Colbert’s White House Correspondent Dinner Performance Underscores Irony’s Power And Delicacy

The scene: The White House Correspondent Dinner. The time: right after President George W. Bush put in a boffo performance next to a top-notch Bush impersonator. It was a hard act to follow.

But Comedy Central‘s Stephen Colbert most assuredly followed it in his irony-heavy TV persona of a TV News talk show host that seems reminiscent of a Fox News host with the initials B.O. (or, rather B.O’R.)

What followed was a study in contrasting satirical forms — the easier task with one form (the one-liner, the visual, the lines dependent on joke construction and timing)…and the tougher task with the other (heavy irony, which relies on shared assumptions)..

The result: Bush & his new performing bud brought down the house with a much “safer”and traditional form of self-effacing political humor, while Colbert’s edgier Comedy Central-style humor clearly turned off some members of the audience and — Editor and Publisher suggests — perhaps Bush and his wife Laura.

Links to his performance are HERE.

You could see it if you watched it live (we did): while Colbert got laughs, cutaway shots showed some members of the audience unlaughing or seemingly unamused. If in show biz you measure the success of a comedy set by the duration and volume of laughs, Bush & impersonator were a smash. By THAT standard, Colbert wasn’t since he got (with a few exception) mostly softer “titters.”

Yet, in terms of content, Colbert’s satire was more biting, had a message and was far less playful — more akin to what you’d hear in a point-of-view “set” in a comedy club. And irony is always a tougher task.

The Internet term for irony is “snark.” If done poorly it can veer into the area of clumsiness and die a painful death (that seemed to be the consensus about radio talk show host Don Imus’ routine at the dinner 10 years ago.). Colbert’s routine didn’t go that route but clearly some audience members either didn’t share his assumptions, or didn’t like him sharing them in public with Bush sitting there — or didn’t like to be put in a position where they would laugh and show all the world that they shared them.

As E&P reports:

A blistering comedy “tributeâ€? to President Bush by Comedy Central’s faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close…

…Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.â€?

That was still one of the more gentle moments. MORE:

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,â€? he said. “They are re-arranging the deck chairs–on the Hindenburg.â€?

Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky� movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.�

Turning to the war, he declared, “I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.”

That was one point where you could feel a chill from part of the audience. AND:

He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, as well as “Valerie Plame.” Then, pretending to be worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, “Uh, I mean… Joseph Wilson’s wife.” He asserted that it might be okay, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was probably not there.

Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, “photo ops� on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face.

Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, “When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday – no matter what happened Tuesday.”

That seemed to be the point of no return where you could sense a kind of nervousness in one part of the audience.

Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides—the president’s side and the vice president’s side.” He also reflected on the good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.

Addressing the reporters, he said, “You should spend more time with your families, write that novel you’ve always wanted to write. You know, the one about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know– fiction.”

He claimed that the Secret Service name for Bush’s new press secretary is “Snow Job.” Colbert closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special “Gannonâ€? button on his podium. By the end, he had to run from Helen Thomas and her questions about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people.

The video was perhaps the smoothest part of the segment, since it was less dependent on immediate audience reponse. If a comedian reads a phone book and gets huge laughs his material was great. If a comedian reads clever, witty, material with a strong message and the response is medium some will say it wasn’t as clever as the phone book.

As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and left immediately.

E&P’s Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting–or too much speaking “truthiness” to power.

Asked by E&P after it was over if he thought he’d been too harsh, Colbert said, “Not at all.” Was he trying to make a point politically or just get laughs? “Just for laughs,” he said. He said he did not pull any material for being too strong, just for time reasons.

Indeed, you didn’t get a sense any of it was pulled — or that Colbert pulled any punches.

It’s just that the Bush routine’s Bob Hope-style, classic stand-up humor, resembling a tame Saturday Night Live sketch was far less risky and an easier laugh generator that irony-laced humor aimed at getting laughs via satirical points. The first style requires writers and perhaps a session with a comedy coach; the other requires a bit of professional courage since there’s a risk the irony could be unappreciated by part of the audience that doesn’t share its pointed assumptions.

Did Colbert bomb? Absolutely not. But he’ll likely have some verbal bombs aimed at him, particularly from some radio and cable talk show hosts.

Bush’s performance will be re-run on some shows for the next few days due to its entertainment value; Colbert’s will be re-run and discussed because of how it was received by some in the audience, because it’s dagger-sharp message has some news value and because he was willing to take a risk at doing the kind of satire he did…where he did it.


Ed Morrissey says Bush & Bush Clone were great but Colbert bombed:

Initially Fox News pulled away for a couple of minutes of useless analysis, but the anchor of the broadcast took viewers back to the presentation because, in her words, Steve Colbert “never fails to make us laugh.” Fox then broadcast three of the most laugh-free minutes of comedy seen on national television since Chevy Chase fancied himself as the new Johnny Carson. Colbert barely garnered even polite laughter for his banal and obvious schtick, and eventually Fox returned to its obviously embarrassed anchor. Now that was funny.

