Stephen Colbert, Court Jester

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The White House Correspondents’ Association invited Stephen Colbert to speak last Saturday. It’s a yearly ritual: the press corps, the administration and five b-list Hollywood celebrities get a little drunk together, the President makes fun of himself and then a comedian makes fun of the President. Then Michael Bloomberg pays for the open bar. Katrina vanden Heuvel looks good in her gown; Karl Rove looks awkward in his tux. It’s fun.

Only this year Stephen Colbert, invited as a comedian, refused to play ball. Or, depending on whom you ask, he bombed. He certatinly didn’t kill; to see his performance on C-SPAN, pans to the audience reveal nervous giggles, faint amusement and some shock but certainly no belly laughs. What he did do was go after the President of the United States, sitting there two seats to his right. Burying Bush, by praising him.

To understand what this means, it’s best you watch a bit of it yourself. (C-SPAN has pulled its coverage of this event from YouTube, so we can’t offer it for you here. There are, however, some sound clips from Colbert’s speech embedded in our program.)

Video of Colbert’s appearance Thanks, Derrick Pohl!

Is this a work of comedy or agitprop? Can only the court jester can tell the truth? Is the White House press corps is already on the case and does it not need a New York-based comedian to speak truth to their power? Is a video clip on the web the only way to understand Washington? Do you lose something by actually being there in the room with the administration? And why has the press in general been so reluctant to cover the Colbert moment, and the blogosphere so eager?

Helen Thomas

Senior Member of the White House Press Corps

Noam Scheiber

Senior Editor, The New Republic

Author, About Saturday Night, The Plank, May 1, 2006

Ann Althouse

Blogger, ALTHOUSE

Author, Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner., ALTHOUSE, April 30, 2006

Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School

Michael Scherer

Washington Correspondent, salon.com

Author, The Truthiness Hurts, salon.com, May 1, 2006

Robert Thompson

Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Founding Director, Center for the Study of Popular Television, Syracuse University

Jay Rosen

Professor, NYU School of Journalism

Blogger, PressThink

Extra Credit Reading

Ed Batista, Debord, Stewart, Colbert, Ed Batista, 5/02/06

Deborah Conner, One for the White House?, The Moon’s Favors, 5/02/06

Cassandra, Colbert Bombed On Merit, Villainous Company, 5/02/06

Greg, Stephen Colbert’s White House Speech, Greg’s Blog, 5/02/06


Comments

121 thoughts on “Stephen Colbert, Court Jester

  1. My wife and I watched Colbert’s performance and thought he was brilliant. The guy’s got some guts taking pointed, extremely clever jabs at the president while he’s sitting 2 seats away. Why didn’t his jokes get a laugh from the crowd? Because it’s hard to laugh when someone comes onstage, calls out the fact that the president is an anti-intellectual ideologue, then tells you that you are complicit in his hold on power and squelching of meaningful debate.

    It’s hard to get a poor job performance review; it’s probably harder to get one from a nationally-known comedian who’s supposed to be gently roasting the president so you can get a few laughs after a hard night of drinking and eating.

  2. Ho! Ho! Great! I put this on the suggest a show thread this morning coincidentally!! The MSM ignored him! I am outraged!

    I said this AM :

    Steve Colbert, the jester, one who speaks truth ( not truthiness) to power in his incredibly funny (and astonishingly frank) keynote speech at the gala White House press corps event the other day apparently has a very grateful crowd even though this was not mentioned in the news reports (not NBC, not the NYT) We did get the more acceptable Bush twin schtick.

    Of Colbert’s frankness and boldness, Bush, was not liking it.

    Colbert was “Gored� ( refer to the boycott of Gore’s speeches by the major media).

    See http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2006/05/01/colbert/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-durang/ignoring-colbert-part-tw_b_20130.html

    The video is here: http://www.thankyoustephencolbert.org/

    What a reaction on the internet!

    The point, and maybe a show is, that in an atmosphere where everyone in power is in lock-step only a jester is able get through in a moment of relaxation when the guard is down. Did Colbert get through though? There are a lot of folks out here who are at least happy about the attempt, futile though it may be.

  3. The “Children of Corn Subsidies” has been pushed aside for THIS? (the WGBH spot just now had Chris announcing the corn show tonight). So, Colbert was good for a few laughs. And yes, the President is an absolute doofus, and we have to endure him for two more years, but this is more media navel-gazing which doesn’t mean a hill of beans in this world. If you want to be on top of current events, we could use another story on immigration.

    The link to Althouse’s piece is incorrect. You actually this. And, at 278 words, she hardly merits the title Author above. Once again, this proves that the blogosphere is a place where a big name can just burp and enjoy as much discussion as someone who was an eyewitness to the event (such as Scheiber) and hammered out a respectable 630 words. That’s what public discourse has sunk to. People are analyzing video to see the moment baseball fans in Washington started booing for the Vice President, and to gauge how much laughter was at a televised roast.

  4. When I saw this for the first time, I was nearly in disbelief. It was like he was on a mission. If he was afraid, it didn’t really show. I was laughing, but it is more of the laugh you get when you see a stuntman pass through a flaming hoop — “I can’t believe he just did that.” Exhilarating.

    I watch The Colbert Report each night after The Daily Show, and I have to say that this man is taking over. Colbert’s [and by extension, his writers] modus operandi seems to be the only thing out there that can cut through all of the jive.

    My question is this – is there anyone else out there right now that could have done this?

  5. Hey Jon, thanks for the catch, I updated that link.

    And remember, also, that we cover the world and the blogosphere and where they find each other. It’d be worth an hour just to determine that this is a lot of noise from angry bloggers, if that’s the case. As for immigration, we try to pick topics where we can add something to the story, a difficult proposition given the wall-to-wall coverage after yesterday’s protests.

    And we’ll get to the corn subsidies, we promise.

  6. One thing I noticed from the Lewis Black performance last year is that when the camera cut to the back of the auitorium, the sound didn’t follow, and for some reason the audience sounded louder.

  7. Yup, it’s me being grouchy. Anyways, the WGBH spot is still advertising corn.

    There’s many immigration stories to consider. My college buddy Dan Grech wrote me that he’s spent two months researching his story for Marketplace, “One Home, Two Nations.” Curiously, his need for an interactive session with the audience led him not here, but to Gather.com. It’s airing right now.

    I just have a lot of skepticism that what the blogosphere is important is always what’s important for America.

  8. The subject of this show is very much connected to the corn story and the immigrant stories. If you can’t get through to those in power you can talk and blog until you are blue in the face. The glee is about getting through or at least attempting to get through whilst expressing some feelings that many feel. The mainstream media ignored this. That alone makes this a worthy subject.

