Thus, to the recent Democratic debates in Philadelphia. No, not the ABC debate; the important one, the one on last nights episode of The Colbert Report. Yes, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even John Edwards stopped by the show last night, and although they never spoke to one another directly or answered any questions, the debate had a clear winner: Stephen Colbert.
Lets take one of the shows opening segments, in which Hillary Clinton comes on to help fix their malfunctioning projection screen.
First of all, Im pretty sure thats the same scenario The Muppet Show used to introduce about forty percent of their guest stars. Secondly, Im no classicist, but isnt there something unsettling about a Senator and Presidential candidate stumbling woodenly through a pre-scripted bit with a talk show host? I thought that kind of thing was only for Nobel Peace Prize Winners.
Stephen Colberts power to manipulate the will of his massive audience has translated into an unprecedented ability to force politicians into mugging at a camera and saying things that they probably dont understand and loathe saying. Anyone with the ego to run for President has got to have some sense of inflated decorum, and I doubt Senator Clintons stop in at that show the numbers guys say will get the stoner vote was a highlight for her dignity.
While Edwards seemed to genuinely enjoy his bit, thats probably because it was the funniest and hes already out of the race.
Admitting that The Colbert Report is where most Americans get their news these days is a lot easier once youve got nothing to lose. Still, he managed to staple some talking points onto the script, and in general struck me as the least out of his element.
Finally, we have Obama, who made up for his inability to actually be in the studiojudging by the backdrop, he was busy facing away from a large audience of orange enthusiastsby regurgitating Colbert-ian cultural memes like a ventriloquists dummy. Not only did he put something on notice, he actually said the words Grizzly bears are the number one threat to America.
The implications here are staggering. Some of the most powerful people in the world are now having their actions circumscribed by a guy who produces a regular flash cartoon series of himself having sex with aliens. If he can un-endanger elephants, he can damn sure make all the Democratic candidates dance like little ponies (dancing ponies).
Although youll notice that for all his clout, he couldnt get them to be in the same room together at the same time. Only Edwards and Clinton were on-premises, and their appearances were separated by enough time for Clinton to track down her husband, yank him out of the womens dressing rooms, and be on her way before Edwards even got to the green room cookies. I imagine they passed one another awkwardly in the hall and shared a look as if to say Jesus, were really doing this.
I dont know what to think of this phenomenon. On the one hand, the utter transparency of the candidates grab at a voting segment makes accusations of pandering almost pass. On the other hand, imagine if this had been going on for years. We could be watching old episodes of Seinfeld right now that guest star Ross Perot as their wacky landlord.
Has Stephen Colbert become too powerful? Will he use this power for good, or evil? Or, more likely, just dick around with it and get bridges named after him? Do we like this?
When not blogging for Cracked, Michael writes spec scripts of The Gilmore Girls featuring John Kerry as head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!