WaPo opinion columnist, Richard Cohen has a piece in today's paper about his take on Stephen Colbert's speech in front of/at the President and the Press this past weekend. It's title, So Not Funny should give you an idea of his opinion on the affair. The article itself comes across as less rational argument than touchy shout-down from someone who was part of Colbert's target audience... er, target-ed audience I should write. Anyway, Daily Kos' Georgia10 has a good run down of the situation here. (BTW, check out the Chicago Reader's great article on her.)
Cohen's piece left me a scratchin' my noggin trying to figure out exactly where he was coming from and why most of the press about the dinner that night has either completely ignored Colbert's torching or painted it as a rude and unfunnny gesture. I'm certain it's got plenty to do with Colbert painting the media as complicit lapdogs and little to do with humor and political blovation, or the lack thereof.
I was moved to kick out a letter to Cohen about all this. It's not exactly a work of art, but I think it conveys my sentiment just fine.
RE: "So Not Funny"
Washington Post, Thursday, May 4, 2006
Well, it's nice to see someone putting the "ass" back in "assessment."
Hey, wow! Now I'm being funny. Ya know, everyone always told me I'd make a great comedian... or newspaper columnist. But alas I've grown up to be neither.
Anyhoo, how you can assign ("ass" again... damn I'm good!) some kind of sliding scale--rude, brash, brassy--to dissent is bewildering. While I agree the routine was by no means side-splitting, I fail to see how that was Colbert's goal. His aim was obvious: derision couched in various degrees of witty humor, or attempts therein. You're by no means wrong to wear the opinion that he simply wasn't funny, but to claim that his wasn't a gutsy, witty act of political courage is to buy into some illusion of prestige and royalty... the kind of treatment the press has given the Bush administration since that terrible morning in September of 2001, if not since the national clusterfuck that was his 2000 election.
Colbert's point was to dissent. Publicly. Loudly. And, sure, rudely. It perked the ears and pricked the skin of a notoriously aloof, walled-off, micro-managed President. (And really, is getting marginally vicious with a guy who's political bodyguard is the historically vicious Karl Rove really rude for its content or just cuz the attack was waged outside the normal arena?) It did the same to a press core that so many of us feel has sold its soul just to stay in the game with these guys. And perhaps that's why you come across as hurt as you do in the column. Colbert's guns were trained on you as much as they were on our dear leader. Your indignation at the speech hits none of the right buttons, attacks no particular point. You simply seem miffed at the gall of some sharp-tongued whipper-snapper; like a grandma scolding the potty-mouthed youth of today for playing on her lawn.
But you know you're right on at least one point. I do agree it's sad that this has become the state of political dissent in our great nation. It's sad that we of like mind get so wound up at something that's clearly not the call of the revolution nor the second coming. But our reaction should give you a clue as to the nature of the terrain these days. To say Colbert risked nothing is to ignore the vast corpus of evidence to the contrary over the past five years. It's to ignore The Dixie Chicks, Jeremey Glick, Cindy Sheehan, Nicole and Jeff Rank, Michael Moore, Tim Robbins, Neil Young and hundreds of others who've caught hell in one form or another because they dared emote their political opinions. And to be sure, not a ONE of them had the opportunity and/or the stones to let loose mere feet away while the objects of their un-affection were obliged to sit quiet and still.
Whether your column was steeped in outrage for an entertainer's lack of decorum and protocol, or whether it was more sour grapes at being included in said entertainer's indictment, your beef doesn't seem to be at all about someone being particularly funny or not. Your column does, however, seem to be written by someone who, to borrow the spirit of a phrase, doth protest entirely too much.
Thanks for your time,
Bryan Delano III