Colbert jumps the shark?

posted at 11:36 am on September 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Comedian Stephen Colbert didn’t take Rep. John Conyers’ advice and leave his hearing on immigration reform before making a mockery of it and embarrassing Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and the other Democrats on the subcommittee.  Instead, lawmakers are taking Conyers’ advice and simply not showing up on Colbert’s show at all.  After years of being the butt of his jokes, it seems that politicians have finally tired of the schtick:

Members of Congress have been fooled time after time after time by Stephen Colbert, and after last week’s mockery, they have a message for the satirist who makes a living lampooning them: Colbert, you’re dead to us.

Colbert’s act had steadily been losing cachet on Capitol Hill, but his spoof testimony merely accelerated a pending divorce.

Lawmakers and their aides are repeatedly turning down requests for “The Colbert Report,” political advisers are suggesting members avoid Colbert like the plague and the infamous “Better Know a District” segment that put Colbert on the map on Capitol Hill appears to be dying out.

That message isn’t restricted to one side of the aisle, either:

The Colbert divorce seems to be bipartisan. Spokesmen for both House campaign committees say they’d advise their candidates that there are better ways to raise their profiles than to expose themselves to Colbert.

“Generally, our advice is always to focus on the local media requests,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer. “The only thing we would advise candidates against is inviting comedians to testify in character before their committee when they become members,” added National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere.

I’m not a big fan of the ironic schtick of Colbert, but I can appreciate his talent for doing it.  However, I’ve never understood why members of either chamber would want to appear on Colbert or the Daily Show.  Authors, I understand; publicity opportunities are limited to a few days after the release of their books, and after that an author is lucky to get five minutes on local radio (except celebrity authors, of course, who usually don’t need the help anyway).  The same holds true for heads of non-profits, one-time newsmakers, media figures, and so on.

Sitting members of the House and Senate, though, can access media at almost any time, especially hometown media where the votes actually count.  Giving an interview on any national media outlet entails risk of embarrassment and errors.  Why go onto a show that aims at making people the butt of jokes and increase the risk exponentially?

The answer, of course, is that politicians by and large think rather highly of their ability to transcend the schtick and figure they can collect a lot of cool points by appearing with Jon Stewart and Colbert.  But the audience size is limited on Comedy Central, dispersed throughout the country, and has a demographic that skews to those least likely to show up at the polls on Election Day, at least by age.  Moreover, it won’t be the witty asides and parries by the politicians that show up on YouTube and live forever — it will be the gaffes.

If politicians stop trying to do comedy and collecting cool points, perhaps they’ll look less like a joke to the rest of us.

Update: I mistakenly listed Lofgren as a Republican; I know she’s a Democrat.  Just an error on my part, which I’ve fixed.  My apologies.


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If there’s a camera, McCain will go.

Cicero43 on September 30, 2010 at 11:39 AM

Better Know a Burnout.

KingGold on September 30, 2010 at 11:40 AM

If there’s a camera, McCain will go.

Cicero43 on September 30, 2010 at 11:39 AM

So will Obama.

Good Lt on September 30, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Lofgren is a Dem.

Infidoll on September 30, 2010 at 11:42 AM

From Howard Stern, to Colbert, to countless other comedians, I’ve noticed how talent can be accompanied by a complete lack of judgment and discretion. This is depressing, because I’ve always thought sense of humor was a big indicia of intelligence. Well, maybe it is, but intelligence and wisdom have almost zero correlation…

ParisParamus on September 30, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Ever since Bill Clinton played the sax on Arsenio Hall’s show, pols have been trying to recreate that magic connection with the average person without having to discuss policy.

ButterflyDragon on September 30, 2010 at 11:43 AM

If politicians stop trying to do comedy and collecting cool points, perhaps they’ll look less like a joke to the rest of us.

Perfect. Hopefully, they will get serious about their jobs and what they entail rather than trying to be cool. And that starts from the top on down. Pushing America over the cliff will never be cool.

BetseyRoss on September 30, 2010 at 11:43 AM

Ed, Zoe Lofgren is a Democrat, not Republican.

simkeith on September 30, 2010 at 11:44 AM

Lofgren is a Dem.

