I finally got around to watching Stephen Colbert's much-discussed performance at the White House Correspondents dinner online today. And you know what? It was funny. Quite funny. Obviously they can't all be gems, but Colbert got off as many good lines as anyone who's ever hosted this thing.
Because of the sad fact that I don't have a life, I actually watch this thing live on C-Span almost every year. On a Saturday night. This was the one year where I had a life for about a week and missed seeing it. But the point is, I've watched enough of these to know one thing: the headliner always falls flat in the room. It's not the material. It's a bad room.
The press laugh when the headliner makes fun of the president, but they don't like it when they're made fun of (which Colbert did in abundance). It's also an inherently uncomfortable situation, where someone is supposed to skewer a man five feet from him who has the power to launch nuclear bombs. Everybody expects the president to get up and make jokes, and then they skewer him for "making jokes at a time like this." It's just an awkward deal.
Broad, lame, gentle humor generally goes over best there. Remember Laura Bush's supposedly uproarious "Desperate Housewives" schtick last year? The reviews were ready to crown her the new Lucille Ball. And a few years ago, I think Ray Romano even showed his home movies. They liked that. What they don't like is barbed satire, which is what Colbert has to offer. But that says more about the thick-headed, humorless press corps than it does about the material.
Fact is, I like conservatism, but I like really good comedy even more. And Colbert, lefty-liberal though I'm sure he is, provided it.
Related Tags: Stephen Colbert, Colbert Report, White House Correspondents dinner, Laura Bush, Ray Romano, Desperate Housewives