The Democratic Daily Blog offers a transcript of Colbert’s remarks and writes: “Sounds like a good time must have been had by all… except the President.”

Taylor Marsh: “He created quite a ruckus. Even First Lady Laura Bush got miffed, which was obvious at the end. She walked right past Colbert. There’s more at Editors and Publishers. Colbert put together a tough routine, though I didn’t catch the whole speech. But nobody was spared from what I caught, with Helen Thomas offering the closing act, which was priceless. It will be interesting when people start weighing in.”

James Joyner: “Frankly, while I only found a couple of the lines particularly funny, I didn’t find any of the material itself over the line. It’s not like the Don Imus performance a few years back. The problem was the delivery, which was very heavy and somewhat angry. A lighter touch would have made it go over much better and probably garnered more laughter as well.”

Wax Banks: “Colbert spoke at the White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend. It’s one of the more daring comedy routines I’ve heard, delivered straight to the faces of the people it’s lampooning, pulling no punches. Bush was there and allegedly wasn’t happy at all about the performance. Apparently no one was happy, at least not outwardly – there’s hardly any laughter at some pretty cutting jokes. But that’s no surprise. Bravo to Colbert (who did the whole speech in character).”

Riehl World View:

I’d agree – it was embarrassing to watch. Don’t know as I have ever watched Comedy Central, let alone his show, or that I ever will, now. Especially on the heels of the cartoon cowardice they displayed. From what I have read around, I didn’t take Colbert for a complete moron with little if any talent, class, style, or judgment at all…..Basically, it struck me as high school, or first year college level in terms of timing, topic and delivery. Yes, I know, a Lib will say I’m just expressing sour grapes because of the embarrassment Colbert presented for President Bush. But I am really being quite serious.

Enrevanche: “Last night, however, my man Stephen Colbert was the keynote speaker… and having watched his scathing, subversive performance this morning via downloaded BitTorrent video, and seeing the audience’s visibly stunned lack of response, I have to say that Colbert is my nominee for Man of the Year…The politico-journalist-complex hacks in the audience were mostly too stunned to laugh; the reaction shots that C-SPAN cut into the performance are absolutely priceless.”

–Allapundit at the new site Hot Air:

Tough night for Colby, who must have regarded this gig as a chance to play the Super Bowl on his home field…In Colbert’s defense, he might not have been playing for laughs. The dissident posture is very important to our friends on the left; if SC had kept things light and wasted his opportunity to speak “truthâ€? to power, they’d have crucified him for it. As it is, the moonbats will be building statues of him tomorrow. To paraphrase another delusional comedian who wasn’t as funny as he thought he was, better to be Kos for a night than a schmuck for a lifetime.

PSoTD: “Oh, he bombed? Right. That’s why everyone’s talking about it today. That’s why he’s being championed at half the blogosphere and belittled in the other half – because he bombed. No, Colbert’s comments have a life that will extend the remainder of Bush’s life. When GWB II dies (or goes to jail), think anyone will remember any of the lines of Steve Bridges [the Bush impersonator] last night? Hardly. Bush? No. Think Colbert’s lines will resurface.”

Michelle Malkin: “Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, the featured comedian, fell flat…”

Tennessee Guerilla Women: “Colbert ripped the Great Decider into miniscule bloody shreds. Only a few feet away from Colbert, the president’s splotched and botoxy red face appeared to be in imperial pain.”

Ann Althouse:

I love Colbert, but it was a little scary watching him do his “Colbert Report” character outside of his brilliantly comical studio set that frames him as a ridiculous right-wing blowhard. We love the humor in context, but when the targets of the humor are there in the room with him, we can’t dissolve into hilarity…

…Wasn’t it awful to perform without laughs? Maybe he should have filed the edges off a couple of jokes, but, basically, he did what he had to do to maintain his credibility with his real audience, those who watch “The Colbert Report.” And we’ll remember the horrible laughlessness of that night and marvel at the steely nerve of Stephen Colbert.

Trinity of One: “Stephen Colbert is my hero. Last night, he gave this amazing, brave speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner. He excoriated Bush and most of Washington–it’s breath-taking.”

Right Winged:

Colbert’s performance was just extremely weak, and as I said he totally bombed. I don’t base this on my reaction to the jokes… I base it on the dead silence for roughly 90% of his monologue, in a room full of liberals. Setting aside the fact that he had hardly any funny jokes, he also did go a little too far in his “jokes” in trashing the President who was seated only a few feet away. It just got worse and worse. The funniest part was probably when he pointed out Plame and Wilson (again, huh?) in the audience and then faked concern for “outting” her. Anyway, I was shocked at Colbert’s performance. Usually the guest entertainer is the best part… “You gotta love this guy. Talk about balls.”

