Stephen Colbert: Who’s kidding whom?

Stephen Colbert: Who’s kidding whom?

The satirist who portrays a “fulminating right-wing blowhard” on late-night cable is taking the next logical step, said Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post. He’s running for president. It’s all a joke—mostly. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert really is trying to get on the ballot in his home state of South Carolina, because, he explained, “I defy any other candidate to pander more to the people of South Carolina.” Colbert’s candidacy, though, is about more than the usual political gags, said James Poniewozik in With his moronically simplistic rhetoric and indignant self-righteousness, Colbert takes viewers into a hall of mirrors, where the “real” candidates look no less ridiculous. When Colbert the faux candidate, for example, said he decided to run because America is at an “unprecedented” juncture, his “empty bluster” sounded strangely familiar. “If Mitt Romney or John Edwards had said the same thing, would anyone have batted an eye?”

Nope, said D. Parvaz in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Indeed, by positioning himself as what he calls the “white, male, middle aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative,” Colbert only makes the panderings of Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson seem that much more painful. Sure, Colbert’s candidacy is a self-serving stunt, said the Chicago Sun-Times in an editorial. But “at a time when nothing threatens presidential candidates as much as the possibility of a spontaneous moment,” Colbert’s unpredictable wit may be just what this stultifying campaign needs.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Maybe so, but bloviating politicians won’t be the only casualties, said David Carr in The New York Times. Colbert’s gift is his uncanny ability to “mimic and amplify the tics of political convention,” thus exposing the empty pomposity of White House correspondents, political pundits, and Sunday talk-show hosts. Along with fellow political satirist Jon Stewart, Colbert has convinced millions of people under 50 “that network news and talk shows are every bit as fake, and not nearly as funny, as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.” In an “eerie” interview last week, Tim Russert of NBC’s Meet the Press tried to show he’s in on the joke by interviewing Colbert about his presidential run. But as a deadpan Colbert parried and evaded Russert’s mock-serious questions, it seemed no less a game than the interviews Russert conducts with the real candidates. “Everybody is asking, ‘Is this real?’” Colbert said, with a meaningful glint in his eye. “And to which I would say to everybody, ‘This is not a dream. You’re not going to wake up from this.’”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.