Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2013 8:27:26 PM
I watch two types of news every day. First, the actual channels, like NBC Nightly News. Then later in the night, The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. This show is a mock newscast anchored by comedian and clever satirist Stephen Colbert. Colbert laces his accounts of the news with sarcastic barbs and outrageous comments that play with the ironic aspects of society and politics.
The first time I watched Colbert, I thought I had stumbled upon a legitimate news broadcast. That is, until he addressed a recent deficit spending measure and delved into a cheeky, sarcastic mockery of Congress. And while Colbert does produce some ridiculous, obscure bits (bacon shortages, heroic hitchhikers and the like), he does explore more serious, relevant topics. Even when he does tackle sensitive topics, such as gun control, or topics commonly perceived as boring, such as the debt ceiling, he manages to insert a few quips and expose logical fallacies from both sides of the issue. Just because Colbert’s character is an ardent conservative Republican does not mean the GOP is exempt from his satiric remarks. This past election year, Colbert had a field day poking fun at both Obama and Romney. Rather than being the voice of a particular political party, Colbert is more the voice of common sense. Even if he disparages Obamacare as a socialistic scheme, he’ll attack the Republicans’ alternative plan as well, so that in the end, neither side emerges the “better party.”
Colbert’s effectiveness comes from his mock-serious demeanor. The character takes everything quite literally and is generally ignorant and stubborn in his beliefs. But because he is a comedian, he gets away with blatantly offensive commentary without the repercussions actual news channels face. I’m sure NBC News will never feature a bit with its anchor directly comparing Obama to communist dictators Mao and Castro. One cannot help but laugh at his entirely earnest expression when he dons a tuxedo, snacks on cocktail shrimp, and mocks Romney mocking 47 percent.
But the value in The Colbert Report is not purely entertainment. Like all satirists, Colbert conveys perceptive criticisms of our society. After the laughter dies down, thought-provoking questions arise. Why do we let SuperPAC’s run our elections? How will the Republicans rebrand to appeal to new demographics? After the sex-scandals and resignation of its pope, toward what direction is the Catholic Church headed? Even his most offensive, most ridiculous commentaries carry some argument against the status quo.
The Colbert Report is unique in its ability to relate to every American. After all, we are in contact with and are affected by all of the issues he addresses, from politics to education to mass culture. Unlike a reality television show or a contrived sitcom, The Colbert Report carries a relevancy to all citizens. Through its satire, it manages to both amuse us and critically evaluate the subjects that matter most.