Wednesday, May 03, 2006

One Last Thing

Before I go...Richard Cohen needs a hanky. In fact, we might as well send a box for the giant pity party he and the rest of the poor press corps who were forced to suffer rudeness from Stephen Colbert.

If you think he wasn't funny, that's fine. Cohen knows funny, just ask him:
First, let me state my credentials: I am a funny guy. This is well known in certain circles, which is why, even back in elementary school, I was sometimes asked by the teacher to "say something funny" -- as if the deed could be done on demand.
Reader's Digest is considering publishing two of his jokes!
This, anyway, is my standing for stating that Stephen Colbert was not funny at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.
To each there own. He has been funnier on his own show, to be sure. But he has seldom been more aggressive.
All the rest is commentary.
Because goodness knows, there hasn't been nearly enough commentary. Perhaps a joke-by-joke breakdown, complete with telestration and Mel Kuiper?
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.
Guess not.
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.
Oh, deary me-oh-my! At a comic event? Rudeness?

Look, I can't believe it's taken 5.5 years, but
but this is NFL Football. But good thing referee Cohen is there to toss the flag for Unsporsmanlike the first time someone gives the President so much as a "yo mamma."
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.
No, it's not. Our President is not very smart. And thinks that's a good thing. Not funny at all.
Colbert took a swipe at Bush's Iraq policy, at domestic eavesdropping,
Well...maybe not bungling an invasion and occupation, and following the law would prevent that kind of joke.
and he took a shot at the news corps for purportedly being nothing more than stenographers recording what the Bush White House said.
Comedy Central swine he's almost as bad as...as...as a blogger. Know your place, fool.
He referred to the recent staff changes at the White House, chiding the media for supposedly repeating the cliche "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" when he would have put it differently: "This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg." A mixed metaphor, and lame as can be.
See, Mr. Funnypants, it's all about the delivery, and Mr. Cohen, your's sucks. You stepped on the line. Hard
Why are you wasting my time with Colbert, I hear you ask. Because he is representative of what too often passes for political courage, not to mention wit, in this country.
As opposed to the courage shown by Senator Roberts or his Democratic counerparts. And what is this Washington 'wit' of which you speak?
His defenders -- and they are all over the blogosphere
J'accuse!
will tell you he spoke truth to power. This is a tired phrase, as we all know, but when it was fresh and meaningful it suggested repercussions, consequences -- maybe even death in some countries. When you spoke truth to power you took the distinct chance that power would smite you, toss you into a dungeon or -- if you're at work -- take away your office.
In China, Colbert would be in jail. Therefore courage does not exist, and the storm of criticism amounts to nothing at all.
But in this country, anyone can insult the president of the United States.
Yes, this President is reknowned for the wealth of dissenting voices with which he surrounds himself.
Colbert just did it, and he will not suffer any consequence at all. He knew that going in. He also knew that Bush would have to sit there and pretend to laugh at Colbert's lame and insulting jokes.
Like I said, there's no crying in baseball.
Bush himself plays off his reputation as a dunce and his penchant for mangling English. Self-mockery can be funny. Mockery that is insulting is not. The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar can be said on a dais with impunity. This is why Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully.
And he hates America. His routine gives aid and comfort to Al Qaeda.
I am not a member of the White House Correspondents' Association, and I have not attended its dinner in years (I watched this year's on C-SPAN).
But you're just the type they need in the audience. Pompous? Check. Self-important? Check. Thouroughly cowed by authority? Check. Why weren't you there?
The gala is an essentially harmless event that requires the presence of one man, the president. If presidents started not to show up, the organization would have to transform itself into a burial association. But presidents come and suffer through a ritual that most of them find mildly painful, not to mention boring. Whatever the case, they are guests. They don't have to be there -- and if I were Bush, next year I would not. Spring is a marvelous time to be at Camp David.
Or maybe some good ole brush clearing down in Crawford?
On television, Colbert is often funny. But on his own show he appeals to a self-selected audience that reminds him often of his greatness. In Washington he was playing to a different crowd, and he failed dismally in the funny person's most solemn obligation:
A funny person's most solemn obligation? Man, Cohen does know how to bring the funny.
to use absurdity or contrast or hyperbole to elucidate -- to make people see things a little bit differently.
Closed circuit to Colbert: Groucho Glasses. Everything is more absurd - and thus more able to illuminate - while you are wearing Groucho Glasses.
He had a chance to tell the president and much of important (and self-important) Washington things it would have been good for them to hear.
Funnily enough, (not ha-ha funny though. Or is it Richard ? I just can't tell. My teachers never ordered me to be funny, so I'm unqualified) that's exactly what he's being congratulated for.
But he was, like much of the blogosphere itself, telling like-minded people what they already know and alienating all the others. In this sense, he was a man for our times.
Except the people sitting in the room weren't those like-minded sorts
He also wasn't funny.
But to recycle the most overused joke in the history of this week, the President searching under his desk for missing Iraqi WMD's, now that's comedy.

8 comments:

Ahistoricality said...

I'm not saying you don't do it well, but is this crap worth the effort? Most of that is a laundry list of topics self-evidently (to Cohen) off-limits because... well, just because.

His definitition of "rudeness" alone deserves a separate fisking which I'm just not in the mood to provide. The rest of it you've nailed.

Safe travels!

Pooh said...

Worth it? Probably not, but there's a special kind of stupid that just push's my buttons, and the words just flow naturally.

Any argument that has "I know funny" as a key premise is a likely candidate...

Jake said...

What a douchebag.

slickdpdx said...

A bunch of crybabies reacting to a great roast at which few were spared. Show some effin confidence for goodness sake!

cakreiz said...

I thought Colbert was a jerk with Bush just as Imus was with Clinton. But it says more about me and my age, I suspect. I'll take someone like Carson or Crystal anytime. Cohen may be a hypocrite but he's correct that a comedian should aim at the funny bone rather than the kidney. There's nothing prohibiting Colbert from doing what he did- I get that. His bit just doesn't strike me as funny.

Pooh said...

Cakreiz, sure - he may have been unfunny, that's a matter of taste, but the sturm und drang about patriotism and lack of respect and rudeness is just too much

MillerTime said...

"So what are you doing with your time nowadays since racism is no longer an issue?"

-Stephen Colbert to the Reverand Jesse Jackson

redredwine said...

Pooh, an astute dissection of the self-serving prose of cohen. Thanks for taking the time.

RRW