  9. It does not matter how big the stories are if the powers that be are not listening, are closed, deaf. This was about breaking through an insulated insider administration that does not represent the people. This is also about a mainstream media that has proven to be very reticient to tell it like it is.

  10. The mainstream media is always busy with “bigger” stories like O.J., M.J. little Elian. The joke is the dearth of meaningful coverage of important global events by the MSM and the need for a comedian to tell it like it is.

  11. Jay Rosen does make sense; they, the press, were not laughing because it was about them!

    Give Scalia some credit!.

  12. I’m not sure why everybody insists on everything that comes out of a comedian’s mouth must be intended to be funny — some of the negative reaction to Colbert’s speech reminds me to some of the reaction to John Stewart’s appearance on ‘Crossfire,’ which I also thought was simultaneously hilarious and absolutely necessary for the health of our society. It seems to me a sad comment that we have to count on our comedians to try, hard as they can, to hold our leaders and our journalists accountable, and that they can so easily dismiss it because it is coming from ‘funny’ people. We need them to keep it up, and for more of the mainstream press to start getting the point.

  13. Steven Colbert’s performance was both cathartic and hilarious! The president’s routine was incredibly shlocky and NOT funny. In fact, it was a disgrace. It’s no wonder that Noam Scheiber didn’t get it. His magazine was complicit with the Neoconservative propaganda in the build up to the invasion of Iraq. Did his magazine ever report on the Office of Special Plans and the incredilby flimsy credibility of Ahmed Chalabi’s human “intelligence” prior to the Iraq War?

  14. Not funny because no one laughed? Oh please! Colbert was hilarious! However, humor can be one-sided, as his was that night.

    There were times where some in the audience laughed and chuckled and sighed and gritted their teeth. But as a guest just send, I don’t think Colbert was trying to be “funny” in the way that he was expected to be “funny”.

    If you laughed with Colbert you were laughing at the President, at Rove, at FOX, at the horrible way the Administration is run.

    Actually, I was shouting for joy at how some one finally said in front of a huge audience, “Mr. President, you have no clothes.”

  15. No one likes to be slammed for not doing their job, and that’s what Colbert did – he stuck his finger into an open wound and poured acid over it. Come on – the Mission Accomplished crap and the Katrina speech were photo ops, nothing more. And the press has largely not done its job.

    Was it last year or the year before that Bush was looking underneath the lectern at the correspondents dinner for WMD, and couldn’t find them? What would you rather have – that offensive and lame act, or Stephen Colbert?

  16. Colbert’s strike at the heart of the establishment was a once in a decade exposure of the vast conspiracy of silence and indifference that leads to the disfunction of government and media. He was so courageous to stand up next to the King and his courtiers and point out the sad truth. Of course it’s not the best house for this brand of satire, but Scalia laughed.

  17. From my point of view, I don’t care about the fine points of the humor- or the humor AT ALL. What is absolutely remarkable about this was the ASSAULT on the president. Wherre was the administation’s CONTROL of the press? NONEXISTENT. Bush was SLAIN. period.

    THAT’s why we did not see it in the NYT. Colbert’s moment of GLORY!

  18. Colbert, it seems like, has been working for a gig like this for the past 5 years. He has been a working his “Republican/Religuous/Self Righteous/Nut Case” persona he plays on ‘The Colbert Report’ so well that I’ll betcha that many in the MSM did not see this coming, believing that Colbert actually was what he was acting as.

    Many pundits, we know, talk about TV and movies (and hollywood in general) without actually watching. (We hear all the time, scathing reviews of movies which have lines like, “I didn’t watch it, but…”)

    Many of those interviewed by Colbert, we learn, had not watched his show.

    So, while Colbert was “pretending” to be this Religious Right media person, those who simply talk among themselves to get their knowledge of what actually is going on, I am sure, did not see this coming.

    The silence of the audience was deafening—and oh so telling—as he said one of his best lines: “You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know—fiction.”

    [a cross post from http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/20060429_colbert_roast_bush/ ]

  19. Squirmedy at it’s best. A modern Mark Twain too close to the target. No wonder his opponants are trying so hard to ignore him and shoot him down.

  20. What a bunch of FuddyButts! Colbert was GREAT! The Press DIDN’T HAVE THE BALLS TO LAUGH !!!!!!

    There it is, the simple truth: Bush was Scorched, and this was a GREAT “EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHERS ON” HOOT !!!!!

  21. Watching the Colbert show is not the same as Colbert being there in the same room with the President and addressing him. Noone had to laugh. It was not really funny ultimately anyway.

  22. Ok. If everybody’s theory here is correct, than Colbert’s moment will be the turning point in the coverage of the Bush Presidency …

    But wait. Again, review the stories that have come out for two years now: Abu Ghraib, Jack Abramoff, NSA spying scandal, rendition, Katrina response disaster, Cobra II. And remember Dan Rather? He was handed his cajones on a plate because they were too aggressive. So this has been happening already.

    What we have is just rage against the MSM, just because it makes bloggers seem more important.

    So I’m not sure what this moment in history really means. Yes, the court jester told off the king. What will this really change? No one has addressed this.

  23. And remember Dan Rather? He was handed his cajones on a plate because they were too aggressive. So this has been happening alread

    Too aggressive? Uhh.. no. Dan Rather was too careless, not too aggressive.

  24. This is what happens when the finger comes out of the dike. There was a hole that night and Colbert flowed through it. Who cares about whether this will live on in history.

  25. The MSM generally moves on to the latest “issue” as soon as they can, the attention span of the general public being about 4 weeks. Watch, gas prices will drop to $2.50 in a week and nobody will be talking about gasoline anymore–until it goes back up to $3.00.

    But as for Colbert, the MSM — embarassed by him now — will simply discount his effect and say no more about it hoping that his routine will go away.

  26. I’m afraid to say that this will not change much in the coverage of this administration. In the end, this will be decided at the ballot box… we’re adults, and hopefully we can see for ourselves what’s going wrong.

    And then vote.

  27. Sorry, wrong adjective. Yes, certainly they were sloppy. But it wasn’t that they were too timid.

    No, they were too timid. They should never have backed down even though they were fooled by the forged papers. They had Marian Carr Knox as a key witness and plenty of documentation showing that Bush never satisfied his guard duty.

  28. Who cares about whether this will live on in history?

    Those who are fed up with intellecually bankrupt media, perhaps?

    Those fed up with an arrogant, overyly secret, lying, cheating, corrpupt White House, perhaps?

    Those fed up with the abuse of Executive power on an unprecedented scale, never before seen in the country, perhaps?

    Those who, just once, JUST ONCE, want to see someone who has abused a position of power get some sort of justice, even it if is only some sense of shame.

  29. I am wondering if folks remember Al Franken’s appearance at this event. If memory serves me, he was quite cutting edge at his performance.

