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out of character for me

So, I watched the Stephen Colbert roast of the president at the Correspondants' dinner, and I have to say, I kinda agree with these guys. It just didn't make me laugh all that much.

This is exceedingly weird, because normally I'll laugh at anything. I'm easily amused, I like bad movies, and I especially like Colbert's brand of sarcasm. Maybe I was surprised by the fact he was just regurgitating the same jokes (the ones I laughed at just fine... the first time) but it just didn't seem to really engage the president in attacks, just in some snarking.

Maybe I've just been talking to abce too much. *checks* Nope, still liberal. Just getting tired of seeing our side look dumb in the public eye. It's so often I read an article or see a demonstration and think to myself, "you're not helping!" :-/

I must be getting old.

(Backpedaling Edit: I only saw it once a few days ago, when I was in a bad mood. Maybe I should try watching it again. Can all these people be wrong, using phrases like "virtuoso performance"?)

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
crs
May. 4th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
New theory: hearing the chilly audience reception affected my own reaction to the jokes.

Easily amused, but even more easily suggestible. Woo!
yandros
May. 4th, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
What, err, you said.
I jumped into the `submit a comment' section just to say exactly that...

Well, not ``easily suggestible'', but ``you often respond well to secondary cues... the `respectful silence' might have influenced you quite a bit''.

I, myself, have not seen the performance, but I did hear most of it, as lemurtaniswatched it on his computer. The dead silence definitely affected me that way - I commented to her a few times that it sounded like he bombed. When I saw snippets later, it was better, because I could see the faces, and, probably most importantly to those who cried ``virtuoso performance'', I could see that he really was being brutally honest in an extended manner while sitting a few feet away from the guy.
crs
May. 4th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)
Re: What, err, you said.
Hm, I was also multitasking while watching the video... So I would have missed a lot of visual cues, like any good Bush reaction shots.

That could explain some of it, too.
yandros
May. 4th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
Re: What, err, you said.
Err, watched it on *her* computer. Bad edit.
csbermack
May. 4th, 2006 02:55 pm (UTC)
I did not laugh a lot the first time I watched it, too, because I remember all of the jokes before.

I thought about it some more, and well - he has to establish the character. A lot of people don't watch the show and haven't heard the gut bit.

Then I thought about it some more, and well - a lot of things on TV don't seem funny when the live audience isn't laughing. Not just because of the laugh track, but because it changes the performance.

Then I watched it again and laughed at a lot of the jokes. You laughed a bunch of times too, but at the end, you didn't think "Wow, that was funny. Aaaah." My take on that is that the overall effect isn't "Haha" but "Oh My God No Way".

As a standup routine, it was not a virtuoso performance. As political satire, though - well, you'll draw your own conclusions.

I didn't like the video, though.
willtruncheon
May. 4th, 2006 02:57 pm (UTC)
Well, I thought it was pretty funny in context. The transcript reads a little dry, mostly recycling stuff he said elsewhere (as you pointed out). I think what gives it some oomph is that it was said at the Correspondent's dinner and many of the targets of his derision, infamous for their refusal to expose themselves to criticism, were in the audience. THAT'S funny.
hakamadare
May. 4th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)

the targets of his derision, infamous for their refusal to expose themselves to criticism, were in the audience. THAT’S funny.

maybe. i don’t generally find impudence per se funny; tweaking the noses of those in power is worthwhile only when there’s a reasonable chance that doing so will actually damage their power base. so what if Bush got a little steamed during the speech? his handlers will explain to him that Colbert poses no threat, and nothing will happen.

being heckled by an opponent who poses a plausible threat is something to pay attention to; being heckled by an opponent who doesn’t just makes the opponent look pathetic.

-steve

willtruncheon
May. 4th, 2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
"being heckled by an opponent who poses a plausible threat is something to pay attention to; being heckled by an opponent who doesn’t just makes the opponent look pathetic."

Correspondingly, getting all bent out of shape on national television over comments made by an opponent who poses no plausible threat equals yet another priceless Bush Moment and hilarity for you, the home viewer. I doubt Colbert feels particularly foolish or pathetic currently, considering the media attention and private buzz this incident has generated for him.
hakamadare
May. 4th, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)

yet another priceless Bush Moment and hilarity for you, the home viewer

only since “i, the home viewer” am already opposed to the current administration. to someone who is pro-(Bush|neocon), “Bush Moments” aren’t particularly funny, or even noteworthy. to someone in the current administration’s power base, seeing Stephen Colbert mocking Bush to his face reinforces the frame that the “liberal media” are a bunch of jackasses and marginalizes Colbert even further.

the way i see it, Colbert’s speech was a failure in terms of comedy and a failure in terms of politics. he had the opportunity to do something useful, and instead he wasted it mugging for the camera. i suppose, given that he is an entertainer by profession, i shouldn’t be surprised.

