Feature

Taking Stephen Colbert seriously

Why conservatives think Comedy Central’s faux right-wing blowhard secretly agrees with them

“Do conservatives not understand that Stephen Colbert is joking?” said Steve Johnson in the Chicago Tribune. A new study out of Ohio State University found that political leanings had a predictable effect on whether undergrads took the “faux-foaming right-winger” at face value or got his “deadpan satire.” The study’s authors say it isn’t that conservatives don’t get the joke—they think the joke’s on the liberals whom Colbert openly pillories. (watch Stephen Colbert's anti-gay-marriage ad)

“Talk about a vast right-wing conspiracy!” said Mande Wilkes in FITSNews. If I have this straight, Republicans think Colbert is using his right-wing “shtick” to “infiltrate and undermine the leftist media” through a type of “dog-whistling”—only conservatives hear the true humor. Did we need more proof that the GOP is “way out of touch”?

What the study really shows, said Lee Drutman in Miller-McCune Magazine, is that Colbert is “so pitch-perfectly ambiguous” that people see in him a reflection of themselves, like a “fun-house mirror to the deepest recesses of your political soul.” So conservatives see a conservative? That just means Colbert is a talented satirist.

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