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Mocking the legislative process, or just having a little fun?

Posted by prof e on September 25, 2010

Fake news shows on Comedy Central, e.g. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, have a history of poking fun at news-makers, politicians, the media, and the whole news-as-entertainment phenomenon. But when Stephen Colbert testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law yesterday, some saw it as mockery of an institution that should be above the cheap laughs and clever word-play that are standard fare for comedians.

Colbert, who stayed in character for his entire testimony, spoke about the difficult working conditions that migrant farm workers endure. Allegedly Colbert testified from personal experience after spending a day working in the fields beside migrant workers. But with his typical dead-pan delivery of a script that was clearly more about laughs than substance, few in the room seemed prepared to take his testimony seriously. You can watch a news clip of his testimony here.

This led some critics to call the appearance, “a huge waste of taxpayer time and money” and others to call it an embarrassment. But apparently this is not the first time that a committee hearing featured an entertainer who was invited to entertain. Sesame Street‘s Elmo excepted, most celebrity witnesses testify from an area of expertise. What do you think? Does one day in a bean field give Colbert the kind of credibility necessary for an appearance on Capitol Hill?

19 Responses to “Mocking the legislative process, or just having a little fun?”

  1. Paige Ratliff said

    This is ridiculous. It’s one thing to have a show that’s soul purpose is to make fun of current political subjects but its a complete other thing to do the same practice in a testimony in front of an actual court of law. This is a serious subject and shouldn’t be made fun of or taken lightly. I don’t think that working in a bean field for one day makes Steven Colbert an “expert” on migrant workers… I think it makes him just another desperate B List celeb that wants publicity.

  2. AJ Dome said

    He’s not desperate by any means… he’s just Stephen Colbert, and he can do whatever the heck he wants, in front of whatever audience he can get. If the Subcommittee wanted actual evidence, they wouldn’t have asked for the testimony of a comedian. Their bad.

  3. Ulysses Boatwright said

    The best techer is experience. If the committe didn’t want a little humor too the situation why invite or allow Stephen Colbert to even have a testimony. At the end of this whole thing, Colbert actually did make a good point, why tell someone too leave the states when they are helping to keep it running in-a-way.

  4. Amy Delaney said

    The topic of immigration has long been a heated, drawn-out debate amongst common citizens and court systems; if Colbert had presented his case in a more ‘serious’ light, his proposals may have fallen on deaf ears because almost every proposal heard has most likely been serious. By almost poking fun at the court system, he made his testimony stand out. For only spending one day out in the fields, he isn’t necessarily a credible source to be testifying on immigration workers and laws; however, as a ‘functioning’ (productive tax payer) of America, it’s his right to speculate on what has to be done about this recurring issue.

  5. Chance Warren said

    It is true that one day’s experience does not equal extpertise in any matter or subject. If Colbert’s report was to humor his listeners at a congressional hearing, then it would be hard to explain why.
    First of all, a congressional hearing is a congressional hearing, not a television show. Matters are supposed to be taken seriously in a congressional hearing, not to be made into humor.
    Also, since Stephen Colbert is a comedic television show host, his testimony would have to be precise in order to convince Congress anyhow. But due to the apparent humor displayed, as well as the unconvincing nature of the testimony (one day on the fields with migrant farm workers) it can be deduced that Stephen Colbert’s testimony for Congress was not very legitimate.
    A congressional testimony is an event meant for serious debate, not comedy, or entertainment. Perhaps celebrities should not testify in front of Congress if they do not have legitimate things to say.

  6. Corey Caves said

    i think that in a way he was trying to get some tv time, and laghs but in a way he was also trying to make a point. i do believe that working a day in a bean field gives him some edge over people who have not worked in a bean field. it also shows that he was trying to make a point not a jesture.

  7. Chelsea Brigham said

    Stephen Colbert is known for his dry humor, his sometimes borderline political comments, some go further than they should, this being one of them. Immigration is a sensitive subject for all Americans, both those in support of illegal immigrants and those against it. He states that “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American. Then sliced by a Guatemalan…” His experience in the field for a day did teach him something; though i do not think it was exposed until the end of his comedic rant, when he put all jokes aside, stating “One of the least powerful people in the united states are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result.” He raises a good point when he states also that “we still invite them to come, and at the same time as them to leave”. I believe Colbert made valid points at the end of his testimony. However we cannot deny that his comedic racial references, and throwbacks were not expected because for those of us familiar with the sarcastic conservative comedian.

  8. Cierra Webb said

    I find myself on the fence regarding Stephen Colbert’s testimony… on one hand I understand that he is a comedian and that’s his personality, but on the other hand, he was in a more professional, serious environment. While watching and listening to the video, I appreciated some of his arguments but I could not take them seriously because they followed or were followed by a joke. We watched a video in my English class similar to the video posted, but in that video they showed many different people texting or recording his testimony rather than actually listening. I did not, and I’m sure not many other people actually took what he said seriously, so the whole situation seemed like a “waste of time”, but then again, he was invited, so humor was most likely what everyone was expