What happened
Filing day has arrived in South Carolina, so Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert will have to file election papers and pay registration fees or drop his plan to run in the primaries of both parties in his home state. Colbert, who portrays a bombastic conservative pundit on The Colbert Report, has polled ahead of Republican candidate Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich, and a Rasmussen poll gave him 12 percent support in a race against Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani. A source close to Colbert said he would pay the $2,500 Democratic filing fee, but not the $35,000 Republican one. “They priced us out of range,” the source said.

What the commentators said
“Has the country gone batty?” said Rick Moran at Pajamas Media. Granted, neither Paul nor Kucinich have any business sitting in the Oval Office, “but at least they each have experience in government.” Colbert’s “candidacy may be a gag,” but Colbert obviously has enough influence on voters that he could actually “make one candidate or another look bad” and have an effect on the race.

We’ll know Thursday how seriously to take Colbert’s joke, said the Charlotte, N.C., Observer in an editorial. If he actually “antes up” the filing fees, and files papers with the Federal Elections Commission, the fun is only beginning. “We would have commented on this earlier, but we were waiting to see whether Mr. Colbert is serious. We've given up on that.”

The “real candidates” are “trying to go along with the joke without becoming the butt of it,” said Patt Morrison in the Los Angeles Times (free registration), but that’s hard to do when the guy is beating you in the polls. “Dark comic candidacies” have emerged before—usually in “grim times.” Pat Paulson did it in 1968, and Mark Twain did it in 1879. In between, humorist Will Rogers got 22 votes on the second ballot at the 1932 Democratic convention, which soured him on the “draft-Rogers” movement. “When it was done as a joke it was all right,” he wrote in his newspaper column, “but when it’s done seriously it’s pathetic.”