October 18, 2006

Stephen Colbert or Ann Coulter?

In this pretty cool article about Stephen Colbert, New York Magazine offers up these quotes, each by either Colbert or Coulter, to prove... well, what does it prove? Coulter is doing comedy part of the time, right?
1. “Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do. They don’t have the energy. If they had that much energy, they’d have indoor plumbing by now.”

2. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay. I have plenty of friends who are going to hell.”

3. “I just think Rosa Parks was overrated. Last time I checked, she got famous for breaking the law.”

4. “Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity, as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of ‘Kill everyone who doesn’t smell bad and answer to the name Muhammad.’ ”

5. “I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.”

6. “[North Korea] is a major threat. I just think it would be fun to nuke them and have it be a warning to the rest of the world.”

7. “Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls?”
I easily got all these answers right, but not because I think only Colbert is trying to be funny. Coulter is trying to be funny too, as the NY Magazine guy seems to concede:
Of course, I’m not trying to equate Coulter with Colbert. For starters, Coulter is a shrill, abusive demagogue and Colbert just plays one on TV. But with Coulter, there’s always been a sturdy suspicion that she is playing a character (like Colbert) and amping up the obnoxious rhetoric for maximum effect (like Colbert). When I mention the comparison to Colbert, though, he seems surprised, even unnerved. “I don’t really think about her much,” he says. “She’s a self-generating bogeyman. She’s like someone who wants attention for having been bad.” Given that he’s hosted right-wing true believers like Joe Scarborough before, and has often said he’d love to have Bill O’Reilly on the show, would he ever invite Coulter as a guest? “My sense is that she’s playing a character,” he says. “I don’t need another character. There’s one character on my show, and that’s me.”
A sturdy suspicion? I should hope so. "I don’t need another character"? Ha, ha. He's right, and he knows his limits. He needs a willing straight man/woman on the other side of the table to do his act.

You know, when we first noticed Coulter doing various political shows -- I think it was back in the mid-90s -- we were always saying "Why is that woman laughing?," "She's always laughing," "There's that woman again who's always laughing," etc. No matter what she said, she'd be laughing, as though every damned thing that happened in politics was hilarious to her and everything comment she made completely cracked her up. You might not think what she is saying is funny, but I think she's motivated by comic energy, and the people who like her are picking up on the fun.


The Tiger said...

Got them all right except for the seventh -- I thought that one might be Ann.

But yes, she seriously enjoys what she's doing -- and so do her fans...

Doyle said...

Yes, the infectious giggle of the eliminationist right wing lunatic. It's so musical!

Joe said...

If Ann was a leftist, she would be considered a genius. Look: she uses hyperbole to make a point, but her point is almost always cogent and fact based. I don't know of any other pundit who backs up her arguments with footnotes.
I don't watch Colbert, never thought him entertaining at all.

SteveR said...

I don't see her as any different than Carville and Begala except they pretend to be experts. To hate them, is a stupid waste of energy, if you don't like them turn the channel.

She's laughing all the way to the bamk.

Dave said...

"the infectious giggle of the eliminationist right wing lunatic"

Huh? What does eliminationist mean?

George said...

It's show biz, and they are branded entities.

Johnny Carson did political schtick that was as risque as he could be on TV for his day and time, and he made bucks on the side appearing in ads for men's apparel.

Before Carson, we had Bob "Texaco" Hope, Will Rogers, and Mark "typewriter entrepreneur" Twain.

If I ran some edgy brand for young, hip adults, I'd hire Colbert or Coulter or both (!) to be in my ads or to adopt children from Malawi or something...anything for attention.

Sloanasaurus said...

I don't see Colbert publishing books with arguments that are researched and tied to sources. Maybe the intent of the author's article was to use Colbert, a self described comedian, as a comparison to Coulter to imply therefore that anything Coulter says must not be taken seriously. The writer also compares Colbert to Orielly - saying he is the Oreilly of the left. Does this mean we should think Colbert a serious person... I think not.

