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0 comments | Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I could go through these articles point by point, but that would take up more time than is necessary. I think Cohen and Thompson really miss two key points. The first is that Colbert is in character as a right-wing talking head while he makes his comments about Bush and his administration. So, from this point of view the real target of Colbert's performance is not Bush, but the right-wing propaganda machine and all its cohorts. It's fine to make the point that we actually know that Colbert's a liberal, and he means some of these things maliciously toward Bush, but it's unclear to me that Cohen and Thompson even understood enough of what Colbert was doing to take their arguments to that level. Moreover, in framing what Colbert was doing in this way, it becomes almost beside the point as to whether he was funny or not, and he was certainly not rude because O'Reilly or Scarborough would have given a presentation equal or greater to the accolades that Colbert ostensibly gave to Bush in his remarks.

The second point that Cohen and Thompson miss is the humor in the apparent rudeness of Colbert's performance.


The commentary, though, is also what I do, and it will make the point that Colbert was not just a failure as a comedian but rude. Rude is not the same as brash. It is not the same as brassy. It is not the same as gutsy or thinking outside the box. Rudeness means taking advantage of the other person's sense of decorum or tradition or civility that keeps that other person from striking back or, worse, rising in a huff and leaving. The other night, that person was George W. Bush.

Colbert made jokes about Bush's approval rating, which hovers in the middle 30s. He made jokes about Bush's intelligence, mockingly comparing it to his own. "We're not some brainiacs on nerd patrol," he said. Boy, that's funny.

Colbert took a swipe at Bush's Iraq policy, at domestic eavesdropping, and he took a shot at the news corps for purportedly being nothing more than stenographers recording what the Bush White House said.

Cohen never explains why rudeness isn't funny, and therein lies the reason his argument collapses in on itself. So what, if it was the rudest performance ever in front of a sitting president (and I have no idea if it was)? It was an act that was fully intended to be that way, and from my perspective that was a key contributing element to why it was such a riotously funny and inciteful performance. Moreover, Colbert's 'rudeness' did not express hate, but a willingness to laugh in the face of despair. That Colbert did not go up to the podium at that dinner and tell everyone to prepare for Armageddon, shows that humor and enjoyment were his goals, and not rudeness, hate, or any kind of emotion that will bring the country further into hopelessness.


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