U.S. Politics has some more reaction.


Some reviewers believe as Ann Althouse wrote, that he had to stay in keeping with his character on the Report or risk losing his fan base. I disagree because the Colbert personna on Comedy Central affects an almost politically androgynous manner. Republicans like him because although he is being satirical, the satire leaves room for viewers who support President Bush to find something to like. That was lost last night. The video bit with Colbert trying frantically to escape aged reporter Helen Thomas was the one funny part, but it came too late to save Stephen Colbert. The audience, made up of movie stars and famous athletes and major news people were mostly silent during his time at the podium which says a lot about how he did. We will probably continue to watch the Colbert Report, but not quite as often and not with the same affection for the man.

Intoxination: “I guess when you look in the mirror you don’t always like what you see and this administration is no different. Colbert is great at his job of playing a conservative talking head. Things like blaming a “liberal media”, and everyone but the administration is EXACTLY what they do. They will not take blame unless it is something that might give them a little “political” boost. Well George – sorry “your” dinner was “messed up” by this. Oh wait – it isn’t your dinner. It is Washington’s dinner and the correspondents’ dinner. Grow up and get over it.”

Rising Hegemon: “Ever try to do stand up at an indictment? That’s what Colbert did last night at the White House Correspondents Dinner. His routine didn’t get big laughs because it came at a self-inflated, self-congratulatory dinner which did nothing less than praise the “bravery” and “dedication” of the White House Press Reporters.”

Speak Speak also offers a transcript and writes: “In terms of the intensity of roasting Bush, things started out genial with Bush laughing, and then as Colbert said that 68% of Americans disapprove of the job Bush is doing, Bush seemed to be enjoying himself less.”

Planet Doug: “Man, this was funny but really edgy. It’s like doing comedy about Iran in Iran in front of clerics.”

blony: “The man who had no trouble lampooning a dead prisoner (more at DKOS) seems to have lost his sense of humor. Seems Stephen Colbert got a bit close to the bone – the truth, that is – at the White House Correspondent Dinner…It has become a surreal fact of life that the most truthful and accurate analysis in the media of the Bush administration has been coming from comedians such as Colbert or Bill Maher. Colbert is seriously funny even when talking about his own humor.”

The Civil Engine: “First of all, I have to say that the guy has some serious stones. The crowd was mostly silent, yes, but it was only because Colbert didn’t give the usually nods, nudges and deference to power that are so common at these types of events….I watched along with my sister (a Republican) and my girlfriend (a Moderate) and they were both in tears from laughing so hard. Does that mean we all have a poor sense of humor? No. It means that we can see Colbert’s schtick for what it is: Brilliant and brave.”

Shakespeare’s Sister:

Throughout the entire thing, he would periodically look evenly at Bush, holding his gaze and addressing him directly as “Mr. President.â€? Bush looked back at him with a face of stone (save for one time when Colbert flubbed a set-up). Standing in front of a room full of people who didn’t, couldn’t, laugh, letting them have it with everything he’s got, sweating bullets, Colbert would look dead at Bush and never blink… I can’t recall anyone so forthrightly addressing the president like that, holding such a harsh mirror in front of his nose, except for perhaps Colbert’s obvious co-conspirator Helen Thomas, whose life has been spent questioning presidents.

Pam’s House Blend: “He smoked this administration, completely scorched it to an ash. And Dear Leader and Laura weren’t laughing.”

–Bloggledygook has a MUST READ post HERE with a different perspective from many others on the left, center and right. We won’t quote it because it would take it out of context. Read it all.

Due to travel today we may not be able to add more to this roundup. Please click on the TRACKBACKS to this post to read more reaction to the Colbert routine.

You can also discuss this post on


  1. Colbert is the Trojan Horse of the modern era. His sarcastic approach to the truth tricked the neo-cons into believing he was harmless. But once inside the impenetrable walls of Whitehouse censorship, he exposed their vulnerabilities and delivered the first and most destructive blows. It is now the responsibility of honest Americans to finish the job from the outside. The Battle of modern Troy has just begun, and we all know who won last time. I’m sure the audience at the Correspondents Dinner were as shocked as the people within Troy were. Certainly neither thought the truth was funny.

    If you think Colbert was being untruthful with his criticism, I urge you to find facts (from multiple sources) that refute his statements. Just because they are “liberal talking points” doesn’t mean they lack credibility. Don’t trust me? Read “conservative talking points” and you will find that although they may disagree on solutions, they agree on the truth. Be careful not to confuse conservatives with the neo-cons. Just because they are on the same plane as the hijackers doesn’t mean they share the same ideas as the hijackers. Some just don’t yet realize their plane has been hijacked…

  2. If you watched the CSPAN coverage, or saw the video, you are shocked that the major media outlets acted as if Colbert introduced Bush to the audience and then sat down. Of course, his performance, no matter your politics, was the most important portion of the whole affair.
    Either you saw him as an arrogant, ill-informed traitor who embarrassed a great sitting President, or you posses some intelligence and saw him as truth-in-a-jester’s-role confronting power. But, if you were the major media, you hardly noticed he was there.

