Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert in DC

I've read quite a bit of commentary on Stephen Colbert's act before the White House Correspondent's Dinner. I'm not surprised that the most doctrinaire Bush-supporters seemed to find it unfunny. But the vituperation from Lucianne Goldberg (calling him a "psychopath" and a "coward" among other things) indicates that the jokes weren't entirely lost on them.

There seems to be a consensus that Colbert didn't get a lot of laughs. I'm not sure about that, since these things are miked so you can't really hear the room noise. Maybe the people in the peanut gallery were enthusiastic. Bush did get laughs for his toothless routine with an impersonator-- but people generally laugh at the boss' jokes, and his routine was fairly well crafted by his writing team.

Colbert is a strange creature to be appearing at such an event. Usually when people think of after-dinner speakers, they think of what is essentially standup comedy. Setup. Punch line. Repeat endlessly.

I doubt Colbert has done much, if any, standup comedy. He has come out of the improv comedy world, which has a different ethos. Even more important than getting laughs is creating a world, fully inhabiting it and committing to it, and exploring that world to uncover new angles to it. The laughs are almost incidental.

Colbert has committed to his world in a way that few of his ilk manage. He becomes his faux-Colbert rightwing tubthumper, and virtually never surfaces out of character.

Quite a few of the jokes he delivered were funny (to me at least) when abstracted from his persona. But, if you're in on the character, they're even funnier. Gestures and asides become more meaningful. For instance, Shakespeare's Sister comments:
Throughout the entire thing, he would periodically look evenly at Bush, holding his gaze and addressing him directly as “Mr. President.” 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.

Now that's committing to a character!

I've come to appreciate Colbert's skill since I've been watching The Colbert Report. I believe the only time I've seen him completely emerge from character on that show is when he busted out laughing at the compound name (a la "Branjelina") for the couple of Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy: Filliam H. Muffman. For a few seconds, he was laughing as Stephen Colbert, not the "Stephen Colbert" character. Even then, his real self was revealed not by words, but by laughter.

I loved his Correspondent's Dinner bit. Here is a roundup of blog commentary. Watch it via or download it via torrent.

On other thing from Lucianne's commentary, pointed out by Glenn Greenwald. Lucianne wrote:
Steve Colbert was utterly disgusting. . . He was rude, snarky and unpatriotic toward the President and First Lady."

You can't be unpatriotic to the President and certainly not to the First Lady. They are not America.

It's also, of course, highly ironic that Lucianne thinks pointing out the weaknesses of the President s "unpatriotic," considering her history with Bill Clinton. I suppose her apparent obliviousness to irony may help explain her reaction to Colbert.

For a visit to an alternate planet, check out the Free Republic thread documenting their responose to the Dinner. Including this gem:
t's so hard to remember these people aren't be ironic! example: I suppose you're right. He wasn't trying to be funny. He was taking the opportunity of being face to face with one of the greatest, kindest, most loving men on earth to shoot arrows of evil at him.

In stead of being angry with Colbert last night, I should have been praying for the spiritual protection of the President and First Lady.

I confess that I didn't think of that until later, when I did pray that any wounds they may have received would be healed.

God bless them both, and protect them from the attacks of the Evil One!
The great thing about that thread is that it's full of statements like that: words which Colbert could say in character and the very same people would, I presume, find them repugnant.

I laugh at that kind of thing whether it's from the Freeper freaks or from Colbert's mouth--though there's a meta-laugh when it comes from Colbert. Free Republic is like a ready-made idea factory for Colbert.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another Worthy Charity

Juan Cole of Informed Comment has set up a foundation that will translate books important to American thought and history into Arabic. It's shocking how few English-language books are available in Arabic.

Since we're in a battle of ideas, perhaps proliferating our ideas will bear more fruit than merely proliferating our weapons systems.

Read about the Foundation here, and contribute if you can.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On Bush's Watch

Before we move onto what should be done about it, let's take a moment just to reflect.

Iran says it joins 'countries with nuclear technology'

Yet another major foreign policy catastrophe, thanks to George W. Bush.

Is there a single thing besides winning elections that Bush and crew can do right? It sure seems that "winning is the only thing" is true of the Republicans--it's the only thing they can do.

Unfortunately, everything else they touch they screw up, and leave America worse off.

Even some honest Republicans admit it. From the National Review Online:
"I voted for President Bush twice, and contributed to his campaign twice, but held my nose when I did it the second time. I don't consider myself a Republican any longer. Thanks to this Administration and the Republicans in Congress, the Republican Party today is the party of pork-barrel spending, Congressional corruption — and, I know folks on this web site don't want to hear it, but deep down they know it's true — foreign and military policy incompetence. " , I think this Administration is the most politically and substantively inept that the nation has had in over a quarter of a century. The good news about it, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's almost over.
Unfortunately for the United States, the disasters this Administration can reap for us in three years is unimaginable.

A Conservative government: rule by crazed idiots.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Manon Ossevoort - Op de tractor naar de Zuidpool en terug?

On a BBC World report from Sudan just a minute ago, I heard the reporter describe the horrible poverty in a village.

Later, when the reporter was on the road, he saw the strangest sight he'd ever seen, he said. A blonde girl on a tractor surrounded by Sudanese locals. She is a Dutch woman named Manon, and she's traveling by tractor from her home country, through the Balkans, down to Egypt, and to the southern tip of Africa. There she plans to somehow hitch a ride to the Antarctic and then to the South pole. She's collecting scraps of paper with "dreams" from people she meets on her journey, which she will carry to the bottom of the globe.

Here is what I must presume is her website, in English:
Manon Ossevoort - Op de tractor naar de Zuidpool en terug?

I don't have high hopes for her journey but I admire her sweet and gentle lunacy. Good luck Manon.
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