  30. Changed by the ballot box? Ha!

    Not with about half the entire adult population of the United States completely taken in by this Administration and their lakeys in the media on Fox and Talkradio.

  31. Not with about half the entire adult population of the United States

    Correction. 1/3 of the entire adult population. You know, backwash.

  32. Nobody flamed the president to his face for all to see like that. The effect on pop culture will be trickle-down

  33. Hmm — perhaps the partison blogs are primarily concerned with critiquing the print press, but I think there are other tremendously valuable discussions beginning to happen in blogs which are only represented in print in niche publications struggling to stay in the marketplace. I agree with the guest though that the journalistic capabilities of the print media are not being developed in the blogosphere.

  34. Don’t look for every little event to change the political landscape. It was a great moment in comedy – in that it was extremely not funny. The man has balls. We should all have such balls.

  35. Seems that no one’s ever heard of Squeaky or Gerald, eh?

    Are all bloggers still wet behind the ears?

  36. Hello THeller. Thanks to Wikipedia for reminding me about Lynette Squeaky Fromme . No I think Steve Colbert was a lot more successful.

  37. now, now, jiminfantino, some of us would like to have courage without actually having “balls” but yes I agree, we all, but especially the so-called “free press” should see Colbert as an example of freedom of speech at its finest. If only our senators had the courage (or maybe instead of balls I could wish my 2 female senators would really show us that they have ovaries) to be so outspoken. Colbert is like a mudhead kachina, the sacred clowns of the Hopi whose job it is to make fun of those who are harming society with their pride and arrogance.

    I havn’t heard the show yet. Out west we have a few more hours to go before ROS comes on but I heard Colbert on the Canadian show As It Happens last night and I LOVED it!

  38. Jon Garfunkel, I think your expectations are too great, or your desire for something to really bring down this administration too strong. I can empathize, but why not just take this as a little national self-ridicule. The Brits have always turned to such humour in the face of power. Of course it doesn’t lead to much. A good public laugh is just a lot better than quietly suffering impotency.

  39. Don’t underestimate the power of humor. Humor is a positive non-violent form of social criticism. Laughter is good for the system, social and physical.

  40. But I agree, Jon, that there is something larger going on here for the blogosphere to get so worked up about one comedy routine, even if it was a great one. If we track the number of comments on the different ROS threads, we get a sense that contributors here, at least, tend to stay quiet about the more intractable social problems or less topical topics. Prison (21 comments); Race, Class, Racism (30 comments); Universal Health Care (18 comments); Immigration Stories (42 comments). On the other hand, God & morality, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Future of Newspapers all registered over 100 comments.

  41. I watched this video in stunned amazement. “Balls-o-licious” is the only word to describe it to quote John Stewart. In my opinion, seriously, this speach was one of the most powerful political statements I have witnessed. Watching the faces of the audience and hearing the gasps tightened the tension, and the man just kept on plugging away. Colbert *is* taking over, and yes, nobody else could have pulled that off!

  42. The bits you played were SO on target, and I agree with Helen Thomas, the press has soft pedaled during this whole 2 terms.

    RIGHT ON Steven Colbert. I was SHOCKED at his truth telling. And laughed like I used to laugh at SNL, in the old days, gasping in shock & awe.

    NOT FLAT AT ALL. That media guy on your show should really take a look at himself, and why he’s trying to say it was flat. PLEASE. He’s exposing himself as just what Colbert was talking about. The third estate has let us down along with the first.

    The press corp disgusted me with their furor over the Cheney shooting, when they haven’t said boo about all the horrendous things our gov is doing. Right away they startrd calling this invasion “the war” — including NPR. When I started hearing NPR folks using “nukular” I knew there was nothing we could hope for from our news representatives.

    In Iraq they send their interpreters to do the job and in DC they buy every story and don’t dig at all. For the most part.

    History will show the news media to be worthless when we needed them most.

    KUDOS for Colbert. The news folk NEED to hear this.

    I want to hear/see the whole performance now. What I heard was hilarious. (At first I thought I was hearing Bush’s new news flack! That was BRILLIANT!)

  43. I should have said “the third estate has let us down like the first” *and the second*.

    We hav no one representing our interests but comedians. Now that’s funny…

  44. I’m a NYC liberal and have been listening to the show several nights a week since wnyc started airing it. I feel compelled to point out that the host is the most unabashed leftie on public radio. Sure, most hosts on NPR and PRI are liberals, but they at least have the sense to act as somewhat neutral arbiters. Chris Lydon, on the other hand, seems to have no problem with being fully partisan. He is a full participant in the choir of like-minded guests he hosts most nights. This gets boring really fast. This is not what public radio is supposed to be about. Chris, for some tips on being a good, left-wing, radio host who can still be neutral, download some podcasts of Brian Lehrer.

    Also, your interview of the physicist was so inept that there were several times when she could not figure out what you were blathering about and was at a loss on how to respond. I hope wnyc switches to more intelligent programming in the 9-10 spot ASAP.

  45. Almost missed tonight’s show, but I caught Chris’ intro and stuck around. I don’t have cable, and rabbit ears don’t pull in much. (It’s kind of a personal protest against the banality of popular media.) Sooo I’ve never seen Colbert. I came to this with an unjaundiced eye.

    This man is astonishing. Some of the stuff was so fast and elusive, it was like living in delayed playback. Lots of it was so outrageously on the mark that I had to watch the video twice. My shouts of thanksgiving kept drowning out the sound.

    Sidewalker’s comment about the British tradition of take-no-prisoners political satire is spot on–as it were. Our most scathing comics have never gone in for the kill with this kind of precision. Slice and dice, my boy!

    Justinfun has it just right: Now that Colbert has shown it can be done, the gloves are off. I expect every talk show host will be asking for material on Bush with “a little more edge.” The media, i.e. the White House press, will follow suit when they think it’s safe to go into the water. (There’s a reason the YOUNG Dan Rather is in that mock audition tape. Remember guys, this is how a real reporter does the job.)

    And my own particular gripe: Leave it to an academic to talk himself into a corner. Colbert was co-opted by Bush’s non-response which rendered his (Bush’s) negative reactivity the ultimate exercise of cool power. Not soft power (Why the dickens did that lame phrase catch on?)–but cool power. Yikes! Professor de-construct thyself.

  46. JonGarfunkel,

    I agree with you that, in and of itself, Colbert’s performance probably won’t change much. I, too was shocked to see the topic change here and have stayed out of the thread. I came back to take a look as I wrap up things at my office and I’m surprised at the energy around this.

    I saw the performance yesterday on video. It was chilling. And I did think him brave to take on the Pres at such close range. But ultimately, I thought it was futile.

