30 April, 2006

The White House Correspondents Dinner

Boy, a bunch of people with leftward sympathies are extremely thrilled with Stephen Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

I admit that I'm most decidedly not seeing this through the most even-handed point of view in the world. While GWB is not my favourite of Presidents by a long (long) shot, I am still really irritated at the constant jabs made in his direction.
This President has had a lot on his plate, and he still seems to have retained a decent amount of his sense of humour.

Earlier, the president had addressed the crowd with a Bush impersonator alongside, with the faux-Bush speaking precisely and the real Bush deliberately mispronouncing words, such as the inevitable "nuclear." At the close, Bush called the imposter "a fine talent. In fact, he did all my debates with Senator Kerry." The routine went over well with the crowd -- better than did Colbert's, in fact.


Yet it's soooo coool to so many people to see Colbert lay into him. I don't get why the right side of the aisle seems to always be the brunt of these routines. Step back 10 years to the 1996 dinner, hosted by that brave Right Winger Al Franken.

Now the whole point of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot was to satirize the breakdown of civility in our public discourse, which is having a tremendously corrosive effect on society in general. Case in point. Don Imus. And that's why tonight, I'd like to do my part to move the national dialogue forward, not backward. And in all modesty I really hope that historians will look back on this speech as a watershed event that ushers in a New Age of Civility - which will begin immediately after I tell the following jokes about the Speaker.


Light on Clinton jokes, heavy on rightie-bashing.

And then, of course, in 1998, many prominant folks on the left were quite aggrieved at the very idea of Paula Jones dining in the same room at that year's WHC dinner.

Arianna Huffington was correct when she stated that
Political satire at its keenest has always been about speaking truth to power -- sometimes brutally, always wittily.


What is ironic was that she was lambasting the 1998 dinner for being too deferential to Clinton. So, do I think Colbert should have been more tame in his remarks? No. The WHCDinner has always been about sharp barbs between the president and the DC press. Except, of course, during the oh-so-deferential and fawning Clinton years.

Yeah, Stephen Colbert got a few good ones in on ol' Dubya. But you know what? Dubya let him. Dubya took it, albeit stoically. GWB didn't book obvious fanboys like Franken or crowd-pleasing lightweights like Jay Leno and Ray Romano. So next time you cheer on someone for dishing it out against the Right, remember that when the Left was in power, they couldn't even try to take it.

15 Comments:

At 1:50 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Jeffraham Prestonian said...

Except, of course, during the oh-so-deferential and fawning Clinton years.

I guess you missed Don Imus' performance... that was during the Clinton administration, but can't recall the year.

Yeah, Stephen Colbert got a few good ones in on ol' Dubya. But you know what? Dubya let him. Dubya took it, albeit stoically. GWB didn't book obvious fanboys like Franken or crowd-pleasing lightweights like Jay Leno and Ray Romano.

That would be because the administration has no say in who is invited to speak at the dinner. That's handled by these folks. Of course, Bush could have simply not shown, but I think he's trying to get out of the bubble more, these days.
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At 6:23 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

I'll agree that you don't here that much comedy coming out at the Left's expense but I don't think it's because the left can't take it but rather because the right doesn't give it. Most of the right doesn't know how to use comedy and so when they try usually it just comes out sounding mean, or stupid, or just not funny.

Take South Park for example. They've always been Right-wing but lately as they've gotten more political and the show has turned exclusively into a "bash liberal" series, it's lost that which made it funny and it's ratings are telling the tale.

At least they're TRYING to use comedy though. Most criticizism I hear of the left is incredibly mean-spirited, aggressive, and sometimes violent.

 
At 7:44 AM, May 01, 2006, Anonymous brittney said...

Yeah, the speaker is not chosen by the sitting administration.

Dubya let him. Dubya took it, albeit stoically. GWB didn't book obvious fanboys like Franken or crowd-pleasing lightweights like Jay Leno and Ray Romano.

What, besides "taking it," could he have done differently?

For me the thrill comes from Bush being forced to hear his mistakes. The man has admitted but one in the entire time he's been President. When you know that your commander-in-chief doesn't read newspapers or watch anything but Fox News (so much so that they were clueless about the effects of Katrina), it is nice to see him confronted with his endless list of massive mistakes in judgement.

But that's just me.

 
At 10:35 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

That's handled by these folks.

JP, I realise that. My point is that when Clinton was in power, "those folks" more often than not made a concerted effort to hire on tame entertainment.

because the right doesn't give it.

I can't think of a single right-wing humourist. That is true.

Most of the right doesn't know how to use comedy and so when they try usually it just comes out sounding mean, or stupid, or just not funny.

I think it's a combination of three things.

1. Those on the right don't like to use humour, or do so subtly. (James Lileks is the closest I can think of--and he's not far right.)

2. Public comedy is like journalism or teaching, where people who enter and succeed in the field tend to be like-minded. I don't see there being a lot of networking opportunities for right-wing comedy.

