Bob Somerby has what should be the last word on Stephen Colbert’s WHCD performance:
WE DO LOVE OUR SEMI-DISTRACTIONS: As you know, we rarely praise Richard Cohen—but this morning, we think he’s largely right. On that score, we couldn’t help chuckling a smidge at this letter in today’s New York Times:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/4/06): The “debate” in the blogosphere over Stephen Colbert’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner misses the point. The routine was neither a flop nor very funny. Mr. Colbert’s aim wasn’t to please the attendees; there was no trace of anxiety when a “zinger” was received in silence. His real audience was at home, and his aim was to make his allegiances clear. On that score, it was no flop.
We’ll guess that may be right. And we’ll be honest—we hate that. Was Colbert trying to please “his real audience?” Unfortunately, he was being paid by the “attendees”—by the people he said he would entertain. To the extent that this letter is right, we think Colbert became the thing he denounces for just a moment—a pompous, self-impressed man.
It was Colbert’s Crossfire moment — the moment when, like Jon Stewart on that show, he started becoming too much like the blowhards he mocks. After that appearance, Stewart’s show got progressively less amusing (no pun intended). It’s not too late for Colbert to avoid that fate, and as someone who enjoys his show, I hope he does.