Coulter has the nerve to state facts that we need to know but noboday wants to say. Chief among these is her calling out some of the the 9-11 widows to her explaining how Max Cleland became a parapalegic.

If I were to compare someone on the left to Coulter it would be Maureen Dowd, not Colbert.

vegetius said...

Coulter's main attraction (besides great legs) is her ability to get
the left's panties in a wad.
Her comedic talents lay not in her words but the comical twitching that she provokes in her targets.

AJ Lynch said...

I love both Coulter and Colbert. They make me laugh out loud. Colbert may arguably be the most talented entertainer in the world today.

And I love Coulter cause she has guts and can really turn a phrase.

And I got all of them right too.

JohnF said...

I've always thought of Coulter as a female Jackie Mason. Funny, but with many grains of truth.

Noumenon said...

Someone has to give the answers: 2,3,5,7 are Colbert.

Bruce Hayden said...

I was surprised that I didn't do better. I was sure that 6 was Cobert. It is a stupid suggestion, and Ann is not a stupid woman. There are thousands of well dug in artillary pieces aimed at Seoul, and the Chinese are most likely morally and legally obligated to defend the North Koreans - after all, they were on the other side of the cease fire.

But #1 and #4 are vintage Coulter - part of the humor is in the inconvenient facts that she brings in.

Both are trying to be funny. But Coulter really believes, and uses humor as a weapon. Cobert is mostly a liberal, and parodies the right for comedic effect. He is playing to the liberal conceit that conservatives are brain-dead, and so acts so, often making outrageous statements without facts to back them up. As one poster points out, Ann on the other hand is likely to be able to provide footnotes for her inconvenient facts.

When Cobert uses facts, he intentionally misuses them. For example, the fact that what Rosa Parks did was illegal was precisely why it was so important. One hundred years after Emancipation, segregation was being legally enforced in the South through laws just like that one.

BTW, I do like both of them, though Coulter more. I can't stand Stewart - his stick seems to revolve around Bush is stupid, Rove and Cheney are evil, etc.

The Jerk said...

I love how all the Coulter fans are so impressed by footnotes. This must be well-researched, look at all the footnotes! Never mind if the footnotes are accurate or support the proposition for which they are cited.

I agree that she's a comedian who shouldn't be taken seriously. Too bad her fans don't understand that.

Glenn Howes said...

I don't believe I've ever read anything longer than a paragraph by Ann Coulter, but I found this quote on KausFiles by Elsbeth Reeve of The New Republic thought provoking and funny.
[T]ake Coulter's most infamous line: Writing about her friend's death on September 11, she finished her essay with, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." Wow, that's pretty indefensible. The United States could never--would never--do such a thing. Instead, we've invaded their countries, killed their leaders, and are desperately trying to convert them to secularism. (It's not like mullahs appreciate the difference.)

Revenant said...

I agree that she's a comedian who shouldn't be taken seriously. Too bad her fans don't understand that

I'm not a fan of hers by any means, but I do know a few people who are. None of them take her seriously -- they know she's making ample use of hyperbole for comic effect.

I'm sure there ARE people who take her seriously, just as there are people who go around saying "Jon Stewart is the best newsman out there" and really mean it. But there are stupid people in every part of the political spectrum.

Freder Frederson said...

One problem with the notion that she is a comedian. Comedians are supposed to be funny. I have never heard her say anything funny. Just spiteful, hateful, and viscious things. She obviously amuses herself. But laughing at the idea of people getting raped in prison isn't funny, it's just sick.

ShadyCharacter said...

There's a glaring problem with your analysis Freder. You are a leftist and thus, by definition, a humorless scold when it comes to politics. Thus, your inability to see humor in Coulter's schtick is evidence of nothing!

JimNtexas said...

"But laughing at the idea of people getting raped in prison isn't funny, it's just sick."

As a right wing wacko I agree. It's too bad the left doesn't.

Left wingers, including Congress members, make many such jokes when it is a Republican or a private sector CEO who is in the dock.

