Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And So Can You!

"This is not a dream. You're not going to wake up from this ..."

Does anyone watch Stephen Colbert’s show? Anyone see Meet the Press Sunday morning with Tim Russert, or should I say, Tim Russair?

I didn’t see either show this last weekend, but yesterday I couldn’t miss the news that Stephen Colbert announced that he’s running for president on both the Democratic and Republican party primaries in his home state of South Carolina.

I have to admit I don’t watch Colbert’s show. I occasionally watch Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, so I’ve caught a little bit of Colbert. Like any comedian, sometimes he’s funny, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes he hits his mark for me, other times I don’t have a clue where he’s going. This situation is a case in point, and, honestly, I haven’t decided yet. Is this stunt funny or not?

On one hand, his announcement seems to trivialize one of the America’s greatest, most important events, our election process. On the other hand, our recent elections seem to be more and about undermining other candidates and less and less about the real answers to real issues.

I’m wondering if Colbert isn’t making an uncomfortable, but valid point. Is politics all that different than acting?

Off the top of my head … Fred Thompson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Bono, Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood have all been in the entertainment industry and all have served or are serving in one form or another of public office.

What do you think? Funny or not?

Here he is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h66Be4iblRc


Betina Krahn said...

I confess, I was a little put off by Colbert's announcement. It smacked of Al Franken and that Artie Something-or-other who ran for president and made fools of themselves more than the process. I can't help feeling that too many people already feel like it's a sideshow. . . we don't need professional comics cluttering up what should be our national lifeblood.

And yes, I do have a sense of humor about politics. I just think right now is not the time for lampooning the voting-electoral process in such a way. Credibility is in too tender a state.

lois greiman said...

I see your point, Betina, but I do think we need someone to point out the ridiculousness of the process. I saw his show the night after he announced his intent. He was going to fill out the forms. It was interesting to learn that the republicans have to pay $25,000 to throw their hats into the ring. The democrats only have to pay $2500. Before that point I didn't know how the process of announcing a candidacy worked at all. So I think there's some value in the comedy.

Cindy Gerard said...

Ditto everyone's comments. Sometimes Colbert cracks me up and sometimes, not so much. i remember the year Pat Paulson (of Smother's Brother's fame I think) ran for president. That was years ago and for the same reasons as you all have stated, on one hand it was funny on the other sad. But politics seems to always be full of joksters so why not one more?

Debra Dixon said...

Arrgh !! I hate Blogger. It keeps eating comments.

Hate Colbert. Hubby loves him.

Not sure if I'm a fan of his entering the race in his home state. On the one hand it raises awareness but on the other hand it's just comedy and i doubt it will drive people to the polls to help decide the "real" presidential race.

Helen Brenna said...

Cindy, I forgot all about Pat Paulson, the Smother's Brother guy. I guess this is nothing new, huh?

Al Franken, I think, is much more serious that these other guys, though, Betina. He seems to like the attention, but he also seems to have a legitimate political agenda.

That's a pretty big spread for an entering fee, Lois. Interesting.

Deb, I have a feeling there might be a few more beer guzzling guys in their early twenties hitting the polls who otherwise might not have voted, but you're right. Colbert running probably won't impact the race. Good thing, too.

I guess I'm just rather disgusted with politics period. I'm not, not, not looking forward to the next year of commercials bashing the various candidates!!

Kathleen Eagle said...

In my own talks I often make fun of myself and my "elitist" attitude toward Romance back in the day. I was a "lit'ratour" major at Mount Holyoke College (hear the inflection) who "did not read that stuff." But I accidentally wrote it. My point: I'm a Romantic. Who knew?

But I'm also an English teacher, and I really do appreciate literature in most of its forms. I do believe that the arts can help to change the world, and satire has historically been a major change agent. It hasn't always been as sophisticated as, say, Jonathan Swift, but it's often biting. It should make us say, "Ouch!"

We're not publishing a lot of satire these days, but it does make it occasionally on the screen, big and small. I remember Pat Paulsen, too. Laugh-In was a whole lot of slapstick seasoned with a bit of satire. Since then we've had Mel Brooks, Monty Python...you know I could go on and on. I won't. except to opine that it's so important that we pull every wake-up trick out of the thag right now.

