What do you say, Stephen? Does this deserve a wag of the finger?
I think what turned a lot of the paid pundits off is that he was uncouth, impolitic, brash and shameless in his application of mockery through buffoonery. Personally, I found the clips of Colbert's remarks to be hysterical -- to a large extent because he didn't play nice.
Update: Here are some funny clips via YouTube.com:
George Clooney must have laughed heartily but he and Helen Thomas were probably the only two who did. The rest of the room decided to crawl into the valley of depression the President was by then inhabiting. Laura Bush, meanwhile, creditably portrayed Medusa. Alas for her, she was unable to turn Colbert into stone as he then acknowledged the great big elephant in the room. "Joe Wilson is here, the most famous husband since Desi Arnez. And of course he brought along his lovely wife Valerie Plame. Oh, my god! Oh, what have I said. I am sorry, Mr. President, I meant to say he brought along his lovely wife, Joe Wilson's wife."
Had it been any other network, the camera would then have cut to Karl Rove's face. However, Steve Scully was probably standing with a knife at the cameraman's throat by then so all we saw was Valerie Plame throwing her head back to laugh.
The AP's first stab at it and pieces from Reuters and the Chicago Tribune tell us everything we need to know: Colbert's performance is sidestepped and marginalized while Bush is treated as light-hearted, humble, and funny. Expect nothing less from the cowardly American media. The story could just as well have been Bush and Laura's discomfort and the crowd's semi-hostile reaction to Colbert's razor-sharp barbs. In fact, I would guess that from the perspective of newsworthiness and public interest, Bush-the-playful-president is far less compelling than a comedy sketch gone awry, a pissed-off prez, and a shell-shocked audience.
This is the power of the media to choose the news, to decide when and how to shield Bush from negative publicity. Sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission.
I think Bill Maher has managed to keep himself funny while being explicitly political.
...which brings into question is sense of humor. (Bill has made the mistake of making his show all about himself, positioning the guests as the stooges. That's something that works for Colbert, but not for Maher's laid-back comedic sarcasm. Politically Incorrect: funny. Maher's HBO show now: unfunny.
George also makes the mistake of trying to compare Colbert to Jon Stewart and Johnny Carson. I've already noted how Stewart is much like Carson (and I also managed to misspell Jon's name). Every comic has a different style. The unique edge to Colbert's approach is that he doesn't let up, he stays in character, all the way down.
How else to spoof the shameless posturing of the right-wing media bimbos he emulates? Amrita says it so well:
But in a world obsessed with adapting oneself to the audience in a vain attempt to be loved by more and more people, Stephen Colbert stuck to his fake-pundit guns. He didn't pull his punches, he wasn't intimidated by a milieu that was far different from his own [or if he was, he kept it to himself] and he was exactly who he is on his show.
Put in a room with the President of the United States, administration officials, lawmakers and the men and women who bring you news of them, Stephen Colbert did something that should make every American proud.
He exercised the rights given to him by the Constitution of his country to speak his mind and to speak it freely even in the face of power. In those minutes I was reminded that in this country, in these United States, the citizen retains the ultimate power.
But, the point is -- there has to be a foil, a "straight man"to help put the vacuous boorishness of the Colbert persona in context. Without the foil, the character isn't nearly as interesting.
Ah, but the point is that Bush and the press superstars in attendance were the foils. They were the stooges. And while they may have been cringing, it was funny to anyone who wasn't in the room and feels the mainstream media circus needs its collective balloon popped.
A final thought: Bush's clownish banter with reporters -- which is on constant display during press conferences -- stands in such stark contrast to his administration's destructive policies and to the gravity of the bloodbath in Iraq that it is deeply unsettling to watch. This may be impolitic, but wouldn't refraining from frat-style horseplay be appropriate for this man? Or at the least, can't reporters suppress their raucous laughter every time he blurts out another jibe... the way they did when Colbert put them in their place?
No kidding. But hey, we're not inside the bubble -- er, I mean Beltway. They're all chums in there.
The reason it went over so poorly is because, we weâ€™ve mentioned before, Washingtonians have a bizarre sense of humor, and itâ€™s only funny to eviscerate the press if youâ€™re a member of the press. You can eviscerate the President, but only if the President knows who you are. Those are the rules.
I hope and expect C&L or Comedy Central itself will have clips from The Colbert Report's premiere, but there's nothing like watching it in one go. None of the on-location spots or This Week in God bits prepared me for this nearly manic bout of barbed satirical broadcasting.
From the opening proclamation -- "Your voice shall be heard ... in my voice" -- to the spoof on attitudes against facts and news (head stuff) in favor of the "truthiness" of feelings, from the almost-interview with Stone Phillips to the gravitas-off with Stone Phillips, the show just did not stop.
After five minutes, I was asking myself, "Ohmygod, can he keep this up?!" --And he kept going all the way through the show. Four nights a week? I don't know how. I don't think I've seen so much energy expended in one show by one person.
And sharp, too. I laughed the whole time and had to share. If you missed it, see the rerun whenever it's on. Clips on the web won't do it justice. And by all means, tune in tomorrow. If he keeps this up, Jon Stewart is going to wind up being the opening act.