By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Colbert rapport

James Wood, writing in what appears to be a freely available essay on The New Republic’s Web site, shows that he gets Stephen Colbert.

I disagree with Wood’s observation that the transcript of Colbert’s appearance at White House Correspondents Association Dinner is better than the video — I thought actually watching Colbert was what brought his words to life. But Wood is dead-on in observing that humor was just one of the things that Colbert was up to that night, and certainly not the most important thing. He writes:

Obviously enough, this is designed not to amuse, but to wound, to goad, to irritate. It is not comedy; the discourse has moved location, from the funhouse to the church, and it has become preachy and a little earnest. We are in the realm of the blogosphere. Again and again, Colbert chides the MSM in much the way that the alternative press does: “John McCain, John McCain, what a maverick! Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you, it wasn’t a salad fork. This guy could have used a spoon! There’s no predicting him.” Actually, this last jibe is pretty funny, and it neatly pops both John McCain’s ballooning self-regard and the tedious reverence of the establishment media.

And, pleasingly, the MSM have responded with delicious displays of their own inability to read.

Wood follows that up with a nice poke at Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (see this and this). Good stuff.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


USA Today at the brink


Mulvoy on Winship’s Globe


  1. Anonymous

    Dan, I’m still a lot more worried about this:“Ordinarily, a company that conceals their transactions and activities from the public would violate securities law. But a presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5 allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A))”

  2. neil

    Wood almost makes me want to renew my TNR subscription. (Is Peretz gone yet?) He gets that “funny” wasn’t the point. Cohen meanwhile lazily wastes most of his column pointlessly debating “funny”. Which can be resolved in three words: humor is subjective. Okay, now that you’ve got that settled, only 99% more of a column to bang out…Cohen puts a cliche into the mouths of others, then derides them for using a cliche: His defenders–and they are all over the blogosphere–will tell you he spoke truth to power. This is a tired phrase, as we all know, but…I’m with Wood. This admin reminds me of the clique of privileged jocks in high school, feared by most. Defenders of the status quo because they’re destined for a life of power and comfort. Shut up man, you don’t want to piss em off–they’ll kill ya! Till finally speaks up, some skinny, four-eyed wisenheimer. And the lackeys rush to damage control–ah he wasn’t funny, boss, honest! Not funny at all. Why the very nerve. Just, rude like!When Bush does his plain talkin’ and joshin’ routine, givin everybody nicknames and such, it’s just his frat-boy way, don’t mean nothin by it. Somebody gives it back at him and all of a sudden it’s an affront to the august Office of the Presidency. Thin-skinned, those frat boys.Good on ya, Stephen. You gave the bullies what for, even at the risk that they’ll catch you out in the schoolyard after.

  3. leftsezfred

    The most hillarious part of Cohen’s essay is when he says “On television, Colbert is often funny. But on his own show he appeals to a self-selected audience that reminds him often of his greatness.” Dispite the fact that “in this country, anyone can insult the president”, when the president appears almost exclusively before his own “self-selected audiences” he has little chance to hear it. That’s what makes this an important story, along with that of the MoveOn guy who interupted Bush’s town meeting. Anyone could go to a taping of the Colbert Report and make trouble, but Bush usually appears in front screened audiences of known supporters with any protesters kept at a safe pointless distance. America is a “free speech zone”. Let us not forget that.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén