A Tip Of The Hat To The Now Immortal Stephen Colbert

The moment that America was dreading has come. And while parting is said to be a sweet sorrow, the finale of Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report leaves open the possibility of a future meeting. In the meantime we will need to console ourselves with our memories of the past and our hopes for a “Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.”

Colbert’s send off included a segment of his take off on Bill O’Reilly’s Talking Points Memo that Colbert transformed into “The Word.” The premise of the piece titled “Same to you, pal,” was his observation that nothing much has changed in the nine years that he has been doing the show. But no matter the sly references to ongoing wars and political debates, things definitely won’t be the same. There was a Colbert Report then, but there isn’t one now. That’s a big difference.

Stephen Colbert

Colbert was much more than a comedian, more than a satirist, more than a late night talk show host, and more than a commentator on contemporary culture. What set his program apart from any that had come before it was the way he integrated his fake persona into real life. It wasn’t good enough to throw punch lines at society’s targets. That would have been way too easy. Colbert interacted with them, and in doing so, made points that could not have been made any other way.

For instance, when he appeared at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2006, he came in character. He broiled both President Bush (who was sitting a few feet away) and the entire audience of media elites. He noted that he was “appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president’s side, and the vice president’s side.” But the coup de grace was the indictment he served up in the form of a tribute (one of his specialties):

“Over the last five years you people were so good — over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

“But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works: the president makes decisions. He’s the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know – fiction.”

The “journalists” in the audience (along with such notable guests as Morgan Fairchild, Tommy Lasorda, Mitt Romney, Anna Kornikova, and “Dancing With the Stars” winner Drew Lachey) were caught in a frozen gasp as they tried to comprehend what just took place. Many of them rushed home to pen bitter criticisms of Colbert’s performance that they regarded as unfunny. But that didn’t salve their woulds.

Colbert also transported himself into Congress, again in character, as he lobbied on behalf of migrant farm workers. As usual, his shtick was as serious as it was humorous. When asked by Rep. Judy Chu why he chose to address this issue he said that…

“I like talking about people that don’t have any power. And it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. Yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time ask them to leave.”

When Colbert decided to do a piece on how Super PACs allow politicians to skirt campaign financing laws and enrich themselves without any reasonable oversight, he didn’t just rant on television about it. He started his own very real Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. It raised more than a million dollars that was donated to charity.

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There is so much more that could be recalled here, including the historic event in Washington, D.C. with his friend and producer, Jon Stewart: The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It was a biting satire of Glenn Beck’s lame Restoring Honor rally, from a man who has never demonstrated any. But the best way to remember the Colbert Report is by letting the show speak for itself. So here is one of my favorite segments that skewers Glenn Beck’s debut on Fox News by asking “How far up your own ass are you willing to go?”

Colbert’s finale also saw him slaying the Grim Reaper, thus making himself immortal. So there may be more to come. At least we can look forward to Colbert’s return to television as the host of CBS’s The Late Show, succeeding David Letterman. You can rest assured that he will revolutionize the genre, as he did with the Colbert Report. Till then we will have to be satisfied with the bittersweet farewell he gave on his final program. The ending featured a cast of dozens of former guests and friends of the show singing the song “We’ll Meet Again.” But you have to wonder whether that selection was a wily reference to the ending of the film Dr. Stangelove, where the song had an ironic twist.

Stephen Colbert To Replace David Letterman: Stay Tuned For Right-Wing Freakout

CBS announced this morning that Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, will succeed David Letterman as the host of The Late Show.

Fox Nation vs. Reality - Colbert

Note: Not actually endorsed by Stephen Colbert, but still…
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Although Letterman only announced his pending retirement a few days ago, Colbert was almost instantly regarded as a top contender to fill the vacancy. His unique brand of characterture and satire has won him numerous Emmys and even a couple of Peabody Awards. When he assumes the position at the Late Show desk he will immediately challenge his peers to up their game in both raw comedy and creativity. It is fair to expect Colbert to reshape the concept of late-night television.

For extra added entertainment pleasure, watch the conservative martinets of Puritan culture grasp their throats and gasp for air as their lungs veritably burst with outrage. Colbert, and his Comedy Central mentor Jon Stewart, have long been targets of right-wing animosity. To the extent that they manage to get the jokes, they despise them and whine about more liberal domination of the news (as if Stewart and Colbert were actually journalists). They tried in vain to mimic the Daily Show and to launch (or relaunch) careers for conservative comics like Dennis Miller, Steven Crowder, and Victoria Jackson.

Just yesterday, Bill O’Reilly devoted his nightly Talking Points Memo segment to Colbert, whom he called “a deceiver” for mocking O’Reilly’s ludicrous defense of income inequality. O’Reilly went on to say that…

“Colbert can be dismissed as clueless, but the guy does do damage because he gives cover to the powerful people who are selling Americans a big lie, that this country is bad, that it intentionally oppresses many of its own citizens. That is a lie. That point of view is shameful.”

