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The Colbert Blackout

"Colbert's routine was similar to what he does on his show, the Colbert Report, but much longer on the topic of Bush, suggesting that the president is out of touch with reality. Aides and reporters, however, said that it did not overshadow Bush's own funny routine, which featured an impersonator who told the audience what Bush was thinking when he spoke dull speech lines."

On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann asked Washington Post political columnist Dana Milbank if Colbert crossed the line.

Milbank: "I don't think he really crossed the line. I just think he wasn't terribly funny. And he had the misfortune of following Bush, who actually did put on one of the better performances of his presidency."

He added: "The president's used to getting abused. He didn't get anything worse than he got at Coretta Scott King's funeral, which was certainly a bit more outlandish than this. So I think he probably comes out ahead in this whole thing."

CNN and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocks the outraged liberals: "What's more, you may be interested to know that there's a MEDIA COVERUP of the Colbert performance. The MSM don't want you to know about how the Comedy Central man made them look bad! (Never mind that the thing was carried on C-SPAN and the video is widely available online. I played two clips of Colbert on my CNN show, so apparently I didn't get the memo.)"

Frank James writes in the Chicago Tribune's Washington blog: "I sensed a lot of uneasiness in the audience during Colbert's routine. It would make Republican partisans uneasy for obvious reasons.

"But I also had the sense that Colbert's toughness on Bush made people squirm because it raised that age-old question that goes back to the republic's start. How do you criticize the president without disrespecting the presidency?"

Scott Collins writes in his Los Angeles Times column: "[O]verall, the routine could've used some judicious editing; watch the performance again and you'll see that Colbert never really builds to any high point. It's just a hodgepodge of hit-or-miss gags."

But Collins also suggests that coverage of the night should have given ample play to both Colbert and Bush's performance. And he writes: "The crowd included many of the same people who've built Colbert up into the hottest thing to hit the Beltway since Karl Rove. Now he comes and pokes fun of them and most of them sat there in their finery looking stone-faced and glum. Did they find Colbert's routine as messy as I did? Maybe. But it seems a lot more likely that the D.C. journos are proving humor-impaired when anyone points out their performance in the run-up to the Iraq war. Hey, you invited Colbert. If you don't want to yuk it up, do a raffle."

Noam Scheiber writes in the New Republic: "My sense is that the blogosphere response is more evidence of a new Stalinist aesthetic on the left -- until recently more common on the right -- wherein the political content of a performance or work of art is actually more important than its entertainment value."

Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher points out that in 2004, journalists howled in laughter as Bush, at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association, poked fun at his inability to find the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Over at Comedy Central

Lisa de Moraes writes in The Washington Post: "Comedy Central's faux news show host Stephen Colbert stupidly delivered a stingingly satirical speech about President Bush and those who cover him at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner because 'he was under the impression they had hired him to do the thing he does on TV every night,' Jon Stewart quipped last night on his 'Daily Show.'


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