Colbert’s “media attention and private buzz” does nothing to address the problems with the political system in America. i’m glad his stunt was a success for him, but i wish he had found a way to promote himself without doing damage to causes that i think are worthwhile.

-steve

plymouth
May. 4th, 2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
seeing Stephen Colbert mocking Bush to his face reinforces the frame that the “liberal media” are a bunch of jackasses and marginalizes Colbert even further.

Who thinks Colbert is part of the media? He's a comedian - he's part of "hollywood". Liberal hollywood elites is a totally different category from liberal media.
hakamadare
May. 4th, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC)

Liberal hollywood elites is a totally different category from liberal media.

you are quite correct; i got my stereotypes mixed up. he in particular, though, like Jon Stewart, kind of straddles the fence, since he’s a comedian pretending to be an anchor/host.

-steve

willtruncheon
May. 4th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
Respectfully, I think that if you believe there is any way that Colbert or anyone else associated with the "liberal media" can behave, while holding to their political ideals, without being condemned roundly by every neocon talking head, I think you are mistaken.

Historically, any and all criticism of the Bush 2 Cabal in the press, no matter how truthful or tactfully worded, have been responded to with knee-jerk derision and outrage. This is the most cowed White House press corps in history, partially for this reason. ANY suggestion that Daddy Bush is less than the flawless servant of God allows the neocons to perpetuate the liberal media bias paradigm. That doesn't mean people should stop making such criticisms.

I think Colbert was playing the Shakespearian fool, which is an entirely sensible position for a comedian to take when speaking about politics.

As far as addressing the political problems in America goes, I think Colbert did just that, albeit in a greatly simplified, two-dimensional form. The advantage he has is that most college kids aren't going to be downloading congressional hearings to laugh about with their friends. Colbert's speech not only made national headlines, but it has inserted itself into the consciousness of the everyman far more effectively than less inflammatory methods. Also, witness John Stewart's continually expanding influence: a guy who isn't afraid to be silly and possibly offensive when discussing political issues in a comedic format.

Just my opinion.

hakamadare
May. 4th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)

fair enough. we disagree on some points:

  1. as far as i can tell, Jon Stewart’s “continually expanding influence” is pretty much restricted to people who are already inclined to be anti-Bush-administration. i may be mistaken, but that’s the sense i get. as such, while he may be motivating people who might otherwise have stayed home to get out and vote, i think he’s accomplishing little else. specifically, i don’t think he’s damaging the neocon power base; worse yet, i think he’s reinforcing some of the frames that the Right has been trying to establish for decades, particularly the “liberals are snarky/arrogant/mean/condescending” frame. i also think Colbert’s trying to succeed using the same model; it seems to be working for him as well, which is great, but i don’t think it’s good politics.

  2. i wasn’t suggesting that Colbert attempt to behave in a way that neocon pundits would approve of; that’s an unattainable goal, because the job of right-wing pundits is to get a message out in order to establish certain frames of discourse, and it doesn’t matter what any of their “opponents” do, they’ll find a way to get their message out.

any and all criticism of the Bush 2 Cabal in the press, no matter how truthful or tactfully worded, have been responded to with knee-jerk derision and outrage.

this is because the current administration is not interested in engaging in “discourse” in the way that you or i might think of it. frankly, why should they be? they have the upper hand politically, and they’re under no obligation to invite anyone else to the table. the “derision and outrage” you refer to is not so much a reaction to criticism as an already written message that was just waiting for an opportunity to be delivered.

so, what do i think Colbert should have done instead? i think he should have done the following, and nothing else:

  • picked a more useful frame (such as, perhaps, “the current administration is beholden to large corporations”, or “the current administration is irresponsible”, or “the current administration is untrustworthy”, rather than the tired old “Bush is dumb”)
  • formulated a few short, memorable phrases that evoke his chosen frame
  • built his speech in order to deliver those phrases as many times as possible
  • made some effort to avoid playing directly into the hands of his counterparts on the Right

then again, it would only make sense for him to do something like this if he were primarily interested in doing some damage to the Right’s political position, and i don’t think that’s his first priority; i think his first priority is advancing his career as a comedian, and i don’t blame him for that.

i’m just unhappy to hear so many people holding his piece up as an example of effective political speech, since i don’t believe it’s anything of the sort.

