Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reporting on the Colbert Report

Last night, I saw, in person, one of the greatest living satirists, Mr. Stephen Colbert (I am aware of the many commas in that sentence.). Coincidentally, his show's featured guest was U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who spoke about the humanitarian and terrorist clusterfuck in the Horn of Africa, a subject that continues to break my heart every day.

I could wax lyrical forever about the virtues of Mr. Colbert, but I'll keep it short. As I expected, he's a pretty cool guy. Between takes, his studio blasted Cee-Lo's "Fuck You," to which he (and I, I'm sure to the embarrassment of my spouse) unabashedly jammed to. He's sympathetic to aspiring actors and writers and willfully offered practical advice to a young comic: "Write first!" His familiar rapport with his crew was evident, and their respect and awe for their boss was equally clear. He treats military and law enforcement personnel as "VIPs," giving them front row seats to the show - which is how I partook in the wave of high-fives in his entrance run. The second best part - because I love free stuff - about being a "VIP" was the free t-shirt that each person of my party received!
The back says, "It's what Lincoln would have watched."

The best part was this: Colbert and Rice directed his audience's attention to the humanitarian crisis in Africa and offered a means to help. Each person can text "AID" to 27722 to contribute to the UN food bank and, of course, to donate funds to UNICEF. Donating via texting is literally the easiest way to do this.
One more thing: I have never, ever experienced such extensive measures to maintain security at a show. Entering the studio was like going through the security checkpoints at an airport (without the embarrassingly invasive "frisking")! Security guards were poised by the audience, gravely silent and hawk-eyed. They didn't even laugh or crack a smile during the jokes!
In this political climate, criticizing power and social injustice, even through the medium of humor, can be a risky business. This danger can only be attributed to the influential power of popular humor. Some observers say that Tina Fey's caricature of Sarah Palin helped determine the outcome of the 2008 election. Now, in his most politically penetrating gesture to date, Colbert is playing on the same field as the figures he ridicules with his SuperPAC. Empowered with money, visibility, and popular favor, Colbert will indubitably effect some kind of change in American politics.
I only wish Michele Bachmann was playing some kind of character, too. Thank goodness for women like Susan Rice, who demystifies the bullshit of social and cultural constructions of femininity.
You go, Ms. Rice!

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