10 May 2006

Stephen Colbert vs. Mr Brown: What’s the point of political satire?

From Theory is the Reason:

I doubt folks back in Singapore get to watch The Colbert Report, since it barely makes sense to anyone outside America, let alone Singapore… right? Actually no.

It’s not about how globalized our society is today, but more about how America offers us a flip-side to what Singapore could be like should our political ideology transform overnight to a full-on liberal one. But before we proceed, it’d be good to explain what The Colbert Report is about… This is a satirical television program on Comedy Central that stars Stephen Colbert, best known previously as a correspondent for The Daily Show. The show depicts the further activities of the Stephen Colbert correspondent character from The Daily Show, but in a different context — a direct, deeply mocking satire of conservative political pundit programs like The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes, and Scarborough Country and other opinion-news shows in general. He plays an extreme conservative, revelling his routines in liberal goodness, which is really darn poetic if you asked me.

As seen all over the blogosphere, Colbert recently paid a blistering comedy “tribute” to President Bush at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night. From the opening of this C-Span video (C-span preferred Google Video over YouTube), you can already see how George Bush wasn’t amused right from the start. With good reason, since he’s quietly seated next to Colbert while being the butt of most of his jokes. Given Colbert’s performance, I felt that it wasn’t as polished as his show, but the recklessness was priceless. It was a dare that stirred the hearts of many (last count 54,000!) across the nation.

But what’s the point of all this? Does it change anything?

1. Satire works.
However conservative your country’s politics is, humor is like the backdoor to freedom of expression. Mr Brown did so with his “Bak Chor Mee podcast” which poked fun at the demise of James Gomez from the Workers’ Party, who fumbled with his election forms. It’s since been a podcast hit and has even spun off into a popular Tur Kwa desktop wallpaper and soon to be T-shirt! Mr. Gomez has since been been arrested detained and questioned by police, under the accusation of stage-managing the entire minority candidate certificate episode from the start. Aiyoh!

2. Freedom of speech = risks vs. rewards
After Colbert gave his speech, most bloggers felt satisfied having their hero tell the president off. Mr Brown’s “persistently non-political” podcast also gave Singaporeans an outlet for their disgust at the political play during the elections. Yet in both cases, there was no violence, no hatred, just plain old intelligent fun. It was talking high-brow issues straight from the gut, and making it enjoyable for everyone to understand. Interestingly, both the President and Colbert handled the interplay pretty amicably

3. In-depth social cue on what we’re really thinking
Stemming back into our own identity, it’s hard to see what we’re thinking about without a proper “mirror”. The mass media attempts to tell us what we think, but opinionated daredevils like Colbert and MrBrown can get deeper into these issues on time and on the mark. They’re really telling you what you want to hear, something which might have been otherwise suppressed elsewhere. They give you that “thumbs up” to what you believe in and tell you that the innate feeling you have is justified and good.

Ultimately, personalities like Stephen Colbert and Mr Brown serve a critical function to each of our societies. As shown by their popularity, they don’t just entertain, they stimulate.

Tuxedo rental: $100. Tickets to the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner: $80. 24 minutes of ripping on the president of the United States on live television: PRICELESS.

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are my latest favourite satirists. But if you missed the whole thing last week, worry not my friends. You can watch it here, and the priceless Bush impersonation sketch by Steve Bridges here. Are you ready to wet your appetite..? Here's a clip from the Daily Show. Go on... You know you want to watch this grainy but still contagiously funny video.

"Bloggers 1, Mainstream Media 0" - Stephen Colbert


Anonymous said...

We may continue hating the Americans over their politics, but god bless their freedom of expression!

Colbert is God.

Anonymous said...

There are many things wrong with American society but they will survive through these because (a) they are free and open society and (b) they believe in God.

Anonymous said...

I do believe that in spite of all of America's flaws, they are a secular state. Please be sensitive in your comments.

- Impassioned Singaporean

Matilah_Singapura said...

You folks should learn to laugh at yourselves first.

You are just as fucked up and imperfect as each other.

Uptight motherfuckers, :-)

clyde said...

"I do believe that in spite of all of America's flaws, they are a secular state."

Yet they bear the motto on their currency "In God we trust." But yes, while there is an official seperation of Church and State, a vast majority are still christians and catholics.

clyde said...

Though some might beg to differ since Bush apparently went to war because "God told him so"...

Anonymous said...

Secular state?! Gimme a break. The Americans have more churches even 2 km than the number of mosques in Iran! Even Reza Aslan says so! The so-called 'separation of state and church' is just a scam. I mean, c'mon, even Mr. Bush regards himself as being an Evangelican Christian, and his entire administration is full of Evangelians. More 44% of Americans assosciate with Mr. Bush regarding being a 'born-again Christian'.

The U.S is not a wholly 'secular' state. If it had been such, they would have attained consensus on abortion rights, homosexuality and euthanasia.

Matilah_Singapura said...

"Life in america is one long EXPECTORATION.

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." - Oscar Wilde

The Wobbly Guy said...

IIRC, Colbert was panned by the bloggers for being really unfunny. Bush was much better received poking fun at himself with the double act. When the reporters were watching Colbert, they were seething, according to some reports.

"Bloggers 1, Mainstream Media 0" - Stephen Colbert

Given that Colbert is a member of the mainstream media, actively and often blatantly aiding and abetting the Dems(remember Rathergate?), I find his words supremely ironic.

clyde said...

Well instead of listening to others for an opinion, why not watch it for yourself? The links are all there.