"[T]here was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements...." *
That's a real testament to the skill of Colbert.
I'm not generally fond of the improvisational funny, partly because the bounds of "improvisation" are, oddly, fairly circumscribed in a narrow and specific way. The observer is meant to laugh at how well the performer is improvising: "Gee, they thought up that quip on the spot!" But we've all known people who can make up funny quips. Even Peter Cook couldn't make them funny all the time.
Colbert has created his own little world he works in. Most of his show is written, but the countless gestures, moues, and quips aren't-- he improvises lines and gestures in addition to the writing. And he has a fully fleshed out character (one that's defined as "that specific Colbert twat" rather than the general Improv Comic's world of "someone who may make a funny quip occasionally."). His character is so fully formed that he can actually perform the Talk Show Interview in character.
Colbert can pay attention to the shifts and drifts of the daily and weekly news, and to the currents of ideology that week. He can make that funny with his pre-formed character, a lot of funny gags from writers, and his own improvised delivery and asides. And he makes the character seem as natural as Bill O'Reilly or Hannity playing themselves--as the study above seems to indicate.
Of course, Colbert is by all accounts a very nice guy. But, most of all, he's funny.
And, of course, your average Republican really is dumb.
The Irony of Satire
Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report
Heather L. LaMarre -The Ohio State University, HLaMarre@gmail.com
Kristen D. Landreville - The Ohio State University
Michael A. Beam -The Ohio State University