Well, O’Reilly is the authority when it comes to doing damage by giving cover to powerful people selling lies. But even as Fox News blasts Colbert and Stewart as hopelessly biased, they have recognized the falsehood in that characterization. News Corpse documented 29 occasions where the Fox Nation website praised Stewart for taking the conservative side on his program. That, however, has never stopped them from asserting that Stewart is a socialist who only satirizes conservatives.

In response to the Colbert promotion, Breitbart News editor, John Nolte tweeted “Low-Rated Hyper-Partisan Lefty to Replace David Letterman.” He previously critiqued Colbert saying that…

“There’s a HUGE left-wing agenda behind what Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert is doing, and it’s a serious agenda that has nothing to do with satire.”

That’s typical of the viewpoint that Nolte has held for years. In a series of ignorant columns attacking Colbert, Nolte pointed out what he considered to be the poor ratings performance of The Colbert Report. But due to his embarrassing ignorance of the television business, Nolte failed to realize that Colbert’s ratings were better than those of Fox News. What’s more, no knowledgeable person would compare the ratings of a niche cable channel with those of a broadcast TV network. When Colbert moves up to CBS he will inherit the audience that goes along with it.

Rush Limbaugh weighed in saying that…

“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American, conservative values. Now it’s just right out in the open.”

NewsBusters’ Dan Gainor tweeted…

“Colbert: From liberal asshat pretending to be conservative to liberal asshat who gets to be honest about his asshattery.”

Karl Rove was personally offended by Colbert’s “Ham Rove” bit, which he took as a threat of violence:

“One liberal replacing another one. Only this one apparently knows how to wield a knife.”

Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post published a screed titled “Picking Colbert to replace Letterman? CBS really screwed up,” in which author Kyle Smith (who?) says that Colbert is…

“…only funny if you accept the premise (conservatives are morons) while you snort Mountain Dew out your nose.”

There will surely be more to come from these media geniuses who live in fear of Colbert’s brand of truthiness. If they were smart they would withhold their juvenile insults and accept the fact that CBS made a decision that is in the best interests of their bottom line. They could simply declare that their silly #CancelColbert boycott campaign was a huge success and return to something they have a much longer history of – insulting women and minorities.

The prospect for Colbert’s future as a late-night host are promising. He has an appealing personality and an engaging rapport with the guests he interviews. He is likely to have less political content on CBS, where their Standards and Practices department will keep a tighter rein on him. That will be a loss for those of us who cherish his outlook on society and culture, but you can’t blame him for aspiring to advance his career. And while he may tone it down, he likely will not abandon it altogether.

What many of the people commenting on this news are neglecting to mention is that there will now be a vacancy at Comedy Central. Here’s hoping that Jon Stewart, whose production company put Colbert on as his lead-out, will have some say in the matter of what follows him next. Due to his irreplaceable persona, it will not be possible to slip someone else into the same format. But another snarky news send-up is still the obvious choice to fill out the late-night hour. Perhaps Comedy Central could parody Fox News’ The Five, with a panel show featuring Daily Show regulars like Lewis Black, John Hodgeman, Kristen Schaal, Al Madrigal, Jessica Williams, Wyatt Cynac, etc.

They have no shortage of talent available. And, thanks to Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media circus, they have no shortage of material either.

[Update] On his show last night, Bill O’Reilly ignored the news about Colbert’s new job, but Time Magazine caught up with him and elicited this response: “I hope Colbert will consider me for the Ed McMahon spot.” Proving once again that O’Reilly is hopelessly stuck in the past, his attempt at humor reached back to reference a decades old sidekick, rather than a more relevant choice like Paul Shaffer or Alan Coulter. But O’Reilly would be a good choice for an Ed McMahon role, whose comedic persona was that of an old Irish loudmouth and a notorious drunk.

Bill O'Reilly/Stephen Colbert

Fox News: Racism Is Their Marketing Plan

A press conference will be held today at 2:30 outside of the offices of Fox News in New York. The purpose of the gathering is to deliver a petition with over 600,000 names to network executives calling for an end to the racist attacks against black Americans including Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. The petition is the work of Color of Change and MoveOn and asks Fox News CEO Roger Ailes to respond to the allegation that…

“Fox has developed a pattern of airing racially offensive attacks, then apologizing only after controversy erupts. Forced, half-hearted apologies do not demonstrate good faith when the larger pattern of offensive rhetoric continues.”

Examples of Fox’s intolerance abound, but for a brief recap of a few that occurred just this year:

  • Obama’s Baby Mama
  • Terrorist Fist Jab
  • Knock Off Osama …uh… Obama … Well, Both If We could
  • Lynching Party Against Michelle Obama
O'Reilly Lynching Party

The coalition delivering the petition will include rapper, Nas, who has had his own problems with Fox News. Last August, Nas was scheduled to appear at a memorial concert for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. Bill O’Reilly condemned the booking as an atrocity. Nas responded by saying that…

“Everybody has a marketing plan; his marketing plan is racism […] I wouldn’t honor anything Bill O’Reilly has to say. It just shows you what bloodsuckers do: They abuse something like the Virginia Tech [tragedy] for show ratings.”

Well said. But he’s not done. His new album “Untitled” (which just hit #1) features a track dedicated to Fox News called “Sly Fox,” that begins, “The Sly Fox, Cyclops, We locked in the idiot box,” and continues, “Watch what you watchin’, Fox keeps feeding us toxins, Stop sleeping, Start thinking, Outside of the box.” Here’s the whole thing on video:


Update: Fox News did not accept the petitions but made a statement in response that trivializes the 600,000 signers while taking a slap at Nas:

Fox News Racist“Fox News believes in all protesters exercising their right to free speech including Nas who has an album to promote.”

Nas had his own statement:

“Fox poisons this country every time they air racist propaganda and try to call it news. This should outrage every American that Fox uses hateful language to talk about the person that may be the first black president.”

After Fox refused to take the petitions, Nas took them to Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Once again, Comedy Central proves to be a better practitioner of Journalism than Fox News.

Link to Colbert Report’s Color of Change Segment
Link to Colbert’s interview of Nas
Link to Nas performance on the Colbert Report

Daily Show/Colbert Viewers Most Informed – Fox, Not So Much

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has published a new study that measures the public’s knowledge of national and international news. The results are not likely to surprise anyone but Fox viewers, who come in at the bottom of the list (they probably don’t know that there is a list – or what a list is). And, although I’m not surprised to see the Daily Show/Colbert Report place high on the list, it is a bit of a jolt to see them at the very top. It would not likely shock Stephen Colbert, and not just because he would have felt it in his gut. While still with the Daily Show he explained why their audience reportedly got much of their news from the comedy program.

“Stephen Colbert, a Daily Show correspondent, has said that he doesn’t believe that viewers learn anything from the show. He contends that, if they weren’t already knowledgeable about political and social affairs, they wouldn’t get the jokes.”

That, of course, is true, and may help to explain these new statistics.

Knowledge Levels By News Source:
News Source High Mod Low
Daily Show/Colbert Report 54 25 21
Major Newspaper websites 54 26 20
News Hour w/Jim Lehrer 53 19 28
O’Reilly Factor 51 32 17
National Public Radio 50 29 21
Rush Limbaugh 50 29 21
News magazines 48 27 25
TV News websites 44 33 23
Daily newspaper 43 31 26
CNN 41 30 29
Google, Yahoo, etc. 41 35 24
Network evening news 38 33 29
Online news blogs 37 26 37
Local TV news 35 33 32
Fox News 35 30 35
Network morning shows 34 36 30

These results confirm previous studies that showed Fox viewers as being, not only the least informed, but also more likely to hold beliefs about news that were demonstrably false. You might think that the quantity and frequency of these studies would have some effect on how the rest of the media deals with Fox. They are simply not to be taken seriously. And their viewers are not an audience that is open to diverse points of view. They are too focused on their fabrications of reality.

While I have not seen a study that confirms this, I don’t believe that Fox viewers are misinformed because of Fox. I believe that they self-select the news source that comports with their prejudices. Anyone who suggests that such an audience presents an opportunity for progressives to convey an alternate view is ignoring the deep-seated, built-in biases that attract an audience to Fox in the first place. Consequently, Democrats would have absolutely nothing to gain by appearing on a Fox-sponsored debate.

The study also makes some good points in support of the position that a decentralized and diverse media universe promotes greater knowledge. The study reports that…

“…people who use more news sources know more than those who use fewer sources.”

Some of this may seem obvious, but the Republican majority commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission still have to be convinced. They are presently conducting public hearings to determine whether media ownership caps should be loosened or repealed. This, despite the fact that numerous studies have agreed with the Pew Center’s conclusions. In October of 2006, the Benton Foundation released a set of studies that…

“…make clear that media consolidation does not create better, more local or more diverse media content. To the contrary, they strongly suggest that media ownership rules should be tightened not relaxed.”

And even the FCC’s own research concurred in a report that was buried, and ordered destroyed, by then FCC Chairman Michael Powell. [You can help persuade the FCC not to allow more consolidation by contacting them through the FreePress-sponsored StopBig Media campaign].

The importance of having varied and independent sources for news has never been clearer. The myopia of Fox and it’s audience is both frightening and depressing. If we ever hope to address the larger issues that face our country and our world, we will need an informed and energized citizenry. But the effect of corporate media megaliths works in diametric opposition to that goal. They are, in fact, producing a nation steeped in ignorance and division, and this study is just another nail in that coffin. Those of us who see through the veil must continue to fight for a truly free press, the keystone of democracy and the only path to true liberty.

The Pew Center has an online version of the survey that you can complete and compare your score with the rest of the survey group.