Monday, May 01, 2006

Amused to death

The Internet was abuzz with talk of Stephen Colbert's withering performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. From what I heard and read, it sounded like funny stuff. The president, however, was not amused, and some who attended wondered if Colbert didn't violate some kind of unwritten rule of decorum.

To me, there's something very insidious at the heart of these dinners, which is the idea that it's all a game, all for show, and that at the end of the day everyone is just playing a part and they are all in on the same joke. That was all well and good during the 1990s, when the country was at peace and the economy was great and the biggest scandal was that the president couldn't keep his pants on. (Even then, of course, someone was capable of going too far. See Imus, Don.) But now that thousands of people are dying in an unnecessary war, the government is saddling our grandchildren with debt, and our civil liberties and the rule of law are eroding faster than the North Carolina coast, I'm finding it harder and harder to laugh.

Apparently, no one told Stephen Colbert what the rules are. No one wants to be reminded that there are real issues at stake. That the people in the audience aren't supposed to be cozy with the people on stage. That it's not a game. That it's no joke.

No, that's not what they want to hear. They just want some good-natured ribbing, Jay Leno-style, so that they can get back to their cocktails and to schmoozing with George Clooney and Ben Roethlisberger. After all, tomorrow's another day, and the show must go on.


Blogger Jonathan Barnes said...

You are an angry man, Potts. And you're dead on with your assesment in this case, I think.

8:48 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Rage on, angry young man. You are correct, sir, in your assessment. Colbert's "audition" tape for the press secretary's job killed the mood...but I laughed my ass off at the thought of Helen Thomas hounding the White House shill to point of insanity with one unrelenting question...why did you take us into iraq?

you take that question out of the equation and that other stuff you're worried about disappears. then the government can refocus all that energy, time and money on the only war that counts...that one on drugs. (yeah, i'm joking.)

9:25 PM

Blogger Maria said...

What was deeply unfunny was when the media all sat there and laughed at Bush's video at a previous year's dinner where he "amusingly" looked under desks and seat cushions for the "missing" Weapons of Mass Destruction as our troops died on the battlefield. Unfortunately that bit barely received any criticism.

5:52 AM

Blogger Sherry Pasquarello said...

i liked it. i think he not only stayed true to the character he plays, i think he had guts enough to tell the truth, about everyone, press corps included. no wonder they didn't laugh, but squirmed in their seats, seeming every bit as uncomfortably surprised as bush was. they've forgotten their job, or they are so afraid of what this administration may do to them, their careers that they just give lip service to journalism.
i still, like maria, remember the,looking for WMD's under furniture.
no, i don't think cutesy little insider roasts when people are dying is a good idea nor does it show concern over what has been happening in iraq.
i heard on the radio today, that colbert "bombed" that he didn't do his job.that he isn't funny.
i think he's put himself right up there with lenny bruce with his performance.
the president is like "the emperor's new clothes" someone had to point it out!
i think a lot of the press and a lot of us are worried about just what might happen in retaliation, that's not a far fetched fear.
i'm waiting to see how they come down on colbert.

6:07 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

At the end of the day, the people who organize and attend that dinner will decide what is and is not appropriate. But as I said, to me it just symbolizes the compromising relationship much of the Washington press corps has with the people it covers. And that's a problem no matter who's in office.

10:19 PM

Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

I saw a peek of the show on C-Span. Then I was able to tune in and watch the entire bit (3 segments) on the web. Nice feature, on-demand TV.

8:20 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ya, it is right on the front page of C-Span. A search for "Colbert" has only two hits.

I Tivo-ed the whole 3 hours. Watched about 10% of it. Bored with all the Hollywood/sport guests. I was hitting the delete button when Colbert started with his belief that America did actually exist. Ooooo. Clever.

Just watched the whole 25 mintues from C-Span. I did not think it was that edgy. Typical lame Colbert routine. If you like that sort of stuff, then you were happy.

Frankly, I do not know why any Republican Prez would show up to this. It is only a recent tradition. I would punt it. Why bother.

10:06 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I actually think presidents gain more than they lose by attending. They usually come off as looking good-humored, and they get to soften up the press a little.

6:26 PM


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