3. Since we don't have any true humourists, people think that bombastic blowhards (i.e. Rush Limbaugh, Phil Valentine, Ann Coulter) are "our" comedy. They aren't.

 
At 10:36 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

What, besides "taking it," could he have done differently?


Like Clinton he could have exerted a genteel pressure on the event organisers to book a tame host.

Or perhaps not, because Clinton did a far better job at orchestrating good relationships with the press corps.

 
At 11:20 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger TVonthefritz said...

"South Park" grills leftists all the time and I think it's guffawingly funny. If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?
And "South Park" has always had a shrewd rightist bent. From the second season when Matt Stone and Trey Parker skewered hate crime legislation under the guise of Cartman lobbing a rock at Token.
Good stuff.

 
At 11:22 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger TVonthefritz said...

PJ O' Rourke is a right-wing humorist. So is Ann Coulter despite the fact she wouldn't know comedy if it bit her in the arse.

 
At 2:09 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

TV,
I agree that South Park has always been right-wing and anti-leftist (I noted that). The difference between the early days and now is that it used to be funny.

I'm saying that I think largely the reason it's not funny anymore is because they've eliminated just about everything and no it's simply liberal bashing with very little else and so it comes off as somebody doing a really awful job of satire. Or perhaps I just saw a few particularly bad episodes the other night (could be either, I haven't watched it regularly in awhile). Either way, it's losing ratings and I think that makes it a valid part of a discussion on right-wing humor.

 
At 2:34 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Lee said...

Though he doesn't really do 'comedy,' if you ever get to hear Ben (Bueller? Bueller?) Stein in conversation, that is one funny man with a great dry wit.

He was a speech writer for Nixon for Pete's sake.

And they say that Drew Carey is a libertarian leaning Republican, but that doesn't really affect his schtick.

In many ways, going into comedy is rebellion, just like going into music. "What boy? You gonna tell jokes for a living?"

Conservatism and rebellion are by nature not very dissimilar.

 
At 2:36 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Lee said...

Dangit, ignore that double negative in that last sentence. You know what I mean.

 
At 4:03 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Jeffraham Prestonian said...

Like Clinton he could have exerted a genteel pressure on the event organisers to book a tame host.

Is this supposition, or is there something demonstrable to show that Clinton exerted this genteel pressure?
.

 
At 4:22 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Well, I guess that would depend on if you went to any of the links I posted. No, I don't have a forged memo showing that hosts such as Jay Leno and Ray Romano were chosen for their mild and inoffensive material, or that after Imus' scathing speech in 1996, the WHCA purposefully chose such Clintonian crowd pleasers as Al Franken.

The Clintons even threatened to boycott the WHC Dinner in 1999, when Isikoff attended.

 
At 4:41 PM, May 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Earlier, the president had addressed the crowd with a Bush impersonator alongside, with the faux-Bush speaking precisely and the real Bush deliberately mispronouncing words, such as the inevitable "nuclear." At the close, Bush called the imposter "a fine talent. In fact, he did all my debates with Senator Kerry." The routine went over well with the crowd -- better than did Colbert's, in fact.

It all depends on which crowd you mean, I guess. The first part of Colbert's routine, in which he made jokes about the President, went over fine with the crowd at the dinner, and with the crowd at home watching on TV. Then he began to make jokes about the media falling down on (what he sees as) their job of challenging the President. The crowd at the dinner -- remember, the White House Correspondents and their guests -- stopped applauding, since they were the butt of the jokes. The crowd watching along at home (at least in my home) found this every bit as funny, and a lot less usual, than the Bush jokes.

And if you want my completely speculative opinion on why it was Colbert who was invited to entertain, it's because someone concerned with the White House Correspondents and other journalists thinks that they have indeed fallen down on the job of asking the hard questions and pressing for answers. And that someone thought the press ought to be called on it -- with some humor, but hard.

nm

 
At 4:58 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Jeffraham Prestonian said...

Well, I guess that would depend on if you went to any of the links I posted. No, I don't have a forged memo showing that hosts such as Jay Leno and Ray Romano were chosen for their mild and inoffensive material, or that after Imus' scathing speech in 1996, the WHCA purposefully chose such Clintonian crowd pleasers as Al Franken.

So, other than what you wrote below, you have noting linking Clinton, himself, to any influence over the chosen speakers.

The Clintons even threatened to boycott the WHC Dinner in 1999, when Isikoff attended.

Bush should've done that the year he made the "WMD-under-the-sofa-cushions" joke. which was terribly hilarious and appropriate, with our troops in harm's way.
.

 
At 9:31 AM, May 02, 2006, Blogger Patrick said...

The think I like about Colbert is that he's purposefully parodying the right wing, but in doing so, he ends up making some salient points. I believe it was in his 60 minutes interview that he said essentially that he believed some of what he was saying, but didn't feel it was important to reveal what he actually agreed with his character Colbert on.

Anonymous probably hit the nail on the head with Colbert's digging at the media falling on deaf ears. It's funny until the joke's about you.

 

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