I think Colbert is brilliant. Sure he misses the mark sometimes--don't we all--but when he's on his game (which is most of the time imo) he's right on. Lately he's given a couple of interviews out of character. Really interesting! You can listen to one of them on the Meet the Press website. His philosophy is that it doesn't hurt *while* you're laughing, and he says that if he wasn't laughing he'd be crying [about the issues].

Humor generally makes us laugh through exaggeration, and satire is surely true to form. The more outrageous, the bigger the laugh. But satire is different from other forms of humor. It gives you a laugh with an after-bite. It asks you to think about the reality. Like the song says (here comes the Boomer wisdom): "Stop, children, what's that sound? Ev'rybody look what's goin' down..." Or going 'round? Or going on. (Much Boomer wisdom comes from Vietnam. Been here, done this.) It says: Look what's going on with our political process, folks. Is it becoming outrageous in more ways than we can handle? What's going to happen to the "American experiment" if we continue this way? No political lecture, here, just saying...

Yes, Colbert is outrageously funny, but it's more than a joke. His character is a pin-headed political pundit of the ilk that lays claim to tremendous influence through a mass media whose "ethic" is all about the bottom line. We tend to want to take people like this seriously. I know I do. I'm a serious person most of the time. I expect people to be straight with me. When I turn on the news I want Walter Cronkite.

Think about it, Colbert says. He's an actor, a humorist, and people FORGET that. But think about it. When we elect a professional actor, how do we know whether we're getting a public servant or someone who's been hired to play a role? Naivete is a luxury we can't afford (Believe me, I've been as naive as they come in my time, so this is an indictment directed at myself first and foremost.) And satire is all about cutting through naivete.

I wanted to say something about sense of humor, Indian humor, Scandinavian humor (aka the straight man in the Eagle duo), but I've bored you long enough. I'll check back later.

Great topic, Helen!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Here's some related news: Stephen Colbert entertained at the Quill awards, and Nora Roberts won Book of the Year for "Angels Fall." She also won Romance of the year. Awards are determined by a vote of readers.

From today's PW online: "After faux TV news anchorman and current presidential nominee Stephen Colbert kicked off the night by mocking, tongue-in-cheek, the book prizes—chiding the National Book Awards for its “unoriginal” name, he likened the Quills to “the Latin Grammys of literary prizes”—a parade of authors and celebrities hit the stage of Jazz at Lincoln Center to dole out, and accept, awards."

Helen Brenna said...

Very interesting point, Kathy!!

Christie Ridgway said...

I love Colbert...but don't know what I think about the running for prez thing. I saw him on Larry King last week where he slipped in and out of his Colbert character persona and I really, really liked him when he was his "normal" self too.

Right now, as a resident of San Diego County (I'm safe, we're not evacuated), I'm very interested in how our government responds to the devastation here. So our situation puts a new point on the upcoming election. Who do I trust to help with local emergencies? Has the federal govt learned anything from Katrina?

MsHellion said...

He's running for both camps, right? Well, it's his...$27,500, and he's still a more likely (and likable) candidate than the majority running--go for it.

But satire is my favorite. Our credibility might be on shaky ground, but whose fault is that? Ours. By laughing at ourselves, we're not encouraging people to laugh at us--because they already are and have been for some time--but showing we don't take ourselves nearly as seriously as we seem to act like in the news.

Helen Brenna said...

Let's hope the federal govt has learned something from Katrina, Christie.

I have a cousin who lives in Rancho Benardo - one of the heaviest hit areas. Her house is amazingly safe.

Another good point, Mshellion!

Cindy Gerard said...

helen - have been trying to e-mail you and getting no response. sorry to leave this note here but would you e-mail me so I know you got this?

Anonymous said...

LOVE Colbert. I think it's great that he's "running" for president--on BOTH tickets, in his home state.

I just wish that the real race was as interesting as his.

Issues, people! That's what we need to talk about. We have 2 wars, oil above $80 a barrel, climate catastophes ......can we have some discussion about that, in a meaningful way, by the real politicians??? OK then, let Colbert be the one to bring it up!