Golden Age for Satire


In today’s Strib, Paul Lewis writes about the ascendancy of Stephen Colbert as one of America’s great satirists.  Colbert, seen above running for president in South Carolina (his home state), “takes his conservative politics to absurd extremes, exposing their grounding in bad values, including but not limited to homophobia, religious pride, American exceptionalism, and greed.”

Those who worry about the rising cynicism of the American electorate would be wrong to blame satirists like Colbert, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher for the trend. Satire directed at politicians becomes convincing not by virtue of its cleverness but by virtue of its accuracy. They could not make Dick Cheney seem like Darth Vader or George W. Bush seem like a blithering fool — any more than Rush Limbaugh could make Bill Clinton seem like a rogue — unless their targets provided a wealth of material. It takes a good deal of folly, corruption, mismanagement and hypocrisy to support effective satire. A sense of these failings and of their serious costs intensifies the impact of the satirist’s dark wit.

Lewis compares Colbert with Thomas Nast who, in the 1870s, drove Boss Tweed and the Tammany Ring from power in New York.

Thomas Nast Cartoon

Join the Colbert Nation at:

Or, a suggestion for our next bout:


7 Responses to “Golden Age for Satire”

  1. 1 Dave K. November 2, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I second the recommendation for our next bout!

  2. 3 bobbyjones November 5, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Chris Cillizza, writes in The Washington Post, that Colbert is polling ahead of Bill Richardson (Bill B. – are you sure you want to support Bill R.?)(
    “Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, recently completed a national poll of 1,000 likely 2008 voters that included Colbert’s name in both the GOP and Democratic primaries. (He has announced his plans to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.) In the field from Oct. 18-21, the survey has a 5 percent margin of error.

    In the Democratic primary, Colbert takes 2.3 percent of the vote — good for fifth place behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (40 percent), Sen. Barack Obama (19 percent), former Sen. John Edwards (12 percent) and Sen. Joe Biden (2.7 percent. Colbert finished ahead of Gov. Bill Richardson (2.1 percent), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (2.1 percent) and former Sen. Mike Gravel (less than 1 percent).
    He was less lucky in the Republican field, where he took less than 1 percent of the vote behind even longshot candidates like Reps. Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul.”

  3. 4 bobbyjones November 5, 2007 at 9:56 am

    For a thorough analysis of Colbert’s chances in South Carolina, read Joshua Green’s piece in the Atlantic:

    After reading it, I realized that in order for Al Franken to take Norm Coleman’s seat, he needs to embrace Colbert’s message. Can’t a Senator have a running mate? Vice Senator Stephen Colbert?

  4. 5 bobbyjones November 5, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Take a listen:

  5. 6 bobbyjones January 7, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Stephen Colbert
    By Eric Lorberer

    Satire was in trouble. An art form nearly as old as civilization itself, it had fallen on especially hard times of late. In the age of reality TV, the edifying gesture of the genre seemed all but dead. Fortunately, a gaggle of comedic talents started fighting back, among them Larry David, Ricky Gervais, and Jon Stewart. But no one skewered our political pratfalls better this past year than Stephen Colbert.

    Colbert pokes fun at our media-obsessed state with a proctologist’s gloved finger—or make that fist. His pitch-perfect riff on punditry, The Colbert Report, takes the most sacrosanct aspects of our culture—religion, race, patriotism—and whips them into a Jabberwockian froth. But Colbert does far more than merely parody a conservative blowhard. This year, his caricature of our self-obsessed culture extended to having himself as a guest on his own show; his “Better Know a District” segments shamed members of Congress left and right; and his unconditional “support” of the president reverse-engineered a probing analysis of the executive branch.

    This willingness to tackle the commander-in-chief isn’t new; aficionados of Colbert’s antics may remember how last year, as a wolf dressed in sheep’s drag at the White House Correspondents Dinner, he goosed the president and his sycophants but good. This year, however, he topped that performance by running for president himself, a campaign so ridiculous it made the other campaigns look…just as ridiculous. Like any good satirist, Colbert knows that the best way to make fun of his targets is to become them.

    Colbert’s erstwhile presidential bid arrived hand in hand with his other modest proposal this year, the book I Am America (And So Can You!), which, like the silent Ts in Colbert Report, starts lampooning our penchant for huff-puffery in the very title. Replete with charts, stickers, and Colbert’s trademark nonsensicals (e.g., “It’s time to impregnate this country with my mind”), the book has something serious to say behind the chuckles—there’s even a transcript of the aforementioned Correspondents Dinner speech included for those who missed it. The result is a paradox we Americans deserve: the silliest book released this year is also among the sagest.

    Eric Lorberer edits the award-winning Rain Taxi Review of Books and directs the annual Twin Cities Book Festival.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Blog Stats

  • 91,168 hits

%d bloggers like this: