Immigration | News

Stephen Colbert: American Hero, Or A Disgraceful Joke?


Stephen Colbert appeared before Congress today to discuss illegal immigrants in the farming community, and he did so the politicized character made famous on his Comedy Central Show, The Colbert Report.

"It is an honor and a privilege, Congresswoman [Zoe Lofgren] asked me to share vast experience spending one day as a migrant farm worker. I am happy to use my celebrity to draw attention to this important, complicated issue," said Colbert before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration.

He went on: "[Farm work] was really, really hard... It turns out — and I did not know this — most soil is at ground level." Colbert's comments were humorous, yes, and has some people criticizing Colbert for turning the Capitol into a media circus. But isn't that the point?

“America’s farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. Now the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables and if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you’ll see that many Americans have already started," said the comedian, who once appeared as the closeted gay teacher Chuck Noblet on Strangers with Candy and has joined the United Farm Workers of America's "Take Our Jobs" campaign, which sheds like on the plight of migrant farmers in America.

Of course, as Colbert pointed out, we need fruits and vegetables: "Unfortunately, my doctor has informed me that they are a necessary source of roughage. As evidence, I would like to submit a video of my colonoscopy into the congressional record."

"Who will take that job?" remains Colbert's underlying, rib-tickling question. Not everyone thought he was funny.

"Maybe amnesty supporters should spend less time watching Comedy Central and more time considering all the real jobs that are out there that require hard labor and don't involve sitting behind a desk," snipped Iowa Rep. Steve King at the hearings, and fellow GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz tweeted this week, "The Dems have called him [Colbert] as an expert witness. What a joke."

Rep. John Conyers Jr., meanwhile, compared all the attention to that surrounding Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings. "That's a haunting remembrance," said the Michigan Democrat. That sounds like a ringing endorsement of Colbert's appearance!

Despite being a "hot-button" issue in Washington, many Americans, particularly Colbert's young audience, aren't paying enough attention to the nooks and crannies of immigration reform. It's an idea, one without specifics or human faces.

Colbert, for all his sly smiles and dry wit, wants to raise awareness of illegal existence in the United States, and perhaps change some minds on the process of legalizing undocumented workers.

No matter which way someone leans on the topic, Colbert's appearance will definitely -- and has already -- sparked civil discourse, a cornerstone of any democratic nation. While the "media circus" aspect of Colbert's entertainment credentials deserves examination, the real focus should be on the funny man's message, one that addresses not only immigration, but also the essential importance of public debate.

Here's video of Colbert's opening statements today:

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  1. He brought to this Congress the gravitas it has so richly earned!

    Posted by: Sanho Tree | Sep 24, 2010 2:42:10 PM

  2. You beat me to it, Sanho. I was going to say that Congress is a joke, the members of which appear in character every day as sober politicians when they are actually venal, craven mouthpieces bought and sold by corporations

    Posted by: Christopher | Sep 24, 2010 2:46:01 PM

  3. It's like the jokes he gave to Bush, who was not deserving of anything but contempt and mocking. This congress deserves no better either. I hate them all and wish they'd jump off a cliff together.

    Posted by: Jersey | Sep 24, 2010 2:46:25 PM

  4. Colbert turns Washington into a media circus. Senators say, "Hey! That's our job!"

    Posted by: marshallt | Sep 24, 2010 2:47:09 PM

  5. Jersey, sometimes mocking people hurts them more than just unleashing anger.

    It hurts their pride, which is very dear to them.

    Posted by: Wes | Sep 24, 2010 2:54:36 PM

  6. While Rome burns, Congress has time for this? An absolute disgrace. Thanks, Zoe!

    Posted by: LincolnLounger | Sep 24, 2010 2:55:24 PM

  7. Wes, sorry if it didn't come through but I think Colbert was spot on. Congress isn't deserving of any type of treatment but mockery. In my book Colbert is great. There is no chance in hell that anything an intelligent person would say to congress would have any effect on them. Congress clearly consists of the country's worst dullards.

    Posted by: Jersey | Sep 24, 2010 2:58:56 PM

  8. I would have thought that since most Republican congressmen are clowns, they would have welcomed a colleague with open arms...

    Posted by: roupie | Sep 24, 2010 2:59:57 PM

  9. Mixed in with his (what I found to be funny and refreshing) commentary, I thought two of his most genuine points came across quite clearly:
    Congress is not working together to better the American people's situation;
    And really for all the crazy railing against illegal immigrants stealing "our" jobs, most people would not take them which opens the immigrants up to all kinds of abuse and degradation.

    Mock away, Mr. Colbert, you are a true American.

