Colbert Lampoons Bush At Correspondents Dinner
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COLBERT LAMPOONS BUSH AT WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS DINNER -- PRESIDENT DOES
NOT SEEM AMUSED
Editor & Publisher
April 29, 2006
WASHINGTON - A blistering comedy ³tribute² to President Bush by Comedy
Central¹s faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House
Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at
Earlier, the president had delivered his talk to the 2700 attendees,
including many celebrities and top officials, with the help of a Bush
Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly
supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval
ratings, saying they were based on reality, ³and reality has a well-known
He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White
House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. ³This
administration is soaring, not sinking,² he said. ³They are re-arranging the
deck chairs--on the Hindenburg.²
Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals
by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the
³Rocky² movies, always getting punched in the face³and Apollo Creed is
everything else in the world.²
Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs
best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set
up a fabulous government in Iraq."
He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, as well as " Valerie
Plame." Then, pretending to be worried that he had named her, he corrected
himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean... Joseph Wilson's wife." He
asserted that it might be okay, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was
probably not there.
Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, ³photo ops² on aircraft
carriers and at hurricane disasters, and Vice President Cheney shooting
people in the face.
Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president
decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter
what happened Tuesday."
Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was ³surrounded by the
liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox
believes in presenting both sidesthe president¹s side and the vice
president¹s side." He also reflected on the good old days, when the media
was still swallowing the WMD story.
Addressing the reporters, he said, "You should spend more time with your
families, write that novel you've always wanted to write. You know, the one
about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know--
He claimed that the Secret Service name for Bush's new press secretary is
"Snow Job." Colbert closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to
be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special ³Gannon² button on
his podium. By the end, he had to run from Helen Thomas and her questions
about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people.
As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First
Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and left immediately.
E&P's Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting near him
looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a
little too biting--or too much speaking "truthiness" to power.
Asked by E&P after it was over if he thought he'd been too harsh, Colbert
said, "Not at all." Was he trying to make a point politically or just get
laughs? "Just for laughs," he said. He said he did not pull any material for
being too strong, just for time reasons.
Helen Thomas told Strupp her segment with Colbert was "just for fun."
The president had talked to the crowd with a Bush impersonator alongside,
with the faux-Bush speaking precisely and the real Bush deliberately
mispronouncing words, such as the inevitable "nuclear." At the close, Bush
called the imposter "a fine talent. In fact, he did all my debates with
Among attendees at the black tie event: Morgan Fairchild, quarterback Ben
Roethlisberger, Justice Antonin Scalia, George Clooney, and Jeff "Skunk"
Baxter of the Doobie Brothers--in a kilt.
Send an email to Mr. Colbert:
THE COLBERT REPORT
April 30, 2006
And now for some fake news: The Colbert Report. If you flip through the
cable news channels any weeknight, you¹re bound to see a collection of
talking heads -- rather shouting heads -- who draw large audiences with a
diet of often wildly inaccurate but patriotic and combative noise. The shows
are not exactly news or entertainment but are exactly outrageous. Bill
O¹Reilly perfected the formula on Fox, and others have successfully followed
his recipe. With all of their excesses, it was only a matter of time before
someone came along to skewer them. Well, the eagle has landed.
Correspondent Morley Safer reports.
Four nights a week on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert, the mild-mannered
suburbanite turns into Stephen Colbert, the wild-eyed crusader, hell-bent on
fighting for truth, justice and the American way.
"Even the weather page is in a state of moral decay. What¹s wrong with red,
white and blue, USA Today? This rainbow weather map is just another example
of the homometerological agenda," Colbert tells his audience.
If there is such a thing, he is your humble egomaniac. On his first
broadcast, Colbert announced, "This show is not about me. No, this program
is dedicated to you, the heroes. And who are the heroes? The people who
watch this show, average hard-working Americans. You¹re not the elites.
You¹re not the country club crowd. I know for a fact my country club would
never let you in. You¹re the folks who say something has to be done. And
you¹re doing something. You¹re watching TV,"
Colbert defines his no-nonsense philosophy with a single word: "truthiness."
"Truthiness. Now I¹m sure some of the word police -- the wordinistas -- over
at Webster¹s are going to say, 'Hey, that¹s not a word.' Well, anybody who
knows me knows that I¹m no fan of dictionaries. Or reference books. They¹re
elitist," Colbert jokes.
Asked to define "truthiness," Colbert tells Safer, "Truthiness is what you
want the facts to be as opposed to what the facts are. What feels like the
right answer as opposed to what reality will support."
"But it¹s certainly not exclusive to the Colbert Report," Safer remarked.
"No, I¹m just describing something. I¹m describing ...," Colbert replied.
"Government. What¹s been coming out of politicians for a couple of hundred
years," Safer said.
"Right," Colbert replied. "I don¹t think it¹s a new thing I¹m describing,
but I think we¹re getting better at it."
On one episode, Colbert gave an example: "Consider Harriet Miers. If you
think about Harriet Miers, of course, her nomination is absurd. The
president didn¹t say he thought about his selection. He said this: 'I know
her heart.' Notice he said nothing about her brains. He didn¹t have to. He
feels the truth about Harriet Miers. And what about Iraq? If you think about
it, maybe there a few missing pieces to the rationale for war, but doesn¹t
taking Saddam out feel like the right thing?"
Asked whether the character he plays is smart, proud or stupid, Colbert
says, "I think of him as a well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status
He may be the last defense against Hollywood liberals like Tim Robbins, who
was a guest on the show.
"What¹s it like working with Clint Eastwood, and why do you hate our troops?
I mean, what was your favorite project you¹ve ever worked on, and would you
rather have Saddam in power?" Colbert jokingly asked Robbins.
Colbert looks to the very fount of truthiness for inspiration: Bill
"Apart from the substance which you in a sense borrow from these guys, what
about mannerisms?" Safer asked.
"Volume is very important," Colbert answered. "The only real way to tell
your audience what's important is what you say loudest. I can say it up
here. Or I could say it down here. But I will cut off your mic, Sir. Get,
shut up. Shut up, Safer," he joked in character.
Skewering the media and politicians of every stripe is nothing new for
Colbert. For five years, he was a correspondent on Jon Stewart's "The Daily
Colbert says he modeled his character on "The Daily Show" on Stone Phillips,
"because he's the perfect, manly newsman package."
Phillips also has a perfect name, according to Colbert. "Stone. Shale.
Bedrock. Gypsum. And he's got this fantastic neck and he uses it to assure
Getting to be the star of his own show has taken Colbert almost two decades.
He started with Chicago¹s "Second City" improv troupe, and worked for
"Saturday Night Live" and several cable comedy shows. He had one stint as a
real reporter for ABC¹s "Good Morning America" -- a one-story career.
"Fake news executives are nicer than real news executives, though real news
executives are funnier than fake news executives," Colbert explains. "They
don¹t know they¹re being funny."
Colbert¹s real life is as unglamorous as it gets. He's married with three
children and works very long days. Fake news is serious business, and it
takes a staff of 80 to cover the realm of truthiness.
Colbert writes a lot of what goes on the air and fine tunes everything. He
acknowledges he has the great advantage of using every dirty trick in terms
of editing, something which Safer says traditional news programs are
"So you¹re not going to use any dirty tricks in this interview. At no point
am I going to be misquoted or edited to say one thing to a different
question?" Colbert asked Safer.
"Not. Never intentionally," Safer replied.
"Really, you really ought to try it. It saves you a lot of work," Colbert
When 60 Minutes visited, Colbert was reviewing a piece to air that night --
an interview with the congressional delegate from the Virgin Islands, Donna
"Isn¹t it time to drop the whole virgin act?" Colbert asked Christiansen in
"What would else would we call ourselves?" she asked.
"Trollop Island? The Been Around The Block Islands? ...The Not Until The
Third Date Islands?" Colbert joked.
"Can we just leave it at Virgin Islands?" she replied.
The interview with Christiansen is one of a 435-part series, with every
member of the House of Representatives. Colbert discovered that a camera,
any camera, even his camera, is irresistible to men and women seeking
re-election every two years. His questions are totally off the wall, as John
Mica of Florida discovered.
"Do you have to take your toupee off when you go through security?" Colbert
asked the congressman.
Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio got a taste of Colbert's brand of humor, when
Colbert asked her, "Twenty-two astronauts were born in Ohio. What is it
about your state that makes people want to flee the earth?"
Colbert has been going for laughs since he was a child, growing up near
Charleston, S.C., in a large very family. He is the youngest of 11 kids.
Despite coming from Charleston, Colbert does not have a trace of a southern
"At a very young age, I decided I was not gonna have a southern accent.
Because people, when I was a kid watching TV, if you wanted to use a
shorthand that someone was stupid, you gave the character a southern accent.
And that's not true. Southern people are not stupid. But I didn't wanna seem
stupid. I wanted to seem smart. And so I thought, 'Well, you can't tell
where newsmen are from,'" Colbert explains.
He admits he has what Gary Trudeau called the "boring baritone."
"I have a boring baritone; I have boring hair. Every decision that I've made
in my life is the middle decision," he tells Safer.
"You sort of disappear," Safer remarked.
"I hope so. I'm a manila envelope," Colbert replied.
"It has been said, I don't know if it's any truth to it, that all good
comedians have some painful experience in their in their lives. Any truth to
that thesis, do you think?" Safer asked.
"Sure," Colbert replied. "My father and two of my brothers died when I was
10. I think I did my best to cheer my mom up."
The three were killed in 1974 in an Eastern Airlines crash.
Asked if the tragedy still affects his life, Colbert says, "I know that
after they died, nothing, I was 10, you know? I was still in school. It was
in elementary school. But nothing seemed that important to me. And so, I had
immediately had sort of a, I won't say a cynical detachment from the world.
But I would certainly say I was detached from what was normal behavior of
children around me. It didn't make much sense. None of it seemed very
important. And I think that, you know, feeds into a sense that acceptance,
or blind acceptance of authority, is not easy for me."
At home, Colbert is a doting father who makes sure his kids do not see the
other Colbert -- he only rarely let his kids watch the show.
"It's just like a pure silly thing. But you know, I truck in insincerity.
With a very straight face, I say things I don't believe," Colbert tells
"Kids can't understand irony or sarcasm, and I don't want them to perceive
me as insincere," Colbert says, "Because one night, I'll be putting them to
bed and I'll say ... 'I love you, honey.' And they'll say, 'I get it. Very
dry, Dad. That's good stuff,'" jokes Colbert.
Meantime, insincerity is paying big dividends and playing to more than a
million people a night.
"Is there any possibility of the danger of you starting to believe
yourself?" Safer asked.
"I hope so," Colbert replied. "I think that's the only hope that I'll
actually do this job right -- if I begin to believe my own line of crap."
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Published by David Sunfellow
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