicians and others of all stripes mocked on that show. What the Daily Show does is expose politicians for some of the incredibly stupid things that they sometimes say and do. The show provides a bit of transparency that the MSM does not give us. Do you have a problem with transparency as it relates to voters' ablilities to make informed decisions? Please respond. To me, the show is impartial, if anything. If a conservative politician says or does something foolish enough to attract the show's attention, don't blame the show or liberals, demand more of that politican.

Don't assume that criticism of a conservative is the automatic work of liberals, there are idiots on both sides of the aisle. True conservatives, as well as liberals, should welcome some much-needed truth-telling; if that is offensive to anybody, particularly vis-a-vis political party affiliations, that's too damn bad. Do you believe that conservatives should be exempt from scrutiny in a public forum? Please respond.

The Colbert Report is a parody of the likes of Bill O'Reilly. Colbert mocks conservative blowhard talk-show hosts by creating a similar persona and proceeding to act like the ignorant, intolerant, self-absorbed jerks that those hosts often are. That anybody actually questions Colbert's positions is a testament to his acting skills and the show's writers.

aaron said...

Passionate instead of wise. Shooting for a narrower, but much more loyal audience.

Simon said...

riki_da_klein said...
"The comments about whether a person is "liberal" or "conservative" is an example of the kind of distraction that the powerful want us to engage in. It is about who is getting screwed and who is doing the screwing. Wake up and think for yourself! It's uncomfortable but who said that life was fair. DO YA WANNA BE A CONSUMER OR A HUMAN?"

More warmed-over pseudo-Marxist babble. I'm perfectly happy being both, thankyou.

knoxgirl said...

JML: "How is the environment of the Daily Show explicitly liberal?"

you can't be serious.

David Martin said...

The issue is not whether Stephen Colbert is liberal or conservative. The fact is that he was courageous enough to not only nail Bush but to also expose the mainstream media for failing to do their job for the last five years. For my complete view on the White House Correspondents' Dinner, go to www.davespoliticalsatire.blogspot.com.

JML said...

Oh, I can too be serious. Answer the question, or any of the others in my post, if you like.

I think there's a tendency among those on the right to deride anything that doesn't specifically endorse the right wing as being, by definition, left-wing. There's a whole center that gets ignored, at your peril. (Yes, those on the far left are guilty of this too.)

Mr. Martin, you're spot on.

Jennifer Johnson said...

I am conservative. I assume Stephen Colbert is liberal, but I still think he is a hilarious comic genius. I think it's funny the way his character makes fun of liberals, and I think it's funny the way the comedian is making fun of the stupider conservatives by the way he portrays the character. Funny guy. Anyone who thinks he's actually conservative is dense, but I suppose it's possible he's a political moderate.

Steve said...

If you followed Stephen prior to Colbert Report, it's obvious, that he's making a parody out of conervative commentary. He walks the line in such a way that if you turned on the show for the first time he would keep you guessing.

But what is Liberal or Conservative. I see it that he(and Jon Stewart) aren't liberal, they have a mind of their own, they don't follow anyone blindly. How ironic that it takes comedians to have a realistic grasp on the world, with all the 'noise' filtered out?

The point of Colbert is to poke fun at this conservative movement, but he stops short of tipping his hand 100%. But it's amazing that people who watch the 'real' shows don't see the joke.. as he's only slightly more over the top than the real 'pappa bear' and other conservative talk shows.

He even fooled the people at the BUSH White house, who appointed Stephen as the speaker for the press dinner. He ROASTED the president to his face, and the he was NOT happy(Telling him that his ship wasn't sinking like the titanic, but souring... like the hindenburg') No.. after that performance, there should have been no doubt that he was not conservative.

But Liberal? By whoes definition?