Friday, 5 May 2006

Speaking to the Burning Bush

There's a fascinating underground non-debate over the performance of Stephen Colbert at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington on 29 April, even for someone like me unfamiliar with the US press setup, Comedy Central or dinners in Washington. The event is an annual thing where the President sucks up to the press and apparently George W Bush started preparing in January for his comedy routine at the function, which involved a lookalike Dubya next to him, interpreting his real thoughts (which is so OLD, it makes me think about forced stage performances in Veldskool. It's a wonder they didn't do the three-in-a-row toothbrushing-spit-in-the-ear thing...)

Colbert was the last speaker and did a 20 minute routine in character as he does on his TV show The Colbert Report, in which, while acting as a fervant right wing Republican press guy, he satirised and attacked Bush and the press in a way that makes you almost cringe and worry about his personal safety after the show. As Chris Durang pointed out (where the whole transcript is also available), while standing next to Dubya and making eye-contact with him he said things like:

So, Mr. President, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- it's important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash.

I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.
Anyway, the whole debate since the performance (mostly among bloggers) has been over the way none of the large news networks have reported on Colbert's 20 minutes (which included a video featuring Helen Thomas and which I found very funny once I understood what it was about). Where the piece was mentioned by the major networks, it was said to be not funny, although Bush's routine was. There is the question of whether it is supposed to be news, but I must say, picturing something like that in South Africa is difficult, and if it would happen, would create a huge furore.

The debate is raging on, and web sites like have sprung up, where, when I checked, 45650 people have posted thank you's to him for saying what he did. It's funny, because I was on the verge of replying to this article in the online M&G today questioning whether regular people can become good reporters or journalists. I didn't because I was too lazy, but it's more about getting another perspective out there in my view, and maybe realising 10,000 other cantankerous arseholes feel the same as you. Or maybe finding out you're all alone. And dealing with it.

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