    But I’m not as sure as you that this is simply the bloggers against the MSM for chest thumping. If you read these posts, there seems to be a collective sigh of relief, as in, “There somebody has finally said it.” It seems that perhaps many people of our country are not hearing their voice represented in the public dialogue in a way they feel is getting across. Bush’s insular approach to life has been widely reported and our citizens may feel that their outrage with him is not getting to him directly. Its like having the distant relative, who has not been involved in the extended family in a while, come to Thanksgiving dinner and make fun of the abusive father. You can’t believe some had the gall and you collectively do a virtual high five.

    Then you wonder what tomorrow will be like after the relative leaves.

    I don’t think Bush gave a shit. I don’t think the MSM is going to anything differently. They both still have their ‘masters’ to serve and the agendas of those ‘masters’ hasn’t changed: make more money for me.

    I do think its fair to give the people their collective moment of cheering, though. We all feel so powerless.

  47. Oops I got my estates wrong…hopefully you know what I mean. The administration, congress, the senate, the supreme court, and the press, are bobble-heads with only pretenses at doing their constitutional duties. Probably because they ALL own tons of stock. (Maybe Colbert could take on some rapacious corporate interests next.)

  48. Don C- I listen to Brian Lehrer especially when I am in or traveling to NYC. Brian Lehrer is Brian Lehrer. Chris Lydon is Chris Lydon. In this instance Chris was not neutral- that would have been quite difficult and in my opinion unnecessary. In other instances I do not feel that the other sides of any issue are missing. Additionally it’s quite refreshing to know where a host stands on things at times in a world where hosts are expected to be neutral or to act that way.

    Regarding the show with Lisa Randall I felt that the guest was less than articulate for a general audience though she obviously knows her stuff. But compared to Michio Kaku or Brian Greene for instance Randall did not have that talent for getting these difficult concepts across. Perhaps you are more advanced.

    I happen to have tapes of Lydon shows on this subject ( of which he did many) from the past that I am now listening to and his facilitation of the discussion on a very difficult subject did not leave me wanting with other guests. It was excellent. I wish I could link them for you but many of the shows are not available online. I did link at least one on that thread. You remind me that I want to listen to the Randall show again.

  49. Regarding the fact that “Children of the Corn” was postponed one day — well thanks! I think it was the right decision.

    Perhaps there is something about the corn story that is so time sensitive that this is a big deal, but I am unaware of what it might be.

    As for the jejune comments from DonC, who in the same paragraph descibes himself as a “liberal” and then characterizes what it means to be both “left-wing” and “unbiased”, well, I think his content-free uterances speak for themselves.

    Keep up the good work Chris et al. at OpenSource! Very engaging and interesting shows.

  50. Stephen was brilliant. I think it was the pinnacle of his shtick. I cannot imagine where he can go from here. I could not believe that he could say these things with a straight face and that Bush could just sit there. The folks in the audience were culpable, that’s why they didn’t laugh. I get tired of his act sometimes but in this setting it all made sense. It felt like this was the purpose of sticking with this act for so long.

  51. As much as I usually agree with Jon, I have to say I loved this show — and I think that ROS could use some lighter topics. Light doesn’t mean nonserious: there’s as much (sometimes more) intellectual depth in laughter than there is in the oh-so-serious bummers.

  52. The reason some of us loved what Stephen Colbert did, is because people are dying to talk back to the president, and we never get the chance. Bush has no interest in listening to us, he won’t read the paper, he won’t take questions from regular folks. He only watches Fox News and he only listens to his “yes men.” He lives in a bubble.

    Now he has heard how we think, we who have been watching, reading, and commenting all along, who have suffered through the notions that we are just part of the “reality based community” and so on. Stephen Colert broke through the bubble. It’s not time right now to be “naughty but nice.” It’s time to allow reality to prevail.

  53. DonC: The hell with neutral. I’m sick and tired of hosts like Lehrer taking on one guest who’s a scientist and another from the Flat Earth Society and making sure they get equal time and that everybody is treated with respect whether they deserve it or not, or whether they’re right or not. If you interpret Chris’ unwillingness to go along with junk “leftist” then you need to get your mental floss out.

    (Some folks here may remember Chris and Mary’s shows on Bosnia back when they were on WBUR. One of the proudest moments of that show was when Chris took a caller to the woodshed for claiming that Bosnian Muslims “bombed themselves in the marketplace” in order to gain advantage. Perspective is one thing. Going along with lies is quite another — our media does too much of it, and I’ve had entirely enough. I’m done with these Reasonable Men posing, with their empty heads, as Men of Reason. There’s a hot spot waiting for them in the afterlife).

  54. Allison, Lisa, sidewalker–

    Thanks for your comments. Let me try to respond to all here.

    9 out of 10 comments here are “way to go Stephen!” But Colbert is not here to reciprocate. Yes, alright, this was a collective release. But this show needs to be above that to make good radio. This show tonight was just an exercise in reliving the moment.

    sidew, My expectation are high? You bet. I’m with DonC here. I turn to public radio to be informed. I was in the car with my Dad the other week driving over to the nursery to get some plants. We’re listening to “On the Media” on WNYC, talking about the NYP “Page Six” scandal, and they start talking about Walter Winchell and the salad days of the gossip industry… and it’s those “driveway moments” we sit in the car and can’t turn off the radio. ROS is capable of that as well, but when they miss, someone’s got to call them on it.

    Ok, suppose I was given this show to do. I wouldn’t pick somebody who woke up Sunday morning and wrote a 278-word blog post. And I wouldn’t keep sucking up to the line that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are keeping American journalism on their toes. Open the ford frickin’ paper and look at the news that is providing most of the material for the Daily Show et al (this point was made near the end of the show tonight). And none of the guests actually went so far to make the opinion that this was a watershed. I don’t doubt that Chris thought it was, or that many people here did, but the guests plainly didn’t.

    I would have aimed a bit beyond the here and now. I’d have picked a Presidential historian. And I’d pick a comedian. And I’d have gotten Mark Katz, who was the jokerwriter for the Dukakis campaign (!) and then later for Bill Clinton. Katz’s memoir was a riot– his genius, he claimed, was moving Clinton away from the put-down style he was familiar with to the Jewish-style of self-deprecation. (see excerpt). Remember the eggtimer joke? Katz’s.

    I’d ask a comedian: have they’d pulled any punches in the recent years? I remember back in 2002-03, wondering whether SNL would reach the level that it had back in the day. I’ve heard people of an earlier generation than I remark how Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford routine had pretty much imprinted an image of the President-as-klutz. Ford was the most athletic of the presidents in the century, and Chase made him out to be a klutz. The best caricatures, like Maureen Dowd’s, have to do a bit of invention. If you look at how South Park absolutely shredded Isaac Hayes and Scientology (I didn’t watch the show… I relied on the media “analysis” of that…), that’s the kind of invention that’s needed in great comedy.

    FYI, the Wednesday Times is reporting on the blogosphere’s reaction, and the frontpage of nytimes.com fronts the story. Perhaps maddeningly, they don’t find any bloggers to quote, not counting journalist Scheiber, and reached Franken, Matalin, and McClellan.

  55. Justice Scalia surprised me too. Then I thought about it. Antonin Scalia is a wise old man with lifetime job security. President Bush is the nation’s leader who represents Justic Scalia’s political wisdom. The MSM meantime can’t touch Scalia, so no matter what that idiot Colbear said, Scalia could laugh without feeling threatened like the MSM did. That’s why they kept so quiet. And in two more years, President Bush will be gone, Colbear will be making fun of President McCain (or Brownback), and Justice Scalia will still be laughing. He’ll also be finishing his squishing of the last shreds of the liberal establishment.

    And I’ll be laughing too.

  56. Let me say it, for the first time since I fired him, Lydon has _finally_ gotten his mojo back.

    The intros to the Colbert show and the Al Gore show were a return to the 20th century Lydon form. Wow, never thought that would happen.

    Now if he would just hire my Albanian nephew as the blogger-in-chief, we’re good to go.

  57. I’ve never watched Colbert, and my internet connection is probably too slow for the link above to be worth getting my hopes up for, but:

    From what I’ve gathered in the ROS hour, Colbert’s real target is the corporate media whose tongue the Fox has clamped his nasty teeth into.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0307236897-2

    Jon Garfunkel is right, but, at the same time, those who scorn the Bush-era media are right too. How both at once?

    Because the rightwing media machine (Fox and the ideo-parrots of AM Propaganda-Radio) have steered the national media-conversation so far to the right that rational, fact-based stories simply don’t penetrate the doped up mind of the American body-politic any longer. Add to that all the virtual worlds (like video games and who knows what on the internet) available to distract us from ‘reality’ and you get a body-politic that pisses and moans about the government and its press-flacks, but is too addled and too busy playing in digital fantasias to lift a finger to address or arrest the deepening cancer.

    If Monday was any indication, new immigrants are more politically engaged than the average American couch-potato.

    Lastly, when comedians are the Left’s best leaders…well, then it’s time to throw the putative left-of-center Donkeys out on their flea-ridden ears!

    We need a genuine opposition party in addition to a genuinely critical press.

  58. I listen to NPR intermittently throughout the day, and check http://www.truthout.com for the kind of lefty headlines I like. NPR had some stupid byte about something Bush said at the dinner. As I cannot bear to listen to anything Bush says, even though he’s obviously had some voice training to remove the nasality and the whine, I didn’t listen.

    Thus I did not know until Radio Open Source that there even was a Colbert event. I had to link to the talk text via some kind person here considerate enough to realize that some of us aren’t even off dial-up out here in rural America. I skimmed a bit of the commentery over there at Daily Kos and found it a bit twenty-something (Chris said the young people love Colbert). I don’t have television either (never had to watch Bush in his codpiece until much later, in a still image).

    What I get out of all this is what others have mentioned: why wasn’t this mentioned, even on NPR? And: why weren’t people protesting Bush right at the beginning, right after 9/11 when he had the audacity to stroll in and stand on the bodies of the dead, grab the arm of a firefighter, and pretend to be a hero? “Smoke them out of their holes….” how crude. And intelligent people called that “eloquence.”

    I am glad people are starting to wake up, though, and that the momentum has gathered. Even my students, around whom I did not dare to say a word (and my job is to let them think for themselves, not drown them in my politics,) now despise Bush. And at least a third of them are active duty or former military, trained to be loyal no matter what.

  59. PS: I don’t agree with Jon G about ROS though: I think in fact that Chris Lydon and gang are doing us a huge service by airing stuff like this Colbert story — and I welcome Chris’s left-of-center tilt.

    In a country so deluded by the pseudo-journalism lampooned by Colbert, Chris’s tilt is goddamned necessary

  60. Don C- Lehrer does not seem to have any String Theory shows in his archive. ( Lopate does).

    I listened again to Colbert and decided that it was rather mild compared to the truth that needed to be told to Bush and the subservient press. The Helen Thomas video was hilarious. For those who did not see it it came at the end of Colbert’s presentation. Colbert plays the new press secretary and after sweating to avoid some pointed questions calls on Helen who says ” you will be sorry” Then she asks her now famous “why did you go to war in Iraq” question/s. Colbert runs out of the room in horror and Thomas goes after him asking the question appearing like a ghost in a bad dream at his every turn. Colberts escapes to NYC and when he arrives, calls a cab, gets in and Helen, the driver wisks him away…. end.

    It occurs to me this AM reading Bob Herbert’s column in the NYT about the HBO production “Baghdad ER” coming soon ( later this month) about ” the ferocious toll that combat takes on real human beings” that George W Bush got off easy that fancy night.

    From Bob Herbert/NYT:

    “This HBO production is reality television with a vengeance — warfare as it really is. And while it is frightening, harrowing and deeply painful to watch, it should be required viewing for all but the youngest Americans. It will premiere May 21.

    For two months in 2005, the directors Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill were given unprecedented access by the Army to the 86th Combat Support Hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Working 12-hour shifts, they watched — and taped — the heroic struggle of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to salvage as many lives as possible from what amounted to a nonstop conveyor belt of bloodied, broken and burned G.I.’s.”

    This quote from the Herbert piece is for JonGarfunkel:

    Above all else, war is about the suffering of individuals. The suffering is endured mostly by the young, and these days the government and the media are careful to keep the worst of it out of the sight of the average American. That way we can worry in peace about the cost of the gasoline we need to get us to the mall.

    “Baghdad ER” is going to tell us right in the comfort of our living rooms that there is really horrible stuff going on over there in Iraq, and whether we think this is a good war or a bad war, we need to be paying closer attention to the human consequences.

    “We tried to put a human face on the war,” said Sheila Nevins, the head of documentary programming at HBO. “It’s a part of the story that hasn’t really been told.”

  61. For those who says Colbert’s speech fell flat because people in the room did not laugh, you’re missing the point– the people in the room were not his intended audience. Not really. We are the intended audience, because it is on our behalf that those sour-faced politicians and journalists were taken to task. And it is at them, through Colbert, that we are laughing….laughing while cringing that it takes a comedian to throw a rock at the tank for us.

  62. Your first caller was a piece of shit…….

    everyword out of his mouth was scathing.

    he must have worked at a bowling alley.

    because he has 13 lb balls…

    and i was ROFLMAO

    I’ve been a member of america al quieda.

    since the president declared you are either with us or with the terrorist.

    As no one in the government has ever spoken for me.

    that leaves alot of people kind of disenfranchised.

    i wear the

    Black Hat

    i wave the

    Black Flag

    we have a government that produces criminals where there were none…

    we have a government that produces its own enemies where there were none….