    Of course, there are over 300,000 other ghosts who walked down Broadway (see on Saturday that know how Colbert might feel.

  3. The reason this performance was so newsworthy was that Bush NEVER allows himself to hear criticism. Had he subjected himself to this sort of thing on a semi-regular basis, Colbert’s schtick wouldn’t have hit him very hard. But when you surround yourself with sycophants in stage-managed photo-ops, you can get blinded by reality.

  4. E&P: As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and left immediately.

    No, the president stood up, grinned at Colbert, shook his hand and said, “good job, well done.” Watch the video.

  5. Political satire is hardly ever meant to be observed as hilarity. Colbert used this rare chance to point out the issues that the administration is avoiding and his target is certainly them not us. That said, the laughter came from the surprising courage and risky comments rather than the usual “hehe” you get from others who think of themselves as political comedians.

  6. I think the fundamental fact that should be acknowleded is – He didn’t come there uninvited. His comedic style is a known factor, and he performe beautifully in that style.

    If his audience supported inviting a biting satirist as guest speaker, and then went “Uh, we didn’t think he’d satire *us* on national TV”, then frankly, they’re wimps.

    No, George can’t handle being satired to his face. He doesn’t have the balls or confidence (Stubborness is not confidence) to handle it – his humor is always either formulaic, or putting others down.

    But that George doesn’t have the balls that Colbert has, doesn’t make Colbert not funny. Colbert was dead on.

  7. Not Mark Twain.

    Funny satire is applied with a light touch, as if a envenomed epee, rather than the bashing of a battle axe. There were parts that were funny, and too many parts that were just too like a twelve-year-old who’s just discovered sarcasm.

    If you enjoyed it, that’s fine.

  8. The correspondents weren’t laughing because, in the end, really, what Stephen was saying was deadly serious.

    Oh, and six little words: They have kids in private schools.

  9. Wow, 108 comments at this point. Is that a record, Joe?

    Anyway, my two cents, Colbert did a great job though Crooks and Liars didnt even post a full video

  10. I felt like I was watching living history unfold before my very eyes. As in, “Do you remember where you were in 2006 when someone finally went on live TV and told the truth for a change?” Had it been tape-delayed, Colbert would probably never have made it to the air.

  11. I just feel the need to clear something up from previous posts – he was not speaking “truthiness” to power – truthiness, by his own definition, is the unsupported “gut feeling” disingenuous non-truth that he generally mocks.

    In one sense, it would be correct to say; truthiness is the defining aspect of his fake character, so technically he is speaking that. However, his message was not truthiness at all. Sorry to nitpick.

    Another thought: many here have claimed that the speech was in no way courageous due to the fact that he will experience no negative repercussions. This is ludicrous; by this standard, no statement in a free society can be termed ‘courageous’. Speaking directly to the president of the United States, no matter how you feel about him, is clearly an intimidating experience; knowingly and intentionally bombing to your (present) audience would, I’m sure, be difficult for a comedian. The fact that someone is not slaughtered for an act does not make it non-courageous. The fact that very, very few would have had the nerve to do the same thing does make it courageous.

  12. Hey, who paid for Steve Bridges’ appearance at the dinner?

  13. While I have special dislike for the fraud who soils our White House, I have to admit to that loathing that I have for the hacks, kiss ups, cowards and News models that presently make up the Washington Press Corps borders on hatred.

    To make my point, recently in a early morning stupor I woke up to see the smiling face of MSNBC’s Chief Washington Correspondent, the ridiculously good looking Norah O’Donnell. What I am about to say is not because I be-grudge the fact Ms. O’Donnell is a stunning woman. In fact like most men I enjoy staring at pretty things as well as shiny ones. If I were a horny teen her smiling face would have been a cue to well…I don’t need to go into that.
    However she uttered several rather cute and utterly incorrect phrases that stunned me. I expected the host or someone in earshot of the young woman to correct her. But they didn’t but to make a long story short anyone watching her would have come away with the distinct impression that the President of the United States somehow had the power to pass laws. She didn’t say “influencedâ€? the passing legislation or “initiatedâ€? the consideration of legislation. It was clear to me that she was inferring some new Powers for the President of the United States. She then repeated the same thing again later during a short report on Chris Matthews’ hour of preening and posturing for the camera on MSNBC. I sent Ms. O’Donell an e-mail, which I admit was a wee-bit condescending, recommending that she watch School-House Rock’s rather instructive animated piece on how a bill becomes a law.
    The point of my little tale is to illustrate what we up against. Mediocrity is tolerated and obviously promoted in DC these days. The job of the DC press corps is to go along to get along. I hope it doesn’t seem like I am picking on her because she is the least cupable among these folks. Americans are responsible for this, because we tolerate the daily insult to our intelligence that masquerades as journalism. We tolerate the Aristocratic Journalist class that has risen up since Watergate to become part and parcel of a culture in Washington that shelters power and money from criticism or scrutiny by the American public. What we have is a wealthy Press Corp, which mingles and breaks bread with their benefactors
    We have allowed the mundane and salacious to replace news and information about the inner workings of our government. We are too busy or too comfortable to care or to be bothered with the details of citizenship.
    So our news organizations continue to close their international desks at every network. They continue to fire or re assign or disappear smart but “controversial� correspondents. Whatever happened to Christiane Amanpour? When was the last time CNN allowed her to speak for more then 90 seconds about her impressions about what is going on in Iraq.

