A Fusion of Comedy and Politics as Stephen Colbert Testifies Before Congress
The various subcommittee hearings that members of the House of Representatives oversee generally don’t receive a lot of attention or even warrant any significant coverage other than what some people might care to watch on C-SPAN.
Things were a little different on Friday when Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s wildly successful The Colbert Report, testified before a House judiciary subcommittee.
Colbert was invited by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who chairs the Subcommittee on Immigration, to testify on the trials and tribulations of migrant farmworkers after “he and Lofgren recently participated...in the United Farm Workers' ‘Take Our Jobs’ campaign, challenging Americans to experience the hard menial work that immigrant farmworkers do.” To say that Colbert’s on-air persona, a parody of conservative television hosts, was out in force during his time before the committee would be a tremendous understatement.
The comedian’s appearance was met with a fair amount of resistance from many Republicans on the subcommittee, but particularly from Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who initially made no secret of his lack of enthusiasm about the situation. According to the Associated Press, Conyers, the House Judiciary Chairman, asked Colbert to leave the room “and to leave the job of testifying to the expert witnesses, including Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez.” He said, “You run your show, we run the committee.”
Colbert responded by saying that if Lofgren wanted to him to leave, he would. Lofgren, of course, asked him to stay, and Conyers eventually signed off on the appearance.
Now I like Stephen Colbert. His show is one of the funniest on all of cable television, but one of my biggest concerns about how this all played out, which might seem to have come from what I like to call the Department of Irony, is the fact that his testimony, save for some minor exceptions at the close of this spectacle, was unabashedly in character. This, in a roundabout way, made a mockery of our political process. I find it a tad extraordinary I can actually say that with a straight face considering Congress tends to do a bang up job of mocking themselves on a daily basis simply by showing up for work. After all, we are talking about the same Congress that “once heard testimony from the ‘Sesame Street’ puppet Elmo.”Continued on the next page