U.S. political blogs are talking about Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. As fans of Jon Stewart's show, Mike and I got curious, and watched the entire 20-minute monologue.
As a former media practitioner, here's my guess: I don't think Stephen Colbert bombed. I'm guessing he knew exactly what he was doing. I'm guessing he was neither surprised nor disappointed to get the occasional non-reaction from the audience that he got (would you laugh at every joke if President Bush were sitting ten meters away ... and with C-Span cameras on you?) . I'm guessing that while preparing for his performance he told himself, "I can play it safe, be a comedian, do a run-of-the-mill stand-up routine ... or I can take this golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a citizen of the United States of America to tell the President to his face what I think." I say this, because there were moments when Colbert slipped out of character and seemed to be speaking no longer as a comedian but as a frustrated and disgusted citizen. That, and because he seemed to look directly, unflinchingly, at the President with only the tiniest sign of nervousness.
Some pundits are implying that Stephen Colbert should be ashamed of himself for going overboard with his remarks. I think the rest of the media practitioners in the room that night and in the newsrooms the next day are the ones who should be ashamed of allowing themselves to be silenced by an inept administration.