The Colbert Notion: Joke’s On Us

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I think Tim Russert is used to making people squirm, but it’s usually not the viewers. His interview yesterday was painfully so-ironic-it-was-unironic, and induced the kind of cringes you usually associate with Larry Craig:

NBC Meet the Press Netcast
NBC Meet the Press Netcast

Russert tried way too hard, Colbert maybe not hard enough, or maybe there’s something about “fake newsers” actively participating in “real” news that forces you to realize there’s no hope for either genre. In any case, that interview, plus this distressingly tongue-out-of-cheek analysis of Colbert’s actual chances in South Carolina, well, I’m still waiting for the funny. Frankly, I’m currently more amused by Fred Thompson.

Update: Thanks, p_luk, Poniewozik’s take on Colbert/Russert gets exactly to the problem:

The more Russert tried to be a sport and go with the joke–bad move, by the way, to try to be as funny as the comic you’re interviewing–the more he made himself into the joke, as when he pulled out a Bert doll to argue with Colbert about the silent “t.” A serious Washington journalist was holding a Muppet and grilling a comedian–a joke, yes, but born out of the very real, and very serious, desperation of the old-line media to stay relevant and popular amidst a groundswell of blogs and Comedy Central shows that feed on the audience’s disgust with political journalism.

The Bert doll moment is a metaphor for the way many in the political/media establishment is treating Colbert’s “candidacy”: “See, we get it!” They are so eager to show their with-it-ness, they can’t risk calling out Colbert’s run for being the joke that it is — and thus, in the process, become the joke themselves.

Which reminds me: Someone’s already done a poll.

Conflict of interest alert: Both Chris Cillizza, who wrote about the poll, and Josh Green, who talked to political strategists, are friends. And are, honestly, funny, smart, guys. Their deadpan treatment of Colbert is in no way as embarrassing as a Bert doll.