    911 was military take over

    return controll to the citizens

    stop the illegal occupational government…

  63. If it takes a comedian to expose the bleeding wounds and pain in this country, AMEN!!! I’m glad someone has the fortitude to stand up in front of these yokels and express the American public’s frustration with this government through laughter!

  64. Just a quick note after listening to Christopher’s show on this. I don’t think I could add too much to the discussion, but just something extra on Colbert’s sly subversiveness. He’s constantly calling O’Reilly “Papa Bear” on the show in glowing accolades.

    But who’s always up at the top of his threatdown?

    Bears.

    And O’Reilly is the Papa Bear.

  65. [i]The Daily Show[/i] is far better than [i]The Colbert Report[/i]. Jon Stewart’s show is far deeper and has a greater breadth than Colbert’s. Colbert’s Bill O’Reilly act wears thin quite often, except The Word. His interviews are hopeless — Colbert talks way too much and cuts off his guests with the O’Reilly pomposity. If his guests were improv actors, that might work, but they aren’t and so he makes them look stupid because they don’t handle his stupid questions well. The format of [i]The Colbert Report[/i] is limiting and will doom the show in the near future. We get it: Bill O’Reilly is a pompous blowhard.

    The fact that Bush could not laugh at Colbert means that even he knows that the way he does is job is so arrogant and incompetent that everyone knows it is a joke. When previous presidents laughed at lampoons of themselves, it showed the public that they were good sports and that the comedians’ words didn’t reveal some inner putridness that they didn’t want exposed. Bush’s stiff reaction to Colbert is going to be yet another factor that will bring his regime down.

  66. Houstondave, I have to disagree with the statement that Colbert interviews are hopless. When very conservative guest are on Jon Stewart’s Show he tends to jump all over them. On Colbert’s show he lets them breathe more. I remember watching an episode when a feminist came on the The Colbert Report. She was a very strange feminist. She thought that woman should go back to traditional roles of child rearing, and house work. She thought that women should not be out in the job market at all. If she had been on Jon’s show she would have spent the entire time arguing with Jon. Though you could tell that Colbert does not agree with her, he let her breathe. She turned out to be quite funny and charming. We would not have been able to see that on The Daily Show. I love both programs and I would not change the format of either. I think that the two shows balance each other out quite nicely and both will go on strong.

  67. I agree with Rillion that many of the guests (particularly Ann Althouse) – and many of the posters here – totally missed one of the main points/impacts of Colbert’s brazen performance. Colbert got an opportunity that many of us have only dreamed of: being able to speak your mind to the president uninterrupted for 15 minutes. Most of us would have lost our cool and our ability to effectively articulate our anger. Colbert did it for us, and he was funny. In so doing, he did an enormous service to those of us who feel totally powerless to do anything about the terrible stuff that this president is up to. And this isn’t to be understood as preaching to the choir: it’s undoubtedly resonating in anyone’s head who heard it, including Bush himself. What Colbert did is priceless, and as such, the repercussions will be impossible to measure accurately. Still, my “gut feeling” :) is in probable agreement with chris. It’s one more very public pronouncement that this emperor has been naked for years now.

  68. Hi, people. Check this one out. Noam Scheiber, guest on the show, wrote about being on the show with me, and how puzzling it all was. See his post, Jay Rosen: Original King of Comedy. “I had a truly bizarre experience appearing opposite NYU media critic Jay Rosen on an NPR program called ‘Open Source’ last night.”

    By my count there are five errors in 659 words, some trivial, some not. He has me harping on things that Chris said and I was silent about, he calls Open Source an “NPR show” when it’s not, and, most tellingly, he says, “The ostensible reason for having us on was to debate the humor value of Stephen Colbert’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner performance.”

    But that wasn’t the reason. That’s not what I understood, at least. Here’s what this blog said the show was about:

    “Is this a work of comedy or agitprop? Can only the court jester can tell the truth? Is the White House press corps is already on the case and does it not need a New York-based comedian to speak truth to their power? Is a video clip on the web the only way to understand Washington? Do you lose something by actually being there in the room with the administration? And why has the press in general been so reluctant to cover the Colbert moment, and the blogosphere so eager?”

    Scheiber is the one who just wanted to debate the humor value of Colbert’s performance– all questions came down to that for him.

  69. Noam Scheiber was the only guest that annoyed me enough to go an look up his recent articles for TNR. I was curious whether he was indirectly defending a postion.

    So he didn’t get it. Okay. Many didn’t I guess.

  70. Okay I read it. Now I will listen again to the show. Scheiber apparently has animus towards you Jay Rosen for some reason. The Scheiber post itself was bizarre. What was the point of it?

    Also- maybe Colbert made a point that Frank Rich made first- but Colbert did it to the President’s face- which made all the difference in the world. Colbert’s performance was of a court jester saying things that other could not or woulld not on the one hand and on the other hand scolding the subservient White House press who were there to congratulate and celebrate themselves. Steve Colbert was there for us– as many have said here on this thread.

    Neil Conan who was at the dinner said on the radio today that Colbert’s performance was anticlimactic because it came at the end of the evening and after the president’s schtick. he was also surprised at the response out here.

  71. I will not get to hear the show until tonight or tomorrow. The blog below should be added to the resources here. The author is a comedian. He has a unique perspective on it. In Shakespeare, the jester is in the employ of the monarch and is given license to say things that no one else dares. Bush certainly would never hire a jester, but Colbert played the role for the audience. And he showed us all that Bush can’t take it.

    http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2006/05/why-tell-jokes.html

  72. YOO HOO – DIAL UPers – I watched all 3 parts of the Colbert Dinner show on my super slow rural dial-up computer. If I tried to watch it for 2 seconds…. pause….. 2 seconds…. pause – yeah, it would drive me crazy not to mention mess with the timing which is so important in comedy. I recommend… getting it started and putting it on ‘pause’ so it can load while you… do your dishes, bake some cookies, then come back and watch it. I LOVED it!

  73. Zeke317 wrote:

    In Shakespeare, the jester is in the employ of the monarch and is given license to say things that no one else dares. Bush certainly would never hire a jester, but Colbert played the role for the audience.

    In a kingdom, the jester is part of the court and given the role of relieving peoples’ anger at their powerlessness. In a democracy (or would-be democracy) the people are suppose to be in charge, and Colbert was playing to the wishes of his masters. This is where many in the press and in politics have failed. But unlike the jester, who makes light, their role is vital to sustaining our rights. Unfortunately, most do the bidding of their corporate bosses, all the time denying it, which clearly shows that the corporations and not the public run the nation. This is a real tragicomedy that is hard to laugh about and is one thing Colbert failed to mention.

