Thursday, May 04, 2006

Steven Colbert Takes on George W. Bush and the American Media

The American blogosphere has been abuzz this week with debate about Steven Colbert’s performance at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, attended by the President and other notables. Colbert, whose television show, The Colbert Report, parodies (the often ridiculous) American cable news talk shows like The O’Reilly Factor, was asked to perform at this year’s dinner, which is usually a forum for the President and White House reporters to good-naturedly poke fun at one another. Colbert’s performance, however, was anything but gentle. With a mock-serious delivery in which he feigned staunch support for the President, Colbert delivered a blistering indictment of the Bush administration and, to a lesser extent, the media’s coverage of his Presidency. Colbert’s jokes apparently received only polite applause and stony silence, and those in the mainstream media who attended the dinner or watched the event live on C-Span were not complimentary. However, in the last few days many bloggers have defended Colbert, calling his performance both funny and brave. This debate is noteworthy as it straddles two contentious issues in the American political scene, the Bush administration performance and what some consider to be the failure of mainstream American media to sufficiently scrutinize and criticize it. The transcript of Colbert’s performance is linked at the top of this entry (borrowed from Daily KOs). It is well worth reading. It is debatable whether Colbert’s performance was funny or in good taste, but it seems undeniable that he delivered a withering critique of the Washington establishment. It is, perhaps, reaching a bit to analyze Colbert's motivations, but it looks as though he was speaking to American society, rather than the dinner’s attendees, and that beneath his facetious routine Colbert is really rather furious.


Anonymous said...

While watching the video, I was under the impression that there was more than just faint laughter in the audience. Some people are laughing a lot. I think it was a brilliant critique. He is always funny though. has an interesting, brief post on the media's coverage of the event:

Jack Thompson said...

Thanks for the comment. I think Colbert is generally funny and that the critique was rather trenchant. However, the interesting part of the story is that many in the mainstream media characterized his performance as sub-par. Is this a reflection of the fact that he was also mocking them? I don't know, but it is food for thought.

benny said...

Nice post, Jack. Nice to read a reaction. I couldn't believe how good natured everyone was about it. It was a righteous roast. I thought there were more than just polite reactions as well, including a standing ovation from many in the audience.

My favourite part was the videotaped reactions of attendees. Shock and disbelief. Finally those - heard the truth!