Infidoll on September 30, 2010 at 11:42 AM

And a Dumba$$!..:)

Dire Straits on September 30, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Colbert’s shtick was much better when he was a faux-conservative mocking liberal viewpoints with poorly constructed arguments. He’s morphed into a faux-conservative mocking conservatives poorly.

My favorite type of humor is humor that mocks what I hold dear. But it needs to be done well, and it no longer is. We used to watch the show a ton, but it’s just like the Daily Show now, pandering to its studio audience. It makes me wonder if they lost a writer or two.

strictnein on September 30, 2010 at 11:47 AM

Zoe Lofgren (R-CA)

Ed, You have a bright future at CNN. I hear they need a new Head guy there.

portlandon on September 30, 2010 at 11:48 AM

I’ve only found Jon Stewart funny on the odd occasion. His schtick bothers me. I’ve NEVER found Colbert funny.

And I’ve never understood inviting “celebrities” to testify about anything. Unless it’s someone like Ed Begley, JR who I don’t particularly agree with but at least he’s practising what he preaches. And he KNOWS what he’s talking about.

Sean Penn, Eva what’s her face, Jessica Alba and whomever else should keep their yaps shut because they are making a mockery of the government.

mjk on September 30, 2010 at 11:48 AM

Our R candidates aren’t great, but thank goodness, at least Z. Lofgren is not one of ours.

LASue on September 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

Why would Congress have needed his testimony in the first place? Why would they allow it “in chracter”? Isn’t that similar to having Tina Fey come before Congress to testify as Sarah Palin?

A “smart” Congress shold have known better. Makes you wonder how seriously they actually take their job of representing the taxpayer.

SouthernRoots on September 30, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Colbert, you’re dead to us.

That’s funny, Congress is dead to us too.

Mr. Grump on September 30, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Being cool has been taken to a new level by politicians ever since Obama was elected. Grow up and grow a pair.

NJ Red on September 30, 2010 at 11:52 AM


… politicians … figure they can collect a lot of cool points by appearing with Jon Stewart and Colbert.

Sad but true, this the world we live in today. ”Cool” is what got us Obama. Pop culture brainwashes our kids with garbage.

John Kerry was partially correct when he said some people don’t pay attention and only hear slogans … slogans like ”hope and change” for example?

John Stossel can’t find anybody who can identify Nancy Pelosi but everybody knows who ”The Situation” is.

The publik skool/lefty-media/Hollywood trifeca is winning the Culture War.

Tony737 on September 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

It didn’t take a genius to realize how ridiculous Colbert’s appearance “in character” was on Capitol Hill. However, I’ll put the brunt of the blame on Zoe Lofgren (DEMOCRAT) rather than Colbert. Why? Because it seems Colbert came at the invitation of Lofgren. In one of the clips, he even mentioned he’d leave, but he was there on the invitation of Lofgren, and Lofgren confirmed it. That is, Lofgren wanted him there! Yes, it raised the profile of the issue by Colbert’s appearance, but so would have Lofgren appearing at the hearings topless. Just because you can get notoriety isn’t necessarily a good thing.

asc85 on September 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

mjk on September 30, 2010 at 11:48 AM

Agreed. I might giggle over a line or two here and there from Stewart, who I really liked when he did standup a million yrs ago, I have never cracked a grin over Colbert. And it has nothing to do w/ politics. I just don’t find him funny. I am genuinely sad over the death of comedian Greg Giraldo, and he was decidedly left. And hilarious.

di butler on September 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM

I’m not a big fan of the ironic schtick of Colbert

Me neither.

Where is the conservative comic who exclusively appropriates the persona of a “typical” leftist only to misrepresent and distort conservative beliefs? We let lefists play out their own rope; they need no help from us.

pseudonominus on September 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Top notch, Ed.

Jim-Rose on September 30, 2010 at 11:56 AM

This will start your morning off with frown

I know some of you have seen this

OBAMA: HE PRAYS WITH THE MUSLIMS

Nearly Nobody on September 30, 2010 at 11:59 AM

I think Zoe embarrassed herself.

Colbert’s an a55, but he only had the chance to make a mockery of the hearings because the idiot Democrat in charge of the committee invited him.