-steve

hakamadare
May. 4th, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC)

Can all these people be wrong, using phrases like “virtuoso performance”?

yes, they can. his spiel was shooting-fish-in-a-barrel unfunny, and it was also (to my mind) pointless. i mean, we’re how many years into the Bush II presidency now? is there a single person alive in this country who isn’t aware that “liberals” think that GWB isn’t very smart? it disheartens me to realize that people on the left still think that pushing the “Bush is dumb” frame is still a good idea politically; not only have they not been doing as good a job of it as they might, but it should also be obvious by now that for a significant portion of the voting population, Bush being dumb is not actually a problem.

i can’t help but think that in politics, snarkiness and ridicule are a somewhat more civilized analogue of terrorism: namely, an expression of desperation, the last resort of the side that knows it has no chance of prevailing on the conventional battlefield.

-steve

p.s. then again, i thought Jon Stewart’s “famous” Crossfire bit was unfunny and embarrassing, so my opinions probably don’t line up with the mainstream on this topic.

chenoameg
May. 4th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
Try watching it again while holding a pen between your teeth (horizontally).
(This forces your face to smile and your brain to think "hey, I'm smiling" and maybe get the happy juices flowing.)

I have to admit, I haven't bothered to go read the transcript or watch the videos from the descriptions I heard before yours, so I'll believe that it's not that funny.
gmpe
May. 4th, 2006 03:39 pm (UTC)
I haven't watched it, but can say that if he'd gptten his audience to hold a pen in their teeth while watching, that would have been truly funny. :)
gorgo
May. 4th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)
From the transcript, I thought a lot of his shots at Bush were badly done -- too much insult, not enough cleverness to be funny. A lot of his stuff about other people struck me as good, though (like the hand-gesture bit when he talks about Scalia.)
plymouth
May. 4th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
A lot of his stuff about other people struck me as good, though (like the hand-gesture bit when he talks about Scalia.)

Hey, even *Scalia* was laughing at that one! I admire that man. Disagree with him on almost EVERYTHING politically, but I can still respect him for his consistancy.
forgotten_aria
May. 4th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
For me Cobert is really funny when he does one of two things: be subtle, great timing.

That speech had neither. He was blunt and his timing was either off or too stock.
visage
May. 4th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
You can count me in with the group that found his address fairly lame. Some of the jokes were clever, but I was just unimpressed overall.

Of course, it's my experience that I'm not a big fan of Colbert. I've watched his show a few times and it just never did it for me.

*shrug*
navrins
May. 4th, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed it, but the only thing that made it better than an average Colbert Report episode rerun was that the people he was parodying were right there in the room with him.

(I enjoy the Colbert Report, but it's not rerun-worthy.)
tirianmal
May. 4th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC)
I find Colbert only marginally funny as a rule but drop dead hilarious when he really hits his jokes. And I have to say he hit most of his jokes during the dinner, even if the audience was too mired in their own roastedness to laugh.

Now, a lot of his jokes were also deadly serious in their criticisms ... and that's even funnier.

I'm suddenly reminded of V for Vendetta and the comedian's jab at the High Chancellor on his late night show.
abce
May. 5th, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)
Hmmm, your wording and the link are at odds with one other - BoingBoing is all over themselves with how funny they thought it was. They were criticizing Salon for thinking otherwise.

Honestly, Colbert bombed in several ways. First off, his timing was atrocious. He nailed a few jokes (glacier; Scalia), but his "press secretary interview" was just long and dreary, and was, joy of joys, filled with Helen Thomas. As if we don't get enough of her at real press briefings.

I think that there is a framing that Colbert was "speaking truth to power." Which is really funny, because what is Colbert afraid of? Does he think that Bush will incarcerate him? Heck, the President showed him an incredible amount of courtesy in not getting up and walking out early.

Really, Colbert stood up there, and aside from a few jokes, mostly just insulted people, using a protected podium. In my world, we call that "bullying."
gmpe
May. 5th, 2006 02:58 am (UTC)
Ok, now (via abce I got to listen to it. So not funny. Mostly, it was really boring. If I'd been at the dinner, I think I would have taken the opportunity to hit the restroom or catch up with my tablemates. Seriously, I was sitting here putting up with it and finally asked "Is it almost over?"

Anyway, my two cents. Or one might say I've been talking to abce too much. ;)
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