AJ Lynch said...

What Shady Character said only double.

Max Power said...


I'm completely missing something here. Are you suggesting Colbert is to lefties as Coulter is to righties? If so, that seems untrue. Colbert uses satire in his impersonation of righties to make fun or them or point out some of their ridiculous reasonings or action. Coulter is not impersonating the left, let alone for any satirical reason.

Or, are you suggesting that Coulter isn't a lefty, she's just loud and obnoxious for entertainment purposes which then translates into her getting paid? If so, I will acknowledge that this is Colbert's "shtick" and so one might be tempted to conclude they are similar. My problem is twofold: First, anyone familiar with Colbert knows that he doesn't really believe it, he's just using satire; whereas people tend to think Coulter believes her stuff, or at least can't readily acknowledge that she doesn't. Second, the audience of Colbert knows the deal, and so they can take what he has in the context of satire. The Coulter audience, does not have this 'informed consent' position, where they know it is satire and accept listening to her under such a guise. It seems like most people that actually would watch a 24-hour news network and listen to her are likely to really listen to her and reason to the point of agreeing with her because they aren't approaching her comments from the standpoint of satire.

Bottom line: you're looking at the act, without looking at the subjective and objective intent and without looking at the circumstances. As someone who is likely familiar with criminal law, this could lead to a gross misunderstanding of the overall picture.

Bottom, bottom line: Colbert's actions or comments taken alone would be reprehensible. But, in interviews (such as the ones you quoted) he acknowledges this is just an act... so we don't call his comments actually reprehensible. Where is the interview where Coulter publicly acknowledges that what she does is just an act?

The Jerk said...

Are is the interview where Coulter publicly acknowledges that what she does is just an act?

She doesn't. Colbert is an ironist. Coulter isn't. She says what she thinks and any humor comes from it being so batshit crazy. Since her fans tend to be simpletons, they like the cheap rhetorical thrills she provides and the fact that someone is giving voice to their id. Not unlike Andrew Dice Clay fans.

Joe said...

The aptly named Jerk calling others simpletons... irony as well as intellectually challenged.

Ann Althouse said...

"Are you suggesting Colbert is to lefties as Coulter is to righties?"

No, clearly not. I just said I think she's trying to be funny. She's taken on an exaggerated persona and she uses it well for her audience. But her target is not her own persona (unless the joke is really bizarre!).

dreamingmonkey said...

I totally agree with this observation, but it doesn't make her shtick any more palatable, in fact, it somehow makes it scarier.

The Jerk said...


I'm sorry you didn't like my comment, but it's really blogger's fault for not allowing me to make the footnotes that you find so impressive.

Revenant said...

Comedians are supposed to be funny. I have never heard her say anything funny.

I've never heard Al Franken say anything funny either, but I understand that SOME people think he's humorous. Personally his Stuart Smalley routine made me want to stab myself in the eye.

Anyway, googling around on Coulter reveals a few funny lines:

"If John Kerry had a dollar for every time he bragged about serving in Vietnam -- oh wait, he does."

About Clinton's Fox interview: "The last time Clinton got that red in the face, the encounter ended with a stained dress."

"I've never even watched an Oscar ceremony, except once when a friend called me 35 minutes into Halle Berry's acceptance speech and I managed to catch only the last 20 minutes of it"

"'Paradise Now,' a heartwarming story about Palestinian suicide bombers. How good is it? Al-Jazeera gave it 4 1/2 pipe bombs."

Not exactly a laugh riot, but then I'm not her target audience.

paulfrommpls said...

The thing my lefty friends refuse to 'get' about Ann Coulter is that really, for every one of the of the "hateful" things they point to, she's in some sense kidding. She doesn't really wish that McVeigh had blown up the NY Times building, and her fans knw that. It can be overly-vicious kidding, but she's not serious.

(The proof of this, proof that amongst her weaponry is humor, is the plain fact that she can be seriously funny y without using that tactic of hyperbolic viciousness. In fact, that tactic is not her at her funniest.)