  74. I was just about to suggest that you do a show on Stephen Colbert’s White House Press Corps dinner, when I found out that you already had. Jay Rosen was a great guest and really spot on; Noam Scheiber was representative of a type and therefore useful.

    I thought that the show fell a little flat, because I don’t believe that Ann Althouse had much to contribute. I just wanted her to shut up. She was hardly the best representative of the blogosphere.

    Perhaps, in future, you could read–with permission–soem of the best comments from other people’s blogs. I say that, because I wonder whether some of the psudonymous writers would want to talk.

    Here are the posts and people I would recommend.

    From the mainstream media, you should have (and may have) invited Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post.

    In that column Froomkin links to Billmon who is a real genius of the medium. His comments were worth reading on the air.

    In fact, you should read him all the time. He’s smart and biting and juxtaposes quotations with aplomb in a way that sends chills down your spine.

    One thing that I didn’t hear mentioned on the show, and it’s why I felt that the show fell flat, was that there are different traditions of satire. A White Bear had a fabulous post placing Colbert’s speech within the Juvenalian tradition. She argues that everyone was expecting him to follow the Horatian model which someone like Jon Stewart does seem to follow. Instead Colbert’s satire works by “ironically realigning the subject position to the object’s and describing things from that point of view in such a way that the object of satire becomes truly despicable. Instead of ridiculing some other party not present, this kind of satire invites the audience to apply their contempt (symbolically) to the speaker and then to the satirized object.”

  75. Here’s what I posted over at the contrarian blog, The Plank, with all those contrarian writers from the contrarian New Republic:

    Noam, you are such a contrarian! But it can get out of hand. I count five errors in 659 words, some not so important, others quite important.

    1.) “I had a truly bizarre experience appearing opposite NYU media critic Jay Rosen on an NPR program called ‘Open Source last night.” Nope. It’s not an NPR program, it’s a public radio program, a co-production of Chris Lydon’s operation, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and WGBH in Boston. Not distributed by NPR but by Public Radio International. Small error, but you are a journalist, right? You could have checked.

    2.) “The ostensible reason for having us on was to debate the humor value of Stephen Colbert’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner performance.” Wrong again. This one’s a little more serious. You have misstated by a mile what the program was about. No wonder you were such a one-note on the air.

    According to the Open Source blog, in a posting that was up all day before the show, the questions were these: “Is this a work of comedy or agitprop? Can only the court jester can tell the truth? Is the White House press corps already on the case and does it not need a New York-based comedian to speak truth to their power? Is a video clip on the web the only way to understand Washington? Do you lose something by actually being there in the room with the administration? And why has the press in general been so reluctant to cover the Colbert moment, and the blogosphere so eager?”

    And here’s what host Chris Lydon said on the air just before he began to interview us: “How did Stephen Colebrt get into a ballroom that didn’t quite get or want to get what he was up to? Was it funny? Was it true? Did it work?”

    His first question to me was not the one question you came to answer– the humor value of Colbert’s performance. He asked me, “What kind of event was this?” So I answered him: social criticism, I said.

    So you’re being contrarian, Noam, but your statement is contrary to facts you could have looked up, but didn’t. You’re a journalist, right?

    3. “Come to think of it, the Colbert line that most impressed Rosen was something right out of a Frank Rich column: ‘[N]o matter what happens to America, she will always rebound–with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.’”

    Nope again, Noam. I’m sorry. I guess this fact checking thing isn’t your thing. I didn’t say anything about that line. You did, however (a lot) and Chris Lydon did, but I never mentioned it. Do contrarians get to make stuff up like that? I didn’t think so, but seeing as this too is easy to check (just listen to the show) and you didn’t check it, one starts to wonder.

    4-5. “Rosen is actually pretty fast and loose with the facts himself. For example, he kept claiming that the journalists in the audience weren’t laughing because they were the object of Colbert’s withering critique.” Uh, no. Contrary again to what happened.

    First, Noam (you should listen to the show before you write this stuff…) I went out of my way to say the opposite. Here is me on the air: “It’s true, by the way, that they weren’t laughing because they didn’t think it was funny. I would agree with you on that. They did not think it was funny.”

    This is what’s so hilarious about contrarians like you, Noam. You try to agree with them and they block it out so they can remain contrary.

    Second, I didn’t say the journalists weren’t laughing because they were the object of Colbert’s withering critique. My point was that they were implicated in his critique, from start to finish. When Colbert was zinging Bush for ignoring facts and not letting events intrude he was (implicitly) mocking the notion of a watchdog press that’s supposed bark at things like that and wake people up.

    You heard what you wanted to hear, you answered the question you wanted the show to ask, and you wrote the posts you felt like writing– regardless of what actually happened.

    But… everyone knows what a contrarian you are now, Noam.

  76. How old are you guys? Is “contrarian” the word to repeat over and over because it seems more mature than “butthole”?

  77. From Jay Rosen above quoting Lydon: Do you lose something by actually being there in the room with the administration? And why has the press in general been so reluctant to cover the Colbert moment, and the blogosphere so eager?�

    And here’s what host Chris Lydon said on the air just before he began to interview us: “How did Stephen Colebrt get into a ballroom that didn’t quite get or want to get what he was up to? Was it funny? Was it true? Did it work?�

    This is something of a cockfight between Jay and Noam. Interesting to a point. I did listen again to that part of the show. It seemed to me first off that Chris got the whole thing right in his introductory with questions. I agree with Jay Rosen’s interpretation but you Jay were coming on hard at Noam and he took his marbles, went home and got back at you on The Plank. I think he was at the dinner, maybe taking part in the self-congratulatory mood of the evening. Perhaps Noam Scheiber was therefore defensive. Colbert was the real contrarian. He busted the party. Who could have left that night without some unease somewhere inside?

    So THE reason, or A reason, that it was not funny to the press was because ( as someone said on this thread or elsewhere) the White House Press and the Administration have a kind of protective solidarity between them. Could the press laugh jokes aimed at the hand that feeds them? Could they laugh again at the seriousness of the underlying criticism that that they, the WH press, are not there working for the people?

    But Colbert was.

  78. Here’s my interpretation: Bush changed the game on the press. He began treating them as the opposition. He and his team knew that the press would never change the game on Bush, and treat him as their opposition. That would be too “poltiical.”

    There was a price for both moves. For Bush the price was the disconnect between what he was saying and what was in the news pages day after day. The ultimate expression of which was Katrina. For the press the price was failing completely in its watchdog role, and normalizing an extraordinary situation until it’s not even visible any more.

    Colbert was there to talk about that price. Neither side liked it.

  79. Regarding certain comments made on the show, I do not see any hipness rubbing off on the president from this encounter. I am afraid this, like the Rosa Parks funeral is a moment when Bush faces his opponents and walks away saying: “I am the president, see? And I do not have to explain myself to anyone.” He wasn’t more black from attending the funeral, was he?

