It takes balls to risk your career to speak 'truthiness' to power.
After the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, where he held up a mirror to President Bush and the White House Press Corp, Stephen Colbert is going to need bigger underpants.
"To actually sit here, at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what? I'm a pretty sound sleeper -- that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face."
You can watch the rest of the speech here. (This is the link to the first of three parts. The other two parts are shown in links below the video.)
Admittedly some of the humor wasn't that funny. The scene on his 'White House Press Officer audition tape' where he was running from Helen Thomas, who kept badgering him to answer difficult questions about Iraq, was way too long. And some of the humor seemed a little mean, such as his dig at the Reverend Jesse Jackson ("You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants, at the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier.").
But when you are delivering such complex and insightful material as this, it is likely that some settling of contents may occur.
Standing ten feet from an increasingly stony faced President Bush, in front of 2600 wide eyed representatives from the worlds of Politics, Media and Entertainment, Colbert fired off shot:
"Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, "Oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!"
"Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality has a well-known liberal bias."
"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."
Clearly Stephen Colbert was not planning to visit the Whitehouse any time in the next two years...
At the end of the speech, The President and First Lady curtly shook Colbert's hand during light, nervous applause, and then quickly left.
And that's when the fun really began. Some media outlets covered the President's (admittedly funny) skit and totally ignored Colbert's segment. Other's did quite the reverse.
Then each side lambasted the other for being biased. Stephen meanwhile quietly went on with his nightly show, The Colbert Report, and commented on how respectfully silent people were after his performance, and how they carried him out on their shoulders, even before he was actually ready to leave.
Truth be told, watching his monologue, my mouth was hanging open. C-Span's shots of the audience not knowing whether to laugh or leave were priceless, and some of the material, when taken in the context of the President being in the same room and unable to comment, did make me squirm.
That is a good thing though. The things that he said needed to be said, even though they were said in a faux-ne-conservative supportive way.
"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"
..is probably the most quotable of the many quotes that came out of the event, and a great example of Colbert's style of delivery for those of you not familiar with him.
I know that some of my conservative readers will claim that Colbert simply wasn't funny. I would agree with you. This was satire and irony, but it was not funny in the sense that we would normally use the term. Funny is the wrong word.
Triumph of comic genius is probably closer....