Monday, May 01, 2006

Watch Your Back, S.C.

US News and World Report: "Skewering comedy skit angers Bush and aides."

Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert's biting routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner won a rare silent protest from Bush aides and supporters Saturday when several independently left before he finished.

"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow."

I can't add much to what is becoming a miniature web phenomenon -- Colbert's speech, which received almost no coverage in the news, has become the most viral of viral videos and has become the blog topic du jour -- but I do want to note one thing: there was an interesting contrast between President Bush's routine, which pleased the assembled reporters, and Colbert's routine, which most certainly didn't.

The President's funny routine basically portrayed the relationship of the press and the President as adversarial: he doesn't much like them, and they embarrass him by "not editing what I say." Everybody in the room can enjoy that, because that's what the relationship of the press and the government is supposed to be, at least in theory. The routine portrayed things as they should be.

Colbert's routine, while it's been described as a Bush-bashing routine, actually wasn't that hard on the President. It was, however, a stinging attack on the press, and it attacked them, over and over, for having a non-adversarial relationship to the government. Most of the jokes were built around the theme that the media is neutered and uncritical of the Bush administration: the joke about how the press hasn't been reporting critically on the issues that matter; the reference to the media's standard hackneyed descriptions of politicians ("John McCain, what a maverick"), the references to staged photo-ops. And the overlong videotaped segment with Helen Thomas was premised on the idea that most reporters don't ask questions that matter (so that Press Secretary Colbert reacts with shock and horror when Thomas asks him why they invaded Iraq). Colbert's routine essentially consisted of telling reporters, to their faces, that they've failed in their duty to be adversarial. That's a common belief among many people nowadays -- there's even a whole book about it -- but reporters, still worried about "liberal bias" complaints, haven't noticed the paradigm shift. Colbert forced them to notice, and they didn't like it at all.


Anonymous said...

I'm the guy who commented critically about how TV made the use of "suck" an everyday word a few days ago. Meaning - I'm definitely a bird of a different political feather than you.

But I "get" Colbert. Always have. Truth is, I feel he's much better than John Stewart lately. Better? Okay, funnier. They both have their own places. Both know what satire is about.

A few thoughts, having just viewed the entire thing on youtube:

(1) Great stuff. Not as good a he can be on his own show, but considering the audience - both in person and beyond - great stuff.

(2) For as much as I thought he skewered the media, he also did the Bush Administration. Pretty much equal. Oh yeah, and the quips about who was in the audience - and the "snowjob" was really the only one about the media - were IMHO the best part. Particularly that Malomar moment.

(3) My take was much different than your's. Was Bush enjoying the show? No. The Correspondents? No. But for as much as ANY of that was due to being uncomfortable because of "truthiness"... I feel it was simply this: They have little clue about what Steven Colbert is about. They rarely see this kind of satire.

No more, no less.

Oh, and again, GREAT bit by him considering the moment.

The real story here is just what you (kind of) said... the lack of media coverage and how the non-MSM is spearheading getting this out.


Jaime J. Weinman said...

They have little clue about what Steven Colbert is about.

Yeah, I thought Jon Stewart summed it up well: "Apparently he was under the impression that they'd hired him to do what he does on TV every night."

John said...

Colbert's appearance was really just a sequel to the Don Imus appearance at the correspondents' dinner 10 years ago, when the media in the audience and the politicians on the dias (Democrats in this case, instead of Republicans, but the reaction would have been the same) were shocked that Imus would actually get up and act like himself during the speech.

In both the case of Colbert and Imus, they were "hot" among the in-crowd of the political media world due to their connection to politics and their edginess, but for some reason the people who invited them to be the featured speakers expected them to turn into Mark Russell when they addressed the audience.

jorge garrido said...

I love Stephen Colbert, he's hilarious, even if he is making fun of me. I gotta check this video out!

Jaime, ever heard of ?

JesseM said...

If anyone needs a link to the video and/or transcript, there's a few in this post from Like anonymous said, he did skewer Bush pretty hard as well as the media, I have a feeling the other skits were probably a lot more light 'n' fluffy. At least Scalia seemed amused by it!