STEPHEN COLBERT

A comedian, not a partisan

 

kathleenparker@washpost.com

In selecting Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman as host of the Late Show, CBS has waged war on America’s heartland — or so proclaims that Palm Beach font of heartland mirth, Rush Limbaugh.

Don’t you believe it, Heartlanders.

But wait, there’s more. CBS also must be waging war on Asian Americans since a Twitter activist who calls herself Angry Asian Woman called for an end to The Colbert Report late last month following a joke she didn’t like.

Apparently, Colbert in his pretend role as a loudmouthed, conservative blowhard (keep guessing) made a crack about the “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” in response to the new Washington Redskins Original American Foundation created by team owner Dan Snyder, who refuses to change the Redskins mascot name. It was satire, folks.

If you have to explain a joke you may be living in post-humor America.

Oy!

May I say that? Just to be safe, let’s go with heavens to Murgatroyd, begging forgiveness from all Murgatroydians extant and, again, just to be safe, nonextant.

Finally, no offense to Snagglepuss.

But back to Rush, who elaborated as follows: “What this hire means is a redefinition of what is ‘funny’ and a redefinition of what is comedy, and they’re blowing up the 11:30 format under the guise that the world’s changing and people don’t want the kind of comedy that Carson gave us or even Letterman.

“They don’t want that anymore. It’s the media planting a flag here. I think it’s maybe the media’s last stand, but it’s a declaration. There’s no unity in this hire. They’ve hired a partisan, so-called comedian to run a comedy show.”

Here’s the thing, and I say this with all due respect, Colbert is a comedian whose shtick is to present an exaggerated impression of a conservative talk show host. He’s a character! Sort of like, spoiler alert, Bill O'Reilly.

You don’t hear O’Reilly complaining about his role as comic foil. One, he has a sense of humor. Two, it’s good for him. Three, he knows that when people are paid millions to yak on TV, they don’t get to whine when someone else making millions gets a new gig. I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Reilly among Colbert’s first guests.

To put it plainly, the fellow who will be sitting in the Late Show chair is nothing like the character on the Report, which is both a delightful and grievous prospect.

Many will mourn the exit of Comedy Central’s Colbert, but millions more will celebrate his new role. Having met the real-life Colbert, the lad from Charleston, S.C., I’m confident viewers will find him every bit the Everyman as was all-time favorite Johnny Carson.

The one time I appeared on The Colbert Report, Colbert met me in the Green Room beforehand and, speaking as the polite Southerner he is, said, “Now, I’m going to be in character on stage, so don’t let me put words in your mouth.” You can’t say I wasn’t warned.

In real life, Colbert, the youngest of 11 children, is a regular guy with an extraordinary wit who is as heartland as they come, if you judge “heartland” as devoted to family and devout of spirit. He became a funny guy in part as a result of tragedy when, he was 10 , his father and two of his brothers died in a plane crash. Colbert inherited his brothers’ Bill Cosby record collection, which he says he listened to night after night.

From personal grief, he blossomed into a national treasure — wickedly funny, charming and charismatic. That he has made jokes at the expense of nearly everyone is merely further testament to his qualifications. An equal opportunity offender in a politically correct world.

What more can one ask of a comedian?

Of all people on the planet, Americans have always been among the quickest to laugh, especially at ourselves. In my experience, Heartlanders have the best sense of humor of all because they don’t take themselves so seriously. The degree to which one takes oneself seriously is a fairly reliable measure of both breeding and intelligence. Thus, Limbaugh insults his own audience when he suggests that they should be offended.

The notion that a fake persona’s comedy routine is a threat to the American heartland bears a striking resemblance to the sort of literal-mindedness that leads to inquisitions and the Taliban. If you can’t take a joke, you could always change the channel. But you'll miss all the fun.

© 2014, Washington Post

Writers Group

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
MCT

    MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

    Taxi drivers are Lyft and Uber drivers, too

    Complaining about taxis is a Miami sport. Most Miamians have a story about a late or no-show taxi, or about the worn-out and dirty conditions of the cabs themselves, or about our “bad attitude.” But what are the actual conditions for us drivers?

  •  
MONTANER

    RUSSIA/CUBA

    What Vladimir Putin and Raúl Castro want from each other

    Vladimir Putin sharply made it clear that his country does not plan to restart electronic intelligence operations at the “Lourdes” base near Havana. That was predictable. Getting in bed with the Castros again makes no sense at all.

  •  
GROSS

    FLORIDA CONSTITUTION

    Amendment’s ‘caregiver’ clause sneaky approach to legalizing marijuana

    One of Florida’s foremost cancer hospitals takes the job of caregiver so seriously, it holds a Caregiver Academy for those caring for patients following stem-cell transplants. Caring for someone who is very ill is a huge responsibility that often involves addressing basic needs such as bathing, eating, continence, dressing, toileting and transferring.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category