POLITICO: Congress unfriends Stephen Colbert

In a rather annoying effort to make a mountain out of a molehill, POLITICO has taken a good look at Stephen’s recent interactions with Congress and concluded that Congress wants nothing more to do with him, with last Friday’s testimony in front of the House subcommittee as the last straw.

Congress Cools on Stephen Colbert
By Erika Lovley & Marin Cogan, Posted 9/30/10 4:33 AM EDT

Members of Congress have been fooled time after time after time by Stephen Colbert, and after last week’s mockery, they have a message for the satirist who makes a living lampooning them: Colbert, you’re dead to us.

Colbert’s act had steadily been losing cachet on Capitol Hill, but his spoof testimony merely accelerated a pending divorce.

Lawmakers and their aides are repeatedly turning down requests for “The Colbert Report,” political advisers are suggesting members avoid Colbert like the plague and the infamous “Better Know a District” segment that put Colbert on the map on Capitol Hill appears to be dying out.

The issue for most of the Congressional representatives who have turned down requests for interviews, or regret doing a past interview (hello Rep. Lynn Westmoreland), is the heavily selective editing that can make them look stupid. What they don’t seem to realize is that Stephen works with the material he’s given. If they’re sharp enough to withstand Stephen’s ridiculous line of questioning and they’re open to being silly and making fun of themselves, then the final edited interview will be a success. But if they give Stephen enough ammunition, they can certainly wind up looking foolish.

Not all past BKAD participants were worried about how an appearance on the Report would affect their reputation. Many of them say they knew what they were getting into when they agreed to be interviewed, and weren’t concerned about negative feedback.

Still, other members say the opportunity to connect with — and appear cool to — younger voters is too alluring to pass up… Members who dared to go on — including Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) — say they knew what they were getting into.

“He’s a good, fun guy if you’re OK with getting made fun of. You never know how you’re going to respond to a question,” said Chaffetz, who appeared on the show in 2009. “But I like self-deprecating humor.”

. . .

Pascrell has the bluntest message for his Colbert-hating colleagues: “Aw, give me a break, would you please? We’ve got serious problems — come on, look! We took ourselves so seriously, people’s expectations rose, and we couldn’t meet them. ‘Get a life,’ I tell those people.”

Here’s where I have a problem with this article: the authors make it seem like the declining number of BKAD segments and the reaction to Stephen’s testimony on Capitol Hill are related and add up to a soured relationship. But the BKAD segments have been dwindling over time, and the number was fairly low well before Stephen’s appearance before the subcommittee last week. As Stephen himself has said, the congressional representatives know what he’s up to now and are reluctant to put themselves in a position where they might say something they’ll regret, or worse, that could could cost them reelection. I can understand their reluctance to appear, but I’m disappointed that one of the most popular segments of the show could disappear because of Congressional cowardice. I think it’s going too far to say that it proves that Congress is done with Stephen.

Here’s one of my favorite BKAD segments, which shows that an interview with an it-getter who understands how to play along with Stephen can get hilarious results.


  1. lockhart43 says:

    Oh no! Congress might not like Stephen anymore! The sky is falling! ;)

    First of all, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that not everyone in Congress hated Stephen’s testimony. And secondly, this isn’t the only threat TCR has gotten from Congress that people are going to start turning down more BKAD interviews, if that threat is in fact true (and if it actually works…because the other ones just worked so well). Just because he hasn’t done one in a while, that doesn’t mean they’ve “died out.” I’m sure he’ll be fine.

    And I love that comment by Rep. Bill Pascrell! Can he be my congressman?

  2. Ugh. Give me a break. If Westmoreland looked like an idiot for sponsoring a bill requiring posting the Ten Commandments in Congress and then not being able to name them, that’s because he is. Plenty of other Reps have done very well in the segments (think Eleanor Holmes Norton or Jason Chaffetz) – if you’re a good sport and you can play along, you’ll be fine.

    Bah, Politico. Get some fresh ideas. And a copy editor, too, while you’re at it.

  3. Mr. Arkadin says:

    I agree with Lockhart43!
    Remember when Rahm Emanuel was in congress he was telling democrats not to go on BKAD? You weren’t a success at that job either, were you Rahm?
    And finally, as Ann G. implied: consider the source. Politico. Their just water-carriers for a bunch of political hacks who know they got exposed as being even bigger fools then everybody thought they were to begin with. And now their just trying to cover their a$$es with indignation. And Politico was more than happy to oblige them.
    Stephen will have no problem going on without them. :)

  4. MaryLovesColbert says:

    I think they are laboring under the misapprehension that Stephen *wants* a good relationship with Congress. He certainly doesn’t want to make himself an enemy of the government, but I don’t think he wants to be cozy with Congress or members of Congress, you know? And you’re right, it’s making a mountain out of a molehill — congressmen have mostly been making a big deal out of this because it was, apparently, “a waste of time and money.” I don’t think it’s as big or as bad as Politico is making it out to be.

    Thanks for posting this article, it was interesting!

