[I sent this letter via email today to Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen.]

Mr. Cohen:

I read with great bewilderment your May 4 column, So Not Funny, about Stephen Colbert’s appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.


All I can say is Wow! You really don’t get Colbert, do you?

“[O]n his show he appeals to a self-selected audience that reminds him often of his greatness…”?!?! The humor of the character he portrays is in its absurdity, and in the inherent satire of self-important boobs like O’Reilly and Limbaugh who are themselves a kind of self-caricature. His victory laps through his studio audience are part of the joke — a joke you don’t seem to get.

I agree that, as you point out, the dinner was an opportunity to tell the president things that it would be good for him to hear. In fact, what I heard Colbert doing was exactly that: giving him an opportunity to hear the administration’s cheerleaders, apologists, and “yes-men” in a new light. The humor of Colbert is in the way he takes the absurdity of the right-wing media to the next level, breaking down the pretense of objectivity and dispensing with the onion-skin veneer of facts that the president’s apologists pretend to rely upon.

On the issue of speaking truth to power requiring consequences, it seems to me there were significant consequences for him, in the form of being all but run out of the dinner on a rail and being attacked by the right-wing media machine (and their left-wing media counterparts who don’t get uppity for fear Karl Rove won’t return their calls).

But in all the media outrage at the “meanness” of Stephen Colbert, I think the deafening silence about the other target of his humor — the hapless Washington press corps — is most intriguing. Perhaps Colbert’s greatest sin was speaking truth to the assembled “journalists” who have proven themselves time and again to be little more than stenographers for this administration’s pablum. If reporters found Colbert’s barbs insulting and rude, all I can offer is the old cliché: “if the shoe fits…”

I’m sorry that you either don’t understand Colbert’s style of humor, or that you’ve let the right-wing version of “political correctness” (e.g., thou shalt never offend the Glorious Leader) make you oblivious to the humor inherent in this mockery of the absurd.

By the way, when you spoke at my high school graduation a couple of decades ago, you weren’t funny.

-Ray Everett-Church