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May 01, 2006

Colbert, Soup, Piss

A question from a reader*:

I'd be interested in reading your thoughts on Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondant's Association Dinner. In particular, the way that a decent portion of the media seems to feel that Colbert was completely out of line (as opposed to GWB looking around the Oval Office for WMDs, which was apparently high comedy).

Toward the blogosphere feeling outraged that the professional press is ignoring Colbert's performance, well, what did you expect? The guy pissed in their soup. You expect them to report about how refreshing the taste was?

Besides, now that the blogosphere is pitching a fit about it, it'll get reported just fine; the media's obsession with the blogs guarantees that. In fact, here's how it will go:

1. Colbert pisses in pro media's soup; pro media fails to report soup pissing.
2. Blog world cries: "Look! Soup piss! And they're not telling you about it!"
3. Editor & Publisher comments on the blog world complaining about the lack of piss soup reporting.
4. Newspaper media columns note that E&P notes the blogosphere's obsession with Colbert-flavored piss soup.
5. Newsweek's Periscope section runs snarky piece on how if the White House Correspondents didn't want piss in their soup, they shouldn't have hired Colbert, who is a veritable firehose of soup-pissery.
6. New Yorker and/or Vanity Fair and/or Highlights for Children runs a profile of Stephen Colbert, in which his soup-pissing acumen at the Correspondent's dinner is praised as a turning point in something or other; his piss-soup stylings are entered into presidential lore, to live forever as a moment of speaking truthiness to power.
7. Stephen Colbert renegotiates his contract with Comedy Central; hosts the MTV Video Awards with Mandy Moore.
8. Republicans win in 2006; Stephen Colbert assassinated.
9. Pro media files Colbert assassination story which notes the soup-pissing incident in passing. Blogosphere erupts in fury; DailyKos servers melt down under the load.
10. In the dead of night, President Bush visits Colbert's grave and pisses on it.

See? That's how it'll get done.

*I get e-mail from people asking me questions which I then post about online, but since I generally consider e-mail to be private, I tend not to identify the reader unless I get permission from them beforehand. If you ask a question and want to be identified if I answer it on the Whatever, let me know (or just out yourself in the comment thread).

Posted by john at May 1, 2006 04:39 PM

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Steve Brady | May 1, 2006 04:46 PM

The question is, do you get more or less email when you've just said that you're trying to cut down the blogging to do work?

Bearpaw | May 1, 2006 04:50 PM

It's a little bizarre, watching what becomes important in the blogosphere. Saturday: tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people rally to encourage action on the genocide in Darfur. Today: tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people rallying for immigrant rights. Meanwhile ...



Janice in GA | May 1, 2006 04:58 PM

I just have to say that I think "a veritable firehose of soup-pissery" is wonderful.

Cassie | May 1, 2006 05:04 PM

I hope he delivered it better than it read.

Bearpaw | May 1, 2006 05:21 PM

Cassie: Well, humor is a very individual thing. I personally find Colbert to be sort of hit-and-miss. The clip I saw of his act at the Dinner made me laugh a few times, but if it hadn't been for all the excitement, I probably wouldn't have finished watching. Lenny Bruce he ain't.

The righties are all wound up about it 'cause it's a Pavlovian response for them when anyone criticizes Dear Leader in public. The lefties are all wound up because ... well, damned if I know why they're all wound up. Maybe they're just pleased as punch that someone actually said what Colbert said in earshot of the president, and they think that should be big news.

(It is news in a man-bites-dog way, but not much more than that.)

Cassie | May 1, 2006 05:32 PM

I did catch the online clip of the President and his "conscience" which made me wish I could have seen more of it.

Where's the clip of Colbert? I'd like to see it.

Timothy McClanahan | May 1, 2006 05:43 PM

Here is a site with links to transcripts and videos:



I would put my favourite bits in here, but there are way too many.

Rachel | May 1, 2006 06:01 PM

I'm sorry, I think I missed a link. How does Stephen Colbert's saying "Reality has a well-known liberal bias" lead directly to Republican re-election?

John Scalzi | May 1, 2006 06:13 PM

Because while the liberals have reality, the Republicans have Diebold.

Mara | May 1, 2006 07:50 PM

"You expect them to report about how refreshing the taste was?"

I don't expect them to like the piss in their soup nor for them to say they do, I just expect them to report that somebody did piss in their soup.

Tim of Angle | May 1, 2006 08:03 PM

"10. In the dead of night, President Bush visits Colbert's grave and pisses on it."

Oh, I just WISH he had the stones to do that....

mythago | May 2, 2006 01:35 AM

He's saving his piss for the next San Francisco earthquake.

JC | May 2, 2006 08:58 AM

"The Reliable Source" column in today's Washington Post did, to its credit, note:
"The reviews from the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner are in, and the consensus is that President Bush and Bush impersonator Steve Bridges stole Saturday's show -- and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's cutting satire fell flat because he ignored the cardinal rule of Washington humor: Make fun of yourself, not the other guy." It then goes on to spend the rest of that section of the column talking about the twin Bush gag.