    • Mr. Arkadin says:

      “I think they are laboring under the misapprehension that Stephen *wants* a good relationship with Congress. He certainly doesn’t want to make himself an enemy of the government, but I don’t think he wants to be cozy with Congress or members of Congress, you know?”
      Really superbly put. Perfect! :)

    • That’s a really good point. I don’t think Stephen wants to deliberately alienate anyone, but at the same time, he doesn’t need to depend on a few Congressional reps for material. He’s quite capable of ridiculing them without their participation, and it’s silly to portray this as some kind of disaster.

      • MaryLovesColbert says:

        Exactly, he has plenty of other segments and material to work with, you know? This article plays up a “need” they assume The Colbert Report staff and writers have for Congress to cooperate.

  5. Somebody call the Waaambulance! Grow up Congress. So many of you make yourselves such easy targets and then whine and complain when a *comedian* gets laughs off you. He doesn’t make you look stupid. You guys do that all by yourselves.

  6. I’m with Pascrell here. Congress: Get a life! It might help you snap out of your seriously serious problem of not meeting people’s expectations…

    Stephen: You rocked their socks and they didn’t know how to handle it. That’s all.

  7. Karenatasha says:

    All I can say is: remember Stephen’s words at the end of his testimony, when he became serious? “I like to speak about people who have no power.” That says it all. It is never the job of a satirist to have politicians love him or her. If they’ve made their targets angry, they’re doing something right.

    And yes, MaryLovesColbert, you summed up the situation beautifully!

    On another note: I saw Jon Stewart speak live at the 92nd Y in NYC a few nights ago, interviewed by Terry Gross, and I am trying to write something up for here. But it will be aired on Fresh Air very shortly, and I’d look out for it. Jon discussed Stephen quite a bit, including the Congressional testimony. After firmly supporting Stephen, his last words before Terry Gross moved on to the next question were: “I feel protective.” It was so very sweet.

    • MaryLovesColbert says:

      Thanks for the shout-out (hey!), Karenatasha! And you made another great point, satirists’ job is not to make people like them.

      Ooh, I’m excited to hear Jon’s interview on Fresh Air! That’s really awesome that you got to see him give the interview! Always nice to hear Jon talk about Stephen. :)

    • Mr. Arkadin says:

      Karenatasha! Did you hear the Stewart’s interview on Fresh Air today? They edited out the part you talked about! It was a fine interview, but, I’m steamed about the loss of Jon’s comment on Stephen’s testimony. You must write a reporT! Please! :)
      I’m also “furious” with Terry Gross! At the beginning of the interview she says Jon’s face is the last face she see before going to bed at night. (Asides from her husband & cat.) What about Stephen! Here Stephen got her tickets to his famous Philly show (With Hillary, Edwards, and Obama) & this is the thanks he gets! She watches Jon and then goes to sleep!? No love for Stephen?!
      Terry should be put on notice!

      • Karenatasha says:

        NOOOOO! *Shaking fist!!!!*

        Why did she do that? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
        I’m assuming it had to do with time, since the actual interview was nearly two hours. But she did show clips, which she can’t do on the radio.

        I will write something up!


    • Mr. Arkadin says:

      Actually, she did play at least two video clips. On the radio! :(
      She also replayed Stephen’s comment (from her first interview with Stephen) about Jon asking him to be more political when Jon took over TDS.

      Looking forward to your ReporT!
      And thanks in advance! :D

  8. Ya know, if congressional reps want to stay away from Colbert, that’s their prerogative, but it’s because of the show that I know Jason Chaffetz (leg wrestling) Jared Polis (funneled a beer) Eleanor Holmes Norton (undressed Stephen with her eyes ;-) Chellie Pingree (friend to knitters) Jackie Speier (skateboarded through halls of DC) and Brad Sherman (aka Sandy Keller)

    Besides Stephen doesn’t need Congress to do a Better Know a… piece. He’s got at least 35,975 +/- lobbies, plus he could always go back to Canada and profile more ridings.

  9. People who take themselves too seriously are too busy listening to their bruised egos to listen to the public. The reps just don’t know how to take a joke and how to roll witht he punches. It’s funny that other guests, such as our favorite scientists and authors who have gone on TCR, don’t fear Stephen as an interviewer. Instead, they relish the challenge of being interviewed and interacting with an incredibly sharp-witted host.

  10. PriyaNoblet says:

    Oh my gosh. Of course when i come back after so long i read this and my jaw just drops. This entire post.

    much love.
    That is all, from an occasional peeker.

  11. Karenatasha says:

    From today’s New York Times, Opinion Page editorial–they get it!

    “A few days earlier, the same panel heard from the TV satirist Stephen Colbert, who told of his difficult day picking crops with migrant farm workers. His appearance, mostly played in character as a conservative blowhard, was a comedy routine wrapped around a heartfelt truth: that farm workers do a difficult and dangerous job that most Americans will not stoop to do.

    We are not sure all committee members got it. We believe a lot more Americans would, if their elected leaders talked as bluntly and as persuasively as Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Murdoch — and with as much heart as Mr. Colbert.”


    Ummm-recaptcha is ridiculous! I can’t read the broken faded letters of the second word!

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