You know I’m no fan of Richard Cohen. He’s not the person I’d go to for some sharp insight or even for the ability to recognize humor, so it should be no surprise that he failed to see the humor in Stephen Colbert’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Comedy is a matter of taste, so that Cohen didn’t find it funny is no big deal…but this comment shows off Cohen’s typical obliviousness and tin ear.
In Washington he was playing to a different crowd, and he failed dismally in the funny person’s most solemn obligation: to use absurdity or contrast or hyperbole to elucidate — to make people see things a little bit differently. He had a chance to tell the president and much of important (and self-important) Washington things it would have been good for them to hear.
Huh? What would have been good for them to hear? I heard pointed comments about the war, the economy, Bush’s unpopularity, privacy and civil rights, and most importantly, the spinelessness of the Washington media. In fact, that’s exactly what Colbert did: he used absurdity and contrast and hyperbole (which Cohen did not find funny, but so what?) to point out a great many hard truths. Even if he wasn’t funny to some people, he used his opportunity to tell these guys some important things. He met his “most solemn obligation.”
Oddly enough, Cohen did not say what he thinks would have been good for the audience to hear. Which fork to use for the salad? A joke about airline food? A riff on the uselessness of algebra?