    Journalist in this society have a duty and role to play in free society, that is why the founding fathers placed freedom of the press in the very first amendment of our bill of rights. The present group are falling down on the job.

  14. Juan Valdez: Hear, hear. What Colbert did took balls. Period. I’d like to see all the people saying otherwise do anything half as gutsy, and do so in front of the entire nation. Also, First Amendment rights notwithstanding, it’s not as if no one in this country has ever suffered for their speech. There are plenty of places in America where saying the wrong things to the wrong people could easily get you killed, and a lot of those people probably aren’t too pleased with Mr. Colbert right now.

  15. I’ve posted on Colbert’s truth-to-power genius as well on my own blog, posted here on Nettertainment. Colbert is playing an incredible double game, which is something like watching the movie “Memento” as the brain does an extra gyration to turn what he says around and get the true meaning.

  16. Lots of great comments, but I would urge that you take a look at Bush’s routine with the double and get into what he was trying to do there. There is plenty of snark in that one, and the part of the script that said that Cheney was drunk as a skunk when he shot made my skin crawl far worse than anything SC said.

    Compare the two. My read : one reflects a deep disgust for the audience and an almost limitless reservoir of arrogance and self privilege, while the other expresses a deep trust in the ultimate capacity of the nation to right itself and to live out the vision on which it was formed. You decide which is which…

  17. As far as suffering for his speech, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if Bush’s puritan cronies at the FCC are at this moment trying to figure out a way to fine Colbert and CSPAN for airing his routine.

  18. Colbert had courage in the sense that stand-up is extremely difficult when you’re in front of a drunk crowd at some club in Dallas, let alone at a nationally televised event in front of a ballroom full of rich and powerful people… one of whom (the very person you are skewering) is the MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD. even with the protections of the first amendment, I’d like to see how you stand up to the President of the United States of America, face to face.

  19. And in case any members of the press are reading this, we weren’t laughing with you, we were laughing at you.

  20. The reaction to Colbert’s performance has been entirely as I would have anticipated. The knuckle-draggers are of course openly hostile and contemptuous, the faux moderates are dismissive, the mainstream media is – as usual – stunningly absent, and the left-wing blogosphere is energized and elated.

    Colbert obviously didn’t change any minds, open any eyes, or soften any hearts – but then again, he wasn’t trying to. What he was attempting to do was to behave in the manner that an actual human being who possesses a soul and a conscience should behave. That is, to stand up in front of the naked Emperor and his equally naked sycophants and courtiers and say: “Oh by the way – did any of you happen to notice that you’re all buck naked?”

    And all I can say is, thank God someone is still willing to do so.

    Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. -Theodore Geissel

  21. The reaction to Colbert’s performance has been entirely as I would have anticipated. The knuckle-draggers are of course openly hostile and contemptuous, the faux moderates are dismissive, the mainstream media is – as usual – stunningly absent, and the left-wing blogosphere is energized and elated.

    Colbert obviously didn’t change any minds, open any eyes, or soften any hearts – but then again, he wasn’t trying to. What he was attempting to do was to behave in the manner that an actual human being who possesses a soul and a conscience should behave. That is, to stand up in front of the naked Emperor and his equally naked sycophants and courtiers and say: “Oh by the way – did any of you happen to notice that you’re all buck naked?”

    And all I can say is, thank God someone is still willing to do so.

    Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. -Theodore Geissel

  22. It’s funny that so many conservatives are saying that Colbert ‘bombed’ because of the reaction of the audience. Yes he did it ‘for laughs’ but not for the laughs of the audience you fools, for the rest of us sitting at home worried about the economy, the war, our parent’s healthcare and the lack of goodwill toward man. Everyone should have known what to expect when SC was introduced with “a very special edition of the Colbert Report…” Have they never seen clips of his show or maybe they only the setup to his jokes and skip past the punchlines?