    The “cumulative effect” of these “moments” will only mean something if the Dems put up a viable alternative. Otherwise this was only the jester’s turn to perform. Reminds me of Bob Dylan’s recent film “Masked and Anonymous” where the Government put on concerts of “rebellious” music (like the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) to make the kid’s feel rebellious, thus keeping them subdued. Bob (Jake Fate) didn’t cooperate, neither did Colbert. Jake went back to prison at the end of the film.

  80. Noam the clever contrarian cops a plea to two of the five counts of error I charged him with. He decided to stick with his wacky claim that the reason we were on the show, the one and only reason, was to “debate the humor value of Stephen Colbert’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner performance.” Funny/great satire vs. not funny/weak satire. That was the show, says Noam. I thought he would back off that one, but no.

  81. On his show Colbert is always talking about the size of his balls…well I guess he wasn’t lying.

    Right on! RIght on Brother!

  82. Why is everyone judging Colbert for not being funny? That’s the whole point, it’s not funny. Countless lives have been lost because the press refused to ask hard questions at the outset of the Iraq debacle. I don’t think he was trying to be funny. I think he realized he was in a unique position to speak truth to power. How many of us have wished we could do exactly what he was in the position to do. It was an act of remarkable patriotism.

  83. I just listened to the show and read through the thread. Jay and Noam’s little battle is interesting, but regardless of who you believe offers a better social critique, TNR or The Colbert Report, ask yourself this: has Bush EVER read a single word from TNR? I doubt it, given his well-know aversion to any news sources (see http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/143851_thomas15.html ). But Colbert said all of those things that Noam thinks the MSM does such a good job covering TO BUSHE’S FACE!

    For that, we must recognize Colbert’s effort. Because the goal of any hard-hitting investigative journalism is social change…and we all know that Bush is the decider.

  84. Ah, and another thing about Noam…he says he often watches Colbert’s show. If he did, he would have recognized that a significant portion of the routine came from previously-aired ‘the wørd’ segments (did anyone take note of this? I would like to give Noam a percentage of the jokes, since he seems like a facts kind of guy). I am not complaining…for the same reason I cited above. He reproduced those bits IN FRONT OF the President!

  85. Although I was frustrated with the comments of Ann Althouse I realized that it was actually beneficial to have her on the show since she represents what seems to be a large demographic, namely, those who seem not to grasp the complex irony at work in Colbert’s performance and cannot get beyond the question of whether the routine was “funny” or “not funny”. Unfortunately, she’s got a lot of company.

  86. You know, I fast coming to the conclusion that the press is only partly culpable for the seeming lack of decent reportage of our slide into the authoritarian entity we might like to rename The United Soviets of Corporatism.

    Dana Priest, for instance, is under persecution and the threat of prosecution for breaking the sordid tale of secret prisons in Eastern Europe.

    The press, I reckon, reports reasonably well – but the voters don’t frickin’ care.

    Not really.

    We’ve too many goddamned distractions.

    How many of us bother to read the various investigative reports in newspapers or magazines?

    And when we do, how many of us thereafter organize political dissent?

    Top off our inexcusable national somnolence with the sad truth that any given government, or any given corporate cabal puppeteering any given government, in the Two Party State is effectively unaccountable to the People, and you get the degenerating Republic we now enjoy.

    The press’s worst failing, I am increasingly coming to comprehend, is its institutional unwilling to speak frankly of the Constitution shackling us to the unresponsive, anti-democratic governmental legacy of a long-gone century.

    Unfortunately, this critique applies equally to my favorite media source: ROS.

  87. Hmm. Here’s a parallel. I’ve made my case that that the constitution of this forum is ill-suited to the needs of the community. But ever since I’ve made that point, I’ve moved on. If it happens to come up again, I reference the link and move on; I don’t belabor the point.

    This morning on Meet the Press I watched the *other* comedian of the event, Steve Bridges, the Bush impressionist. And you know what? He was still pretty funny. And furthermore? A little search through Technorati finds that somebody, somewhere is peeved that Russert skipped mention of Colbert.

  88. Jon Garfunkel makes a pretty good case there, but I think we should all remember that the blog, ROS, the web, and life in general are constantly evolving. If the show keeps up its good work (and so far I believe it is…), then maybe we will move toward a more truly open forum. Whatever it ends up being, people will either stay with it or move on. That’s the beauty of this outlet, you’re always free to leave or join in. These are relatively new technologies, and if you were to look at a cross section of the active and semi-active users, I would bet it is a very small percentage of the population.

    I enjoy the program and will stick with it. Discussions like the Colbert show are great for sparking ideas and criticisms. It’s just what you do with the ideas and information that counts.

    Now how do we get the rest of the planet to pay attention???

  89. I’m just catching up and want to stick up for Noam Scheiber. I imagine that Scheiber’s not finding Colbert so funny has to do with the difference between watching/listening online and being in the room at the time. Bush had it coming but I can imagine that, no matter your politics, watching someone light into someone else ten feet away would feel more awkward than funny. And Ann Althouse brought up how strangely terrifying it would be to watch someone mock the president to his face.

    And as for the argument that the press was not laughing because they were being made fun of, Scheiber’s right that the press jokes didn’t come in till halfway through. And one can hear that Cobert got a good enough laugh when told the press they should get on with writing that novel about the reporter who stands up to the White House: “You know, fiction.�

    So Scheiber came off as level-headed and honestly observant to me. But Jay Rosen lost me when he did his little impression of Scheiber saying that “nobody who really knooooooows about politics� found the speech funny (which isn’t really what Scheiber said, anyway). That was a sort of grade school moment. He seemed to be attacking Scheiber the person because he didn’t like Scheiber’s argument or even just his sense of humor in this instance. And now Rosen’s posting Scheiber’s errors per word? Twice? Who counts the other guy’s errors per word? It’s like he’s still waiting to be told he’s the smartest kid in the class.

  90. It’s quite a bit late for this comment, but I was just reading Arianna Huffington’s comments (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/is-stephen-colbert-the-la_b_20774.html) about Colbert performance. Two lines are worth calling out:

    Nora Ephron framed the dilemma perfectly when she asked, “Is it possible for a comedian to utterly kill and bomb at the same time?”

    To which I say, Absolutely. This was Dylan plugging in at Newport in 1965. The crowd may have booed, but the music world had forever shifted.

    (ASIDE: Chris, I know you’ll appreciate the Dylan analogy, having done a whole show of about that moment back in ’01, if I remember correctly.)

    Ephron’s got it: he killed and bombed. How is that possible? Then the lightbulb went on:

    He was booked to provide comedy. Instead he gave them satire.

    As satire it was a work of pure genius — deep cutting, scalpel sharp, with blood everywhere.

    As comedy… well, it kinda stunk.

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