News of the event arrived a little late in Iceland, but Stephen Colbert’s April 29th speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner definitely has our attention now. The Grapevine has mocked most political parties in Iceland, and in America and elsewhere for that matter. And we have proudly gotten behind artists and figures who saw injustice and spoke up. But we have not walked up to a room full of the most powerful people in the world, people known to not take criticism well, and bullied them continuously for 24 minutes, as Colbert did.
To celebrate the event, and to express our complete shock that Colbert did what he did, we will present the best quotes from the comedy sketch that put punk to shame. To set the scene, George Bush, the President of the United States, held a banquet at which he was to earn the press’s graces by showing he had a sense of humour – last year, Mrs. Bush took the lead by explaining George’s fondness for horse genitalia in a wry, WASPy kind of way. This year, presumably, Stephen Colbert was supposed to imitate a Fox News correspondent and joke about blue states and red states.
“Madame First Lady, Mr. President, my name is Stephen Colbert and tonight it’s my privilege to celebrate this president. We’re not so different, he and I. We get it. We’re not brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We’re not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut, right sir? That’s where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say “I did look it up, and that’s not true.” That’s ‘cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works. (…)
“I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible – I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical. And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. (…)
“Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in “reality.” And reality has a well-known liberal bias. (…)
“I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound – with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world. (…)
“As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president’s side, and the vice president’s side.
“But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they’re super-depressing. And if that’s your goal, well, misery accomplished.
“Over the last five years you people were so good — over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.
“But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works: the president makes decisions. He’s the Decider. The Press Secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know – fiction!
“Because really, what incentive do these people have to answer your questions, after all? I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, “Oh, they’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg! (…)
“See who we’ve got here tonight. General Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff. General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They still support Rumsfeld. Right, you guys aren’t retired yet, right? Right, they still support Rumsfeld.
“Look, by the way, I’ve got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble: don’t let them retire! Come on, we’ve got a stop-loss program; let’s use it on these guys. I’ve seen Zinni and that crowd on Wolf Blitzer. If you’re strong enough to go on one of those pundit shows, you can stand on a bank of computers and order men into battle. Come on.
“Jesse Jackson is here, the Reverend. Haven’t heard from the Reverend in a little while. I had him on the show. Very interesting and challenging interview. You can ask him anything, but he’s going to say what he wants, at the pace that he wants. It’s like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is. (…)
“John McCain is here. John McCain, John McCain, what a maverick! Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you it wasn’t a salad fork. This guy could have used a spoon! There’s no predicting him. By the way, Senator McCain, it’s so wonderful to see you coming back into the Republican fold. I have a summer house in South Carolina; look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University. So glad you’ve seen the light, sir.”
When a comedian’s set goes horribly, horribly wrong, you say the entertainer bombed. To give an example of the way the jokes Colbert told were taken, think of the sensitivity of mocking John McCain about his connections to Bob Jones University. A Bob Jones University professor had, during the 2000 presidential primaries, helped to push Bush into the forefront in South Carolina by sending an emailed report that Senator McCain had an illegitimate, biracial child. Not tasteful humour, and nothing McCain found amusing when Colbert joked.
By any account, as a person there to make the immediate audience laugh, Colbert bombed. The marvel is what an effective, jaw-dropping bombing he performed, directly to the face of the most powerful men in the world.
You can access Colbert’s speech for free through Google Video by searching the title “Colbert Roasts President Bush.”
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