    SC delivered a right hook not only to the preznit that could not be filtered by his handlers, but he was also angrily scolding the press for not being more like Helen Thomas. I think he was right, and while so many seem upset that he had the nerve to be so rudely honest, I don’t think he was up there trying to win fans, he was there making a statement, showing us just how ridiculous the acts and policies of the president have become.

  23. Colbert’s critics on this one have completely missed the point. He couldn’t have cared less that he didn’t make anyone laugh. He wasn’t trying to make anyone laugh, he was trying make people think. And since the mainstream media isn’t capable of making anyone think about anything other than the latest celebrity baby or missing white woman, Colbert was simply taking advantage of a golden opportunity to get some very true, and very important, points across to as many people as possible. He succeeded. End of story. Ultimately, the joke is on his critics and of course on the preznit and his gang.

  24. BTW: In reading these and other comments saw a lot of people comparing Colbert “bombing” to Imus bombing in 1996. Maybe Imus had something to say that really mattered and the crowd couldn’t handle the truth? Went back and read it ()

    Not a chance. Cheap, personal attacks that sell gossip rags; nothing more. When you look at what Stephen did, remember the people from New Orleans, remember the 2400+ families that have lost loved ones, the tens of thousands with badly injured and disabled sons and daughters, the 100K+ faceless Iraqis gone, the hundreds of billions of dollars up in smoke or in the pockets of the administrations cronies.

    No matter how much you laud or despise Colbert, none of that is ever coming back…

  25. Sorry – thought I pasted in the Imus link. It is at “”

  26. >Geez..isn’t the left supposed to be loose and >funny, whiel the right is supposed ot be uptight? >What happened to the left’s sense of humour.

    hmmmm…yeah I remember having a sense of humor back in the day..Now lets see what has happened to dull it of late- ah yes an unnecessary war based on lies, 2300+ American soldiers dead (and God knows how many Iraqis), blatant corruption in the govt (Abramoff, Delay etc.), the complete undermining of all manner of environmental protections, the manipulation of science to further specific right wing interests ( James Hansen anyone?)…and on it goes.

    If I were an overprivileged, entitled brat living 25 feet up my own ass, I too would whine about how people don’t have a sense of humor no more blah blah…
    As it is I am grateful to Stephen Colbert for what he did- it was awesome…predictable yes! Boring? No! I respect Colbert enough to know that he isn’t going to go on there and play nicey nice with lame jokes about “great white hunters” and “nucular” etc.

    Yeah he is probably not gonna end up in a body bag for what he did-so bloody what?

    And I really don’t think he cared a rat’s ass about whether that pathetic bunch of ass-kssing Bush-bots laughed at his jokes or not…

    And yes I am a whiny, bleeding heart liberal spewing out standard lefty talking points like Colbert-nothing new in any of this etc.etc. But you know what-this stuff can never be said TOO often…there is a war going on, Katrina victims are being ejected from the govt provided housing long before they expected to be, biodiversity indices are falling, the globe’s climate patterns ae breaking. Some of us don’t want to ignore and distance ourselves from things, just cause they do not directly touch our lives. The good news is that Exxon is making more money than ever! Hey at least some of us are havig a good time eh? I guess they are the ones that still have a legit. sense of humor.

  27. Interesting take on ‘courage’ by everyone, some good points.

    How many death threats do you think Mr. Colbert will receive from the ‘ditto’ squad, the ‘internet brown shirts’?

    What he did took guts, that’s all there is too it.

  28. Colbert is my new hero. Jon Stewart used to be my hero, but poor Jon would never have the balls to do what Colbert did on Saturday night.

  29. As Steve McK points out above, there is an elephant in the room here people (as the risk of being punny). The Bush Administration has been a reign of terror, literally killing thousands of people for no apparent reason (“Why did we invade Iraq?”).

    Under these circumstances, criticizing Colbert for being insensitive to the mood or purpose of the evening is a load of horseshit. It’s patently offensive that anyone should be able to make light-hearted laughs when the president of the United States INVADED ANOTHER COUNTRY FOR NO REASON.

  30. So this is what an act of revolution looks like in the Bush era. Infiltrating the most powerful stage and lobbing a verbal barrage that spreads its shrapnel blog by blog, until the pain is seen and shared nationwide.

  31. It doesn’t matter that much whether Colbert was “brave” or not, in my opinion. I’m sure he’d say himself that he wasn’t brave. Turning the debate towards the personal qualities of Colbert is a typical tactic for avoiding the real issues.

    What I feel is a sense of relief. “They can’t say we didn’t tell them.” Kind of similar to the sentiments behind the move to impeach Bush, which was not intended to achieve anything concrete, but which enabled a detailed report on the dishonesty of the case for invading Iraq to be created for posterity.

