Monday, February 15, 2010

I Am America (And So Can You!)

Stephen Colbert

Finished Reading: 01.2010

Nation, Stephen Colbert is of course absolutely absurd. But that is why we love him. He is the face of televised conservative stereotypes, a self-centered hedonist , and the epitome of over-abundant nationalism. I'm a little surprised that the Stars and Stripes are missing from the cover of this hilarious book. Perhaps Colbert is a little too much America, but that is why he is funny, so three likenesses of his face on the covers works as well as a flag. Appropriately, if the character Colbert could become a book, he has become so in this bespectacled binding. Complete with red page edges that scream for you to pick it up off the shelf, an attached red book mark proclaiming "First Edition" to lure people who are impressed by bright things, and a silver seal of literary excellence to proclaim its very legitimacy, I Am America (And So Can You) begs to be judged by its cover. There are at least a half a dozen other interesting things to be said about the front and back cover, as well as the dust jacket fold-ins, but let's not get carried away.

I can't imagine this book makes any sense if you are unfamiliar with the Comedy Central late night show, The Colbert Report. The only thing to know is that Stephen Colbert is as conservative as they come, as Republican as anyone can possibly be, and the greatest ongoing satirical act this side of Kim Jong Il. He doesn't break character. Though we know his character isn't who he really is, I don't think anyone knows who Stephen Colbert really is. Do we want to know? I think he must be America.

This whole situation reminds me of the Truman Show, the 1998 film where Jim Carrey plays a man who thinks he is living a normal life but is actually the subject of an elaborate television show in which he is the main character. The whole world watches him everyday, and he has no idea. Stephen Colbert is the opposite. He definitely has an idea that the world is watching him everyday, as he is the main character of an elaborate political television show that portrays him as a man living a normal conservative life. Yes, we are all watching him, but we think Colbert is a real person. A real Republican. A real American. He even ran for President of the United States in 2008, though he didn't get very far.

Another thing I wonder about is what real conservatives think of the Colbert Report. For myself, I feel I have a healthy mix of conservative and liberal values, so it is probably my liberal side that finds him so funny. I think he is acting this way to make fun of conservatives, of course. But apparently not everyone realizes this is comedy, which is also pretty funny. But back to the book.

Hopefully, Colbert forces us to consider our own political beliefs (as long as they are his beliefs). While reading his chapters, which range from Religion and Race to Animals and Old People, you will find that at times you are laughing (when you are feeling particularly liberal) and at other times you are reading in earnest, nodding in agreement and forgetting to laugh (as a wave of serious conservatism hits you). If you are reading and not laughing, you are drowning in the conservative side of your brain. Which is exactly what I think the real Stephen Colbert is trying to do. Drown us all in humorous absurdity.