Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Colbert wasn't that funny?

I watched the videos from Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD), and I have to say that I'm not impressed. I hate to say that since I'm a big fan of the Daily Show, and while I wasn't immediately taken with The Colbert Report, it has really improved over the past season. Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Noam Scheiber from the New Republic writes:
Colbert's problem, blogosphere conspiracy theories notwithstanding, is that he just wasn't very entertaining. Most of the funny lines had been recycled from his show; the new material was all pretty tired--including a way-too-long video presentation whose big joke was that ... Helen Thomas is old and batty.
I read the transcript of the performance before seeing the video, and have to say that I was pretty impressed. Ok, perhaps "excited" is a better term. After seeing the video, I felt let down.

Right now, Colbert is being held up as a hero for his "virtuoso" performance. Why is that? Scheiber goes on to suggest that the response in the blogspace may be "evidence of a new Stalinist aesthetic on the left--until recently more common on the right--wherein the political content of a performance or work of art is actually more important than its entertainment value."

Is that true? Are we more wrapped up in the message than the quality of the delivery? Are we falling victim to the cult of personality accompanying our champions? Time will tell, but it seems likely that this performance will be hailed as one of the great "fuck you's" to the right of recent times, akin to Jon Stewart's infamous appearance on CNN's "Crossfire" or his rounds sparring with Bill O'Reilly from Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor."

I don't think that this performance is worthy of being compared to those moments. I do think that Colbert has it in him, but he just missed it this time. From Scheiber:
Jon Stewart often says he hates when his audience cheers; he wants them to laugh. My sense is that, had most of the bloggers complaining about the WHCD been around Saturday night, there would have been lots of cheering but not much more laughing.
Link (via Romenesko)

More press:
Ignoring Colbert: A Small Taste of the Media's Power to Choose the News (The Huffington Post)
Ignoring Colbert, Part Two (The Huffington Post)
The Report on Colbert: Unfunny (The Huffington Post)
Colbert, Still Digesting His Correspondents' Dinner Reception (The Washington Post)
WH Correspondents Dinner Organizers Brush Off Criticism (Editor & Publisher)
Journalism's Broken Windows (The Huffington Post)
The New Bush Twins: Double Dubya (The Washington Post)
The truthiness hurts (Salon.com)

Update: Even more press:
Harry Taylor v. Stephen Colbert


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