The extraordinary appearance of Stephen Colbert’s at the White House Press Club Dinner last month (which we can still offer him thanks for) was all the more remarkable for the fact that he unleashed his parody of conservative punditry not 20 feet from King George himself! The video has been played all over the Internet and the transcripts are all over the place, but I can’t help quoting my favourite bit:
“So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, “Oh, they’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!”
I’ve asked many the same questions: How did it happen? Why did the press club invite him in the first place? Was this their way of finally making it clear how idiotic the administration is through the mouthpiece of a comedian rather than a journalist? Were they expecting him to play nice and just be a little wacky? Nah, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simpler. The people in charge of the invitations saw a few clips of Colbert’s show and didn’t get the joke. Apparently irony and satire is a bit too sophisticated for some of those on the Right. Colbert is playing a part, a sort of Proto-Fox News Pundit. He doesn’t really admire Bush or ‘Papa Bear’ (O’Reilly) or really think that Creationism is the Answer because Science is Just Too Hard… It’s all a persona! As they say in England, he’s “Taking the Mickey out on them!”
What made me come to this realization that they missed the satire is that it’s happened again. Today, Tom DeLay’s Legal Defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing a new documentary ‘The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress’ by Robert Greenwald, whose previous film was “Outfoxed”. The email uses as its lead item, Greenwald’s appearance as a guest on Colbert’s show, when Colbert (again, in character) proceeded to give him a hard time. Now perhaps the Tom Delay Legal Defense fund thinks that the people that they are sending the email to are so dumb that they won’t get the joke. Or maybe they didn’t get the joke, either.
I wonder how long this can go on, with Stephen Colbert continuing to convince the Right that he’s on their side, all the while ripping them to shreds? Someone once told me that Margaret Dumont was so stupid that she thought she was doing dramatic movies with Groucho, and somehow managed to forget all of those times he insulted or tried to get a rise out of her. Maybe some of these guys are a throwback to that Dumont-ian blindness to a smarter, wittier Marxist (the ‘Brothers’ kind, that is).