On the other hand, the hate-filled things we all see coming out the left - from famous people to blog denizens - nobody's kidding with those. They're dead serious.

paulfrommpls said...

In spring Ann C. did a column predicting the Oscars based on the idea that the "gay" quotient would be the most reliable way to do it. The more gay, the better.

So I know some of my liberal friends would consider the very premise hateful, although they wouldn't if Al Franken did the exact same thing, and he could.

She also predicted remakes to come. Such as "The Magnificent, Fabulous Seven."

Revenant said...

One other thing worthy of note -- Bill Maher, who pretty much exemplifies everything she claims to hate about "godless, immoral Hollywood liberals", is a close personal friend of hers. That strongly suggests to me that neither of them takes what she says seriously. Of course, most of *his* political posturing is an act too...


Umm... so you are the champions of racist, ignorant, divisive comments? It is somehow funny in this day and age to laugh at the fact that our political system is so corrupt as to kill over 600,000 people in this war thus far (according to a recent Johns Hopkins University study) and be hilariously bigoted at the same time? What values does she represent? If we believe she's a spiritual person who loves God then she's spewing exactly the opposite. And if you think that's an act, too, she still spewing a negative view of people who try to believe in loving thy neighbor, turning the other cheek, caring about others to the point where we don't ridicule but feed, clothe, co-exist with. What do you people value? Nothing? It's okay to have no values and to make funny of the fact that we don't have any? And then feel we are so cool as a result? I'd hate to hear and see what you do in the presence of your own children? Do you teach them such values? Do you have any? Do you ever listen to anyone other than the sound of your own voices? 80% of the world lives in substandard housing, 50% percent get just enough to eat day by day, and 25% are literally starving to death. What God do you believe in? Or what kindness and thought for others exists in your hearts? All that matters is what happens in your own little part of the world? I really feel sorry that you feel such pain, betrayal, hatred, and anger. It's like you know the spiritual center of your lives are empty and you don't know how to get out of it. It's all hate, hate, hate. Insult, insult, insult. Put the other person down so you can feel better. What is that? I'm sincerely not trying to put you down, but when you see people (on BOTH sides) making such horrendous insults... I really wonder: Have these people no warmth or spiritual joy in their lives? The water in a river is the same water in a tree is the same water in you and me. On this planet, there are about 6 billion hearts pounding, making an ocean, a literal ocean, that unites us all. What the wind carries, it carries to us all. Try farting in a full elevator and not having someone be affected! The only way to build a truly good world, for you, for everyone, is really see beyond these narcissistic violent ploys that can so easily destroy everything. I am totally ok if you disagree with most or all of what I have said here, but I read all of your messages, so I have listened to you. And what I hear is very painful noise. Care to make some good music instead? Or will that cynical voice in your head respond, "Oh, what a wimpy pimpy person with FEELINGS! Let's get back to me and what I have to say so I don't have to listen." Which is it? Maybe take some deep breaths and ponder existence for least ten seconds before responding? Is it more important to respond or to listen? Spiritually hollow people don't listen. People without hearts don't listen. Try listening to something other than the cynical hurt voice inside. It might bring a warmth and a smile to you that you haven't felt in a long time.

Peace, (yes, peace, to all)



The point is, to dismiss what people like Ann Coulter do as simply putting on an act is exactly like punching someone in the face and then saying it's okay because it's just an act.

"Don't worry, it won't hurt! In fact, this baseball batt to your head won't hurt either! It's just an ACT! I'm ACTING! HA HA HA! ISN'T THAT HILARIOUS!?"


You're basically saying that it's cool to ACT like hateful anrgy people because it's just an act? Forgetting the fact that, of course, many people don't look it that way and actually echo that kind of behavior out there in the real world.

Amen. Jesus would be proud. A hate filled world. Buddha would be proud, too. So would that Dalai Lama dude. So will our kids when they grow up. Isn't that just... GRRRREAT!?!

What is it that is of true and good value here in all of this "humor"? I can't seem to remember...