Stephen Colbert: A Parody Of His Own Clichéd Persona

posted on July 4, 2016
Paul Zimmerman / Stringer / Getty Images

Sometimes when entertainers comment upon current events to try to seem relevant or topical, their cluelessness can lead to comedy gold.

On the other hand, sometimes satire cuts to the core of an issue better than any other knife. 

But sometimes, when entertainers feel compelled to lecture us about what they feel and what we ought to think, the emptiness of their words, the worthlessness of their ideas—and the contempt for their audience that this intellectual laziness and insincerity reveal—embarrasses viewers as much as “entertainers.”

The comedian Stephen Colbert gives us a good example of that third variety of joker.

A week after a terrorist committed mass murder at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub—and just hours after Congress rejected gun-control bills that wouldn’t have prevented that crime—Colbert indulged himself with a televised temper tantrum on CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” 

Much in the spirit of congressional Democrats who staged a “sit-in” on Capitol Hill—or President Barack Obama going off on another tirade when Congress refuses to rubber-stamp his gun-ban agenda—Colbert went onto his show in full “scolding nanny” mode.It’s a shame so many entertainers feel compelled to comment on issues they’re so clearly unqualified to discuss intelligently.

After the Orlando massacre, Colbert lectured, “I thought maybe the government might do their jobs and pass any kind of law—even a fig leaf—to justify their existence.”

You mean the way you try to justify your existence on “The Late Show” with your fig leaf of manufactured pathos and passion, Steve? And since when is a legislative “fig leaf” something to be desired? 

Ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people on the so-called “terror watch list” have never been accused, let alone convicted, of any crime—and that denying civil rights on the basis of anonymous secret government lists cuts the heart out of “innocent until proven guilty” or any notion of due process—Colbert nonetheless joined in the angry mob mentality calling for a law that even the ACLU opposes.

“They couldn’t even agree to keep people on the terror watch list from buying high-powered assault rifles. It’s easy to feel hopeless,” Colbert lamented, before saying, “F--- that. I’m gonna take the gloves off.” 

What Colbert should have said instead was, “You’d better put your earplugs in.” Because instead of engaging in surgical satire or even effective argument to make a point—any point, just pick one—Colbert waded into a feces-throwing food fight of potty humor

“Hey, Senate! My dog accomplished more than you this week when it rolled over and licked its nuts,” Colbert shouted. 

“Hey, Senate! I’ve seen bugs trapped in amber move faster than you!” Colbert went on, and his audience responded with all the amped-up wattage of the “APPLAUD” signs that prompted them. 

Colbert scolded the Senate, “You are like a grandpa after an all-starch dinner: You cannot get s--t done.” 

But since when is it “doing nothing” to stand up for the right of innocent people to defend themselves?And “Senate, you couldn’t pass a bill if it was coated in Ex-Lax.” 

It’s a shame so many entertainers are so desperate to seem relevant and topical that they feel compelled to comment on things that they’re so clearly unqualified to discuss intelligently, let alone pontificate upon.

It’s also a shame that their ridicule, their contempt and their “I’ll hold my breath until I DIE!” juvenile tirades inevitably trivialize everything they touch.

Colbert can accuse Congress of “doing nothing” all he wants. 

But since when is it “doing nothing” to stand up for the right of innocent people to defend themselves?

Since when is it “doing nothing” to reject legislation that not only doesn’t address the problem in the first place—but would make the problem worse, in the form of more disarmed, defenseless and dead innocent victims? 

Since when is it “doing nothing” to take a politically courageous stand—in the face of blistering criticism by the anti-gun media and Democrat political elites—to say, without apology, that the Constitution and the rights of Americans are too important to sacrifice for political expediency, election-year posturing, prime-time sanctimony or anything else?

Colbert’s shtick is getting awful long in the tooth. It’s the same world-weary, oh-so-wise pose we get from Bill Maher and Jon Stewart and Amy Schumer and every other aspiring comedian copycat wannabe.

Their irony is so unoriginal that it’s become a trite and tiresome cliché: the principled nihilist. The unabashed atheist who never forgets to remind us how much more “spiritual” and “righteous” he or she is than we are. The America-dissing hipster who demonstrates “patriotism” by running down everything America stands for in Facebook rants and Twitter tirades and broadsides against conformity and corporate greed filed from his Apple iPhone or iPad. The freedom-dismissing “humanist” who talks down to us while telling us that Aristotle and Jefferson are “like, so outdated” in their warnings about the ever-present dangers to human freedom.

On the first page of his 2007 New York Times bestseller I Am America (And So Can You!), Colbert writes (if not grammatically), “Like a lot of other dictators, there is one man’s opinion I value above all others. Mine. And folks, I have a lot of opinions ... In fact, I have so many opinions, I have overwhelmed my ability to document myself. I thought my nightly broadcast, ‘The Colbert Report,’ would pick up some of the slack. But here's the dirty little secret. When the cameras go off, I'm still talking ...”

Indeed, like the meth fiend or coke hound who corners you in the local bar and seems to think that everything he says is hilarious, and that every thought that pops into his head is the brilliantest thought that was ever thunk, Colbert seems to want to somehow bring us up to his own level of awesomeness, despite how obviously impossible that is. 

To wit: In his second book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't—another picture book, complete with 3-D glasses, which is equally, if not more, sophomoric than the first—Colbert goes back to the “bash America” shtick right from the start.… Colbert seems to want to somehow bring us up to his own level of awesomeness, despite how obviously impossible that is.

Indeed, on the very first page of the very first chapter—dedicated to the brilliantly original idea of disdaining American exceptionalism—Colbert writes:

“[T]he Real Question is: Are America's best days behind us? Of course they are, and always have been. We have the greatest history in the history of History. But never forget, our best days are also ahead of us, and always will be. Because America also has the Greatest Future in the history of the Future.”

Wow, man. That’s deep.

Then Colbert writes the most telling 19 words in the book: “Since Day One of ‘The [Colbert] Report,’ I've said, ‘I don't want you to think, I want you to feel.’”

But here’s the thing, Steve: We do feel. We all do. We all care. You don’t have a monopoly on compassion.

But for crying out loud, you’ve got to do more than just feel. You’ve got to do more than just care. 

You’ve got to think. And you ought to call on your audience to think for themselves, too.

Your tiresome, sophomoric, clichéd bash-America shtick does just the opposite.



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