Y-not on September 30, 2010 at 12:00 PM

asc85 on September 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

+1..Excellent post..You sum it up well..:)

Dire Straits on September 30, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Alan Grayson should jump on this and contact The Colbert Report for a booking himself.

They’re practically two peas in a pod.

FlatFoot on September 30, 2010 at 12:03 PM

It’s not the jumping that hurts, it’s always the landing

tarpon on September 30, 2010 at 12:05 PM

I want Gilbert Gottfried reporting to Congress in character, too.

profitsbeard on September 30, 2010 at 12:05 PM

I have NO problem with what Colbert did…Congress IS a joke…he just leveraged ut…

winston on September 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM

I’m all for a little humor, although I don’t think Colbert is all that funny. His “character” reminds me somewhat of Soupy Sales. He’s just so predictable. Regardless, this was a boneheaded move on the part of Lofgren and he really had no place acting as an expert witness in this hearing.

scalleywag on September 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Say what you want about Palin but she was never stupid enough to go on either show.

unseen on September 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Why would Congress have needed his testimony in the first place?

I’ve never understood the reason for having celebrities testify about anything other than the entertainment industry. I don’t see how it’s any different than asking an actor who plays a doctor to perform your appendectomy or an actor who plays a mechanic to fix your car.

CJ on September 30, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Boy, politicians are some of the stupidest people on the face of the earth! I got tired of this idiots schtick the first time I saw him. Perhaps if Colbert’s show doesn’t do as well now that Rep are boycotting it. He can always run for the senate.

Tommy_G on September 30, 2010 at 12:15 PM

I’ve never understood the reason for having celebrities testify about anything other than the entertainment industry. I don’t see how it’s any different than asking an actor who plays a doctor to perform your appendectomy or an actor who plays a mechanic to fix your car.

CJ on September 30, 2010 at 12:14 PM

I’ll add to your comment that they are professional deceivers.

George Burns nailed it, “Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

shick on September 30, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Sloooow learners.

TheBigOldDog on September 30, 2010 at 12:25 PM

O/T: How long is Allahpundit’s smear tactic post on Whitman going to remain a “Top Pick”? For crissake’s, Whitman fired the lady when it became apparent she forged her docs. Does Hot Air advocate this Gloria Allard headline-grabbing crap as serious news or the serious pathetic state California is in? October surprise my @ss.

Rovin on September 30, 2010 at 12:26 PM

Not jumped the shark, but crashed into the shark tank. And Colbert is now awaiting for the shark to eat him.

He’s got talent, but the schtick of only showing conservative buffoonery isn’t going to make me want to watch.

rbj on September 30, 2010 at 12:40 PM

However, I’ve never understood why members of either chamber would want to appear on Colbert or the Daily Show.

Hollywood and the Beltway have a weird fascination for each other. Perhaps it’s that they are both filled with know-it-all’s with an inflated sense of their own importance, living in cocoons that shelter them from the consequences of their decisions.

DrMagnolias on September 30, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Political comedy is George Bush having his look alike standing next too him and interpreting what he is saying.
Now that was funny.

BruceB on September 30, 2010 at 12:56 PM

When the useful idiot is no longer useful, he’s just an idiot.

Say hi to Cindy Sheehan.

saint kansas on September 30, 2010 at 12:57 PM

Colbert has made a career of giving on-air wedgies to Congressidiots on both side of the aisle. Last week he did his magnum opus. Kudos to him, shame on them.

quikstrike98 on September 30, 2010 at 12:58 PM

So how does Zoe Lofgren skate on this? Why isn’t she ‘dead to the democratics? She asked him to be there, and to testify in character.

slickwillie2001 on September 30, 2010 at 1:02 PM

@asc85 on September 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM
and Y-not on September 30, 2010 at 12:00 PM
and slickwillie2001 on September 30, 2010 at 1:02 PM

You’re all exactly right. Colbert didn’t embarrass Zoe Lofgren, she did it all by her herself with her spectacularly idiotic idea to invite him to ‘testify’ in character, and in the process it was she who undermined the seriousness of purpose (& sabotaged the respectability) of her own congressional hearing. Can’t pin any of that on Colbert. He only did what a sitting US Representative asked him to do.

leilani on September 30, 2010 at 1:07 PM

It’s understandable why Republicans would be balky at going on with Stewart or Colbert — go back to 2004 and look at “The Daily Show” interview with the easily mockable John Kerry, and compare that to the treatment Strewart gives to anyone on the right.