I guess we're supposed to think that this one stunt is suppose to show how self-deprecating he is and how much of a sense of humor about himself he has. Never mind that he didn't really participate in previous WHCA Dinners. (Last year, he sent his wife to the podium). To me, this leads to the impression that he's doing this because his poll numbers are low and he needs the favorable coverage. The Reliable Source also fails to point out that Colbert, did, in fact, make fun of himself. The only person who came off well was Helen Thomas. (The Reliable Source is the Post's rumors column, albeit a sourced one, so I don't think they're required to be objective.)

Today's TV Column in the Washington Post has a quote from Cobert's act, a quote from Stewart's show making fun of the WHCA for hiring Colbert in the first place and some genuine self-deprecating humor from Colbert about his reception.

So the mainstream media hasn't completely ignored him, but this is the only reference I've found so far (not that I'm thoroughly scouring the media.)

But, honestly, John Scalzi is absolutely right. The media is not about to complain about how insulted they were. That would make them look like they have no sense of humor about themselves. (I do think that the bit where he gets all pissed off because the media are reporting all sorts of stories that are off the White House message was intended to praise the WHCA at his own expense though.)

That said, I hope everything from step 8 on does not happen.

JimW | May 2, 2006 11:04 AM

-- and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's cutting satire fell flat because he ignored the cardinal rule of Washington humor: Make fun of yourself, not the other guy.

It would have been strange for Colbert to make fun of himself - his whole schtick is that of a rabid, right-wing pundit. One presumes that's why they hired him - to help them make fun of themselves.

JC | May 2, 2006 11:58 AM

his whole schtick is that of a rabid, right-wing pundit. One presumes that's why they hired him - to help them make fun of themselves.

This is the bit that has me puzzled. This is pretty much what he does. If it isn't what they wanted, why did they hire him?

Lou Anders | May 2, 2006 01:29 PM

This is the bit that has me puzzled. This is pretty much what he does. If it isn't what they wanted, why did they hire him?

They hired him because he has a million viewers. They didn't really know who he was beyond the fact that he was popular. For the record, I thought he was brilliant, and Lenny Bruce is EXACTLY who I thought of.

Barry | May 2, 2006 03:56 PM

JC: "This is the bit that has me puzzled. This is pretty much what he does. If it isn't what they wanted, why did they hire him?"

Because they thought that he'd do the very carefully-limited humor that goes on here. Where the president can order a war, and make jokes about the cause not being found to be true. The sort of jokes that those in power, and their flatterers, like to make. Truth in the littlest, homepathic doses.

Colbert walked in and gave them a double shot, straight up. They couldn't take it.

Bruce Zimmer | May 2, 2006 04:06 PM

Not unusual for WHCA to invite a guest and then not enjoy their company. Anyone remember their reaction to Don Imus at the dinner a few years ago? Everyone already knew what to expect from Don or Stephen. You don't invite the opposing forces to tea and then act surprised when they say something you don't like.

Haven't you ever invited someone to a party, knowing a priori that they would tweak a few noses? It gives everyone something to talk about the next day, just in case the party itself wasn't otherwise noteworthy.

darren | May 2, 2006 06:30 PM

"Colbert walked in and gave them a double shot, straight up. They couldn't take it."

That about sums it up. I'm releived to find out that most of the MSM is stating that they're not talking about it much becuase "he wasn't very funny." Phew, I was worried they might actually take a look in the mirror and see themselves for brow beaten lap dogs that they've become. Fortunately, the MSM wants to know and deal with the truth less than the American public does.

darren | May 2, 2006 06:39 PM


Plus, as of this posting, nearly 30000 people have thanked him for what he did. So somebody feels it needed to be said. You should be pissed at the Emperor for having no clothes, not the little boy for pointing it out.

Jon H | May 2, 2006 11:15 PM

I guess Bush screwed up by accidentally stepping into a Free Speech Zone with Stephen Colbert.

Chris | May 3, 2006 03:47 AM

I think the MSM gets the short end of the stick, especially with the rise in the politicization of the news over the past ~10 years. You've got right-wingers hammering on the media for being liberal, you have left-wingers hammering on the media for bending knee and looking the other way to the administration, and then you have the people in the media who now have that shifty-eyed nervous twitch wondering which muck-raking scandalista they're going to have to duck next.

Mind you, it'd be nice for the media to once stand up and say, "Hey, you fart-smelling gnomes! Just because you don't like what we have to say doesn't mean that we're wrong!" but I think the chances of that happening are slim to none. The very people who have long complained that the media doesn't say what they want it to say have cut the knees out from the very people they kick when they're down.

Smurf | May 5, 2006 11:36 AM

When I was in college, i was hired by an ardent Yankee to research the locations of the final burial grounds of Confederate leaders. He then went and fouled each one of them. He was eventuallt killed by a mob while attempting to deuce the tomb of Robert E.Lee.

Laird | May 5, 2006 10:09 PM

There is a very obvious and easily overlooked explanation of how and why Colbert got the gig. The same reason that the Bush group got involved in the Dubai port deal, the same reason they have opened the can of Mexican worms, the same reason we went after Bin Hidin' in the first place. I think, very simply, it's what 66% of the U.S. (and 99% of the rest of the world?) now know - that Bush and his Gang have not got a clue.

Paul | May 8, 2006 02:00 PM

The planets were alligned. The magnetic poles switched direction. The earth stopped and began to spin the other way. Bush was given a dose of reality. On so many levels and in such a perfect display of democracy at work Stephan Colbert made history. What a God-Send. I liked your blog.

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