There’s a lot of reaction to the Stephen Colbert appearance at the big Washington press hoo-ha. Folks though he was brilliant, folks thought he bombed. My reaction?
- He started off pointed but not quite funny (and seeming, from TV, to bomb badly in the room – I think there’s plenty of humor in the very fact that the VP shot someone, but he missed the limits on the humor; shot-in-the-face gags on their own are just painful), segued into a who is the Stephen Colbert character? bit that is funny but was in no way on target for the room, and finally sequed back on topic, vicious and funny.
- Most folks working such things lean on the publicly accepted cartoon weaknesses – the mispronounced words, the glazed expression, whatever. Colbert went right for complete failure of the administration, and stuck with it. That wasn’t going to win him friends with the president, nor with folks who didn’t hate the president who were likely watching him squirm.
- Nothing Colbert said was unfair, especially on the scale of being a humorist. I can’t say that’s always true of the humor on The Colbert Report or The Daily Show (as an example, a few episodes back The Daily Show went after the looks of one of the oil executives, and that’s just cheap schoolyard stuff.)
I’ve somehow wondered how I would act in the presence of someone like President G.W. Bush. Would I be cowed by his power? Probably so… and if not, I might be so curious to explore what being in that position of power was like that I would avoid trying to offend him for my own reasons. As much as I might want to, I probably would not end up telling him how horrible I think his policies and his values are, how the blood of thousands is on his hands (or take a more honeyed approach to win him over to the side of good in at least some matter)… and then I would feel pained for years to come about not having taken that low-odds opportunity to improve matters in some way. I think Colbert put straight forward how he feels about all that has happened in this administration. And as tough as the room may have been, that was of value.