    Bush takes care to insulate himself from reality. “Reality has a well-known liberal bias” – the brilliance of that line becomes more evident the more you think about it. On this one occasion, though, we know that Bush knows that we know what’s really going on. That gives a sense of catharsis: maybe just a pinprick into skin as thick as an elephants, but at least one person definitely got through to him.

  32. Well, it is kind of hard to laugh when you’re getting the skin ripped off your body. The fact that they didn’t laugh just proves that Colbert was right on the mark. Want them to laugh? Just substitute “Clinton” for “Bush” and all of the mindless Bush sycophants are laughing their asses off. As it was, the one guy who really is beyond all of this– Scalia– looked like he was creaming in his jeans, he was laughing so hard. Great, great job, Steve– the funniest 12 minutes in years. Thanks.

  33. Two words: Andy Kaufman.

    The butts of Andy’s performance pieces usually didn’t �get it� either. His work, however, is still acclaimed by most scholars who know that the art is more than �that was my wife� one-liners. Colbert’s speech was akin to Andy’s wrestling pieces. It was far from a failure; it was breathtakingly stunning in it’s presentation and execution.

    Colbert has a single act: he satirizes the way the press reports politics. Saturday night, he performed his act, and did so brilliantly. Unfortunately, if you have an investment in the subject he’s satirizing, you probably won’t find it particularly funny.


    Colbert was playing to his audience and from what I’ve been able to tell from the blogosphere, his audience responded enthusiastically. The president and his lapdog press just isn’t part of that audience.

  34. Steve Bridges was funny. Simply hilarious. Colbert was a huge disappointment. He wasn’t funny. People were not laughing. Comedians are supposed to make you laugh. Colbert failed badly. The silence from the crowd was deafening.

  35. If one judges the effectiveness of a satirist on the reaction of the audience, then Colbert indeed bombed. If it’s judged on its content, on irony and poignancy, then it’s a highlight of American political comedy.

    I recall Mark Twain’s address on the occasion of the celebration of John Greenleaf Whittier’s 70th birthday in 1877, when he lampooned the honoree, Emerson and Holmes. It was not well-received, but then audiences didn’t always “get” Twain. If he were alive today, his speech — although differing in style — would have had about the same impact as Colbert’s: a dud in the room, hailed elsewhere.

  36. So much for the “liberal” media. They were so uptight and gave Colbert a tough time.

    I thought Colbert was terrifically honest and clear. What a great opportunity to give it to the president directly!

    I live right between the Hilton and the Bloomberg party. Here’s my recap (including pics with Colbert and Ed Helms)

  37. I don’t know why anybody would be upset with what Colbert had to say. Somebody had to hire or invite him to speak, what the hell did they expect? They don’t have any trouble eavesdropping, maybe they should have somebody watch t.v. You only have to watch him once and you know what to expect. This is more stupid than the people that go on the Report and don’t know what they are getting into.
    And BTW he was absolutely hilarious and it was made better by the people that the truthiness hurt. As we used to say in the old country, “f— ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”

  38. Andy Kauffman often shocked his audience and co-stars alike, by creating uncomfortable moments that most people didn’t think were funny at the time. Some people still don’t find his stunts funny, but for many, they are classic.

    Colbert did the same, only with a strong political message. He wasn’t going for on-the-spot laughter, although I’m sure he knew that his fanbase would seek out the video and laugh at home.

    It is obvious to me that Colbert had no intention of making his live audience laugh uproarioulsy. He risked his own reputation as an entertainer and took a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to criticize the President to his face and the Press who have let this administration off the hook.

  39. Its debatable whether Colbert chose the right time or place, but he said what our nation needed to hear-an honest critique of the last five and a half years. I watched excerpts of his act, and it was more painful than funny, but was truthful to a fault. Its always uncomfortable when you strike a nerve, but it does take courage.

    In contrast,t he president’s double, Steve Bridges, was very funny, in a safe, non-offensive way. My guess is that Colbert’s routine, while not as well-received by the White House press corps, or the president and his cronies, will be much more memorable.

  40. Kieth Olbermann and Dana Milbank (MSNBC’s “Countdown”, May 1 2006) didn’t like the performance the other night of their fellow entertainer Stephen Colbert at the Washington Correspondent’s Dinner. Both seemed prudishly miffed by the fact that Colbert had made the President uncomfortable – reenacting the Victorian cluck-fest the two held in the wake of the Corretta Scott King funeral, at which Bush’s panties had gotten similarly bunched.

    Olbermann incomprehensibly took a proprietary role regarding our president’s delicate sensibilities by worrying wether the dinner was “the right venue” for such talk. Milbank dismissed Colbert’s act by saying “I don’t think he crossed a line: I just don’t think he was terribly funny”. Wrong on both counts, Dana; Colbert crossed lines that Washington’s timid journalists fear to even approach – the way a dog implicitly avoids its Invisible Electric Fence – and the satire was pristine.