    Posted by: jonny | Sep 24, 2010 3:05:32 PM

  10. A few years ago, Colbert's speech at the press dinner was a comedic tour de force. As far as I'm concerned that put him in the historical ranks of the great satirists. Who has ever spoken more truth to Bush (and co) to his face?

    Right now, both houses of Congress have democratic majorities and there is a sitting democratic president. So why do I feel as if the republicans are still in charge.

    Anything to shake them up a little bit.

    Posted by: fahd | Sep 24, 2010 3:05:37 PM

  11. As usual, Colbert nails it. After previous Republican-invitees Christie Brinkley and Elmo (!), it was nice to have someone speaking who was smarter and has a greater sense of morals and ethics than everyone else in the room combined. Those who missed the point on this are the ones who always do, so no surprise there.

    Posted by: ohplease | Sep 24, 2010 3:07:42 PM

  12. What Jonny said, squared.

    Posted by: Atlanta Guy | Sep 24, 2010 3:20:34 PM

  13. Thank you for gracing us with your indignation Lincolnlounger. The poolside bartender will be back shortly with olives and you can resume your lounging until you need to return to the suite to prepare for the white party. Until then sip darling, it won't be long at all...

    Posted by: Dave | Sep 24, 2010 3:27:48 PM

  14. (paraphrasing:) "like most of the members of congress, i haven't actually read this" -- bravo, mr. colbert.

    Posted by: kim | Sep 24, 2010 3:50:07 PM

  15. Unfortunately, the Republicunts are far too dense to get the meaning behind his satire. They think Ann Coulter is funny.

    Posted by: StillmarriedinCA | Sep 24, 2010 3:50:16 PM

  16. I love Colbert, but playing his character at an actual Congressional hearing tends to diminish what little dignity Congress has managed to scrape together. I wouldn't want Glenn Beck to be speaking to Congress, so I'd prefer for Colbert to stick with his brilliant TV show.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Sep 24, 2010 3:51:28 PM

  17. Gotta disagree with you there, Milkman. He said it all in his quip about getting bumped up to CSPAN 1 via his celebrity factor. The truth is, Colbert playing Colbert before Congress is going to go viral and be seen by more people than the entire viewership of CSPAN over any ten-year period. A spotlight is what he felt this issue needs, and he knew how to give it one. Bravo.

    Posted by: Zlick | Sep 24, 2010 4:03:00 PM

  18. I wouldn't say "disgraceful", but it's certainly inappropriate. There are a ton of celeb-advocates that appear before Congress as themselves, not the characters they play on television.

    Posted by: Ross | Sep 24, 2010 4:03:03 PM

  19. I LOVE that Colbert was there, but it's terrifying to me as well... Would we appreciate a tit-for-tat reprisal with Sean Hannity being invited to spout his nonsense under the cloak of 'diginity' that speaking to Congress provides?

    Posted by: Drew | Sep 24, 2010 4:03:53 PM

  20. Although it was funny, I flinched a little at what I thought was excessive mockery. However, after having given it some thought, I'm realizing the point was probably not to convince some Congressional committee, but to raise awareness of this issue. Considering the fact that it has gone viral, I'd say it has succeeded. So good job, Colbert!

    Posted by: Chris | Sep 24, 2010 4:04:09 PM

  21. In the last question asked of him, he finally drops out of character for a few seconds to answer why he is interested in this issue. His response was that powerless people need a voice. The video is on HuffPo; it's pretty powerful to see him take the mask off.

    Posted by: Anon | Sep 24, 2010 4:15:02 PM

  22. That nasty little snip about Colbert's "young viewers" not paying enough attention to immigration reform is fallacy. The real issue is that the media glosses over any real, thoughtful, non-militant debate about immigration. You see Tea Partiers on TV, fringe elements; hype that sells, but not to us. My demographic is highly underrepresented-- we are the bulk of the people pushing for moderate, workable solutions.

    We venerate people like Colbert and Stewart because they draw attention to the need for common sense and accountability in our government.

    Posted by: Shaina | Sep 24, 2010 4:31:06 PM

  23. I watched the whole thing this morning (over 2 hours) on C-SPAN3. He saved the best for his responses to questions from Democrats and Republicans, always playing the Republican clown, except for the one time he left character. That was why Rep Steve King R-IA left so pissed.

    Posted by: Philo | Sep 24, 2010 4:33:10 PM

  24. "'spend less time watching Comedy Central and more time considering all the real jobs that are out there that require hard labor and don't involve sitting behind a desk', snipped Iowa Rep. Steve King"

    Pot, meet kettle.

    Posted by: Anon | Sep 24, 2010 4:50:14 PM

  25. Good write-up Andrew, glad TLRD's in great hands.

    Posted by: VestibuleSublevel | Sep 24, 2010 4:56:13 PM

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