As for the latest scrum, Colbert is an easy scapegoat for Democrats right now. They don’t want to take a chance at going on ANY show between now and Election Day and face the slightest possibility of being asked any serious questions. So they put him on double-secret probation and leave him (and possibly Stewart) to his own devices at least through Nov. 2.

Twelve months from now, when the presidential primary season is starting to heat up and especially if the GOP gains control of the House and/or Senate, the Comedy Central shows will feel safer at targeting their barbs mainly at the right again, and you’ll see the Democratic lawmakers migrating back to both Stewart and Colbert.

jon1979 on September 30, 2010 at 1:21 PM

That even goes for friendly comics.

Did you see Tim Keane on the Daily Show a couple of weeks ago? Basically ended his career.

Kasper Hauser on September 30, 2010 at 1:34 PM

A “smart” Congress shold have known better. Makes you wonder how seriously they actually take their job of representing the taxpayer.

SouthernRoots on September 30, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Represent the taxpayer? Are you serious? Why would they suddenly start doing that?

hachiban on September 30, 2010 at 1:42 PM

I’ll believe it when I don’t see it.

Gang-of-One on September 30, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Why would they allow it “in chracter”? Isn’t that similar to having Tina Fey come before Congress to testify as Sarah Palin?
SouthernRoots on September 30, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Maybe this was a test run, to see whether they could finally divorce their proceedings from reality altogether.

Sure, this turned out to be an insane and moronic idea now. But if they try it again in another 20 years, who knows?

In 1980, people said it’d be crazy to nominate a radical Socialist Black Liberation Theologist named Hussein for President while an Islamic holy war against was being waged against America. Well, who’s crazy now?

logis on September 30, 2010 at 2:04 PM

A “smart” Congress shold have known better. Makes you wonder how seriously they actually take their job of representing the taxpayer.
SouthernRoots on September 30, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Represent the taxpayer? Are you serious? Why would they suddenly start doing that?
hachiban on September 30, 2010 at 1:42 PM

It’s all bread and circuses — until they run out of bread. Then it’s just a circus.

logis on September 30, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Am I the only person who does not watch The Colbert Report, or anything Colbert?

When I saw him I found him humorless, and rather full of hostility. I was turned off by his fabrications, which I don’t find funny.

William2006 on September 30, 2010 at 2:12 PM

I’ve never understood why members of either chamber would want to appear on Colbert or the Daily Show.

Major ditto, there. These guys have to be idiots to go on his show, where the very point is to humiliate them. Politicians have no self-respect…is it any wonder that none of us respect them, either?

Jaibones on September 30, 2010 at 3:38 PM

Colbert ashamed himself on Capitol Hill as did the doofuses that invited him and that sat through his BS. Someone should’ve walked up behind Zoe Lufgren and smacked her in the back of the head for being such a dumbass as to have Colbert waste so many peoples’ time on this tomfoolery.

ted c on September 30, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Am I the only person who does not watch The Colbert Report, or anything Colbert?

When I saw him I found him humorless, and rather full of hostility. I was turned off by his fabrications, which I don’t find funny.

William2006 on September 30, 2010 at 2:12 PM

nope, I don’t watch his show either. If it’s anything like his Congressional stupidity, then we’re obviously not missing anything.

ted c on September 30, 2010 at 3:52 PM

The crap of inviting celebrates to testify is nothing new as both sides do it. It needs to be stopped. If the Reps think we’ll be tolerant of this type of foolishness then they are sadly mistaken.

roux on September 30, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Colbert Jumps The Shark?

Humps, more accurately.

Not realizing that sharks have two -in return.

profitsbeard on September 30, 2010 at 7:35 PM

Colbert is brilliant comedy and satire. It’s pure pap of course but the fact is Hannity and Beck aren’t much different but they aren’t doing it for fun and really do believe what they are saying (so do their idiotic viewers) so who is really jumping the shark?

lexhamfox on October 1, 2010 at 1:45 AM