    It was hilarious and bold because it rang true. The only people who weren’t laughing were those being so exquisitely skewered: the Bush administration and its huge stable of media sycophants – essentially the entire live audience. Out here in the country and blogosphere its all anyone can talk about – and we loved it! I found one of the funniest aspects of the show to be when the camera would reveal to us at home the stony faces of well-known journalists experiencing the first pangs of cognitive dissonance, and the realization that Colbert was in fact roasting them.

    Like most franticly defensive reactions, Olbermann’s and Milbank’s objections lack internal logic. The two make no bones about the fact that these events themselves are fatuous, pretentious, and “painful” to attend – and yet they lament the possibility that Colbert had “irrevocably damaged” the Correspondents dinner. Well, that’s what a good iconoclast does – he shatters institutions that damage or strangle society.

    I hope there never is another “Correspondent’s Dinner”, as it has always been an unnatural affair which has served to tame our Fourth Estate to the hand of their masters. I don’t want my journalists enjoying “cucumber martinis” with those who should be treated as their natural enemies – our government. Its not good for the country. Colbert is a patriotic hero, and funny to boot.

    Ken Duerksen

    Oxford, Ohio

  41. Stephen Colbert: A brave, brave man (and a big bow to you too Helen.) In the vinyl-sided world of Washington’s military culture and its engorged support system, it’s become very dangerous to tell the truth.

    The interesting thing about watching the events leading up to The Master’s speech, was the preponderance of military poop-lah. Little boys and old men with uniforms and guns, and, hidden among them, the evangelical christian cadre’, keeping America free from…um…everyone else.

    You can’t talk with fanatics, that’s the one concept the Bush administration got right from the outset. So if one of those self-important lackeys lives near you – and someone voted for Bush – find a way to punish them, their businesses, their churches, in your own way, for they do not hesitate to punish or even enslave you.

  42. It’s plain to see from the video that so many were afraid to laugh. Those who weren’t afraid were ashamed or angry that Colbert dared take them to task for their reprehensible support of King George and his lawbreaking cronies.

    It took major balls for Colbert to look Bush dead in the eye and tell King George a thing or two. Something I’ve longed to do myself on many occasion but I’ll have to stick to the free speech zone.

    King George is dead. Long live Colbert.

  43. Maybe Colbert wasn’t really going for the people at the dinner but for the viewing audience. Maybe his direct, unflinching mano-to-mano moments with Bush was a call to us all: this is America and George Bush is NOT the boss of ME! Bush is in charge for only a moment, albeit a bad one, and it is up to us to push back at presidents who misdirect the country. After all, it is we who own this mess and will have to live with it. I think Colbert was trying to wake us up.

  44. I thought it was reasonably funny at times, but I think in terms of being funny he is way better on his show. I think Colbert is a fantastic comedian and also a loveable guy with great charisma.

    In terms of this actual performance I found myself cringing at moments. But I wasn’t cringing at him, but the audience. And not that they didn’t laugh but more that he was actually plainly saying all these things wrong with Bush and the administration with the president sitting RIGHT THERE. It was just so uncomfortable and cringe-worthy, like an episode of The Office. I didn’t laugh much but my stomach was in my throat, really gut hitting stuff.

    No matter how funny it was I find Colbert immensely impressive. And he has the biggest balls of any ‘news’ man ever. Some say he shouldn’t be lauded for this, in context of the whole situation I say yes. Yes he should.

    Bush can go to hell.

  45. Things President Bush should have said to Stephen Colbert after his comedy speech…

    11. The only reason you weren’t heckeled, is because everybody was asleep.

    10. My last speech at the NAACP got a warmer reception.

    9. You might consider trying your luck at accounting.

    8. Andy Kaufman wouldn’t even get your speech.

    7. I can’t believe you replaced Colin Quinn’s show. They must not have a sense of humor over at Comedy Central.

    6. If Paula Abdul was judging your comedy performance tonight, all she would say is you looked good.

    5. Your Secret Service name is now Nytol, cause you put everybody to sleep.

    4. Are you sure you’re a comedian Stephen???

    3. In comparison, you made last year’s guest speaker, Cedric the Entertainer, look like Richard Pryor.

    2. Comedy is hard work. It’s hard… hard, hard, hard work.

    1. I now truly understand what they mean by the phrase: “the silence was deafening”.

  46. In case anyone is still reading . . .

    Writing as an actor, I suspect that Mr. Colbert was nervous. Yes, no matter how experienced we are there is always some level of anxiety caused by performing.

    Given the circumstance, he was probably VERY nervous. This is sometimes read by audiences as hostility or rage.

    Don’t get me wrong, the satire was written angry as all good satire is. I just wonder if he had anticipated delivering it with a lighter touch. He did seem to mellow as the set went on.

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