The rebirth of irony?

This blog will be one of the least timely to remark on the long-running response to the impressively vicious performance by Stephen Colbert at the White House correspondents' dinner last week. This is a yearly event where journalistic insiders slap backs with their sources, and timid humor is traded in the name of appearing to be self-effacing.

Colbert broke the rules, brilliantly: he is a comedian who self-consciously pretends to be a right-wing ideologue, and was speaking to a roomful of people who unconsciously pretend not to be. Video of his performance is available at several spots, including this one. The correspondents' jaws dropped while the president's teeth clenched, and while his routine was ignored by major media (who preferred a tepid routine where Bush exchanged spoofs of his own illiteracy with a lookalike), it has been widely feted in the political blogs.

Was it a comic routine that went over the heads of its audience? A critical moment showing that a comedian is the last person left to speak truth to power? A provocation with unanticipated results? I was impressed, myself -- it seemed like a rare sign of life from a media culture that too often seems to be drowning its own unique blend of blandness and vulgarity. Much of the discussion I have seen of the event has seemed rather predictably pro or contra, but there is a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion on the wonderful Radio Open Source, hosted by Chris Lydon. It is available to be downloaded for your listening pleasure.


redemption department said...

What makes Colbert brilliantly elusive is the way that he, or his character, is so likalbe, and yet he uses this to get away with saying things (both spoken and unspoken) that really never could have been said, especially in front of the President. Yet, because his character so vehemently believes it, we're almost inclined to write it off as if, well ... he doesn't know any better. I think his entire approach, and his show, is indeed raising the bar for ironic political satire.

Eric Gordy said...

I think that there is more too, that by taking on the character who in many ways represents the media institution, he is able to offer insight into the institution that is not made readily available by research (which nobody reads) or by people from outside (like you and me) making remarks about it. More than a confidence game, it's a big immanence game.

rodoyf said...
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