Nation Writer’s Farewell to The Colbert Report: ‘I Laugh So Hard I Cry, and In Crying, I Swoon’

If you’re tired of the tributes and homages to Stephen Colbert’s faux-conservative character, take heart: they’re just about over with. Probably.

One of the gushiest goodbyes came from Leslie Savan, who blogs about media/political issues for The Nation. In a Thursday post, Savan noted that on The Colbert Report, Colbert didn’t attack conservatives head-on, but rather “inhabit[ed] their heads via a character,” which enabled him to “demonstrate…how right-wing psychology works.”

Colbert, opined Savan, “show[ed] that beneath his character’s assertion of omnipotence and certitude, there’s a fragility, one that’s also buried in most of the real-life blowhards and their dittoheads…If they stop clapping, Tinker Bell will die. If they stop nodding in agreement, or step off the reservation of Tax Cuts, Guns, and Built It Myself, they could get Other-ed.”

From Savan’s post (emphasis added):

[F]or nine years now Colbert has been reminding us that politics, and the right-wing shtick in particular, is a performance…[W]e can thank his longevity in part to the still longer reigns of his sources of inspiration—“Papa Bear” Bill O’Reilly, of course, but also Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Doocy, and the Fox News mindset itself.

…[A]s a character, and not merely a critic, of the right, Colbert held a unique key to the riddle of modern conservatism: How do they keep getting away with it? Why have so many conservatives turned into such small-minded haters and deniers of science, of reality? Voters tend to disagree with their actual policies, so why do they keep voting for them?

We liberals keep banging our heads against the wall of their illogic, and in frustration sputter out the only explanation we can think of: “They’re… they’re… they’re INSANE!”

Instead of trying the key from the outside, as most critics of the right must, Colbert jiggled it from the inside, counterfeit though his key was. By inhabiting their heads via a character, Colbert could demonstrate, four nights a week, how right-wing psychology works…

Colbert…show[ed] that beneath his character’s assertion of omnipotence and certitude, there’s a fragility, one that’s also buried in most of the real-life blowhards and their dittoheads.

If they stop clapping, Tinker Bell will die. If they stop nodding in agreement, or step off the reservation of Tax Cuts, Guns, and Built It Myself, they could get Other-ed. If you stop stampeding in one direction, you get trampled.

Every night, Colbert’s character would steel himself to stay on the straight and narrow path out of fear.

His braggadocio disguised the fact that he was a coward and a big baby…Every now and then Colbert would come apart at the seams, hiding under the desk…[feeling] an irrational dread of something he’d never encounter, like death panels or jack-booted government thugs coming to take his guns...

More frequently, though, Colbert would ride fearlessly straight through his absurdities, oblivious to any problems at all…

I’ve always said that I appreciate Jon Stewart (and I really, really like John Oliver), but I love Stephen. I laugh so hard I cry, and in crying, I swoon.

Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Entertainment Media Cable Television Comedy Central Colbert Report The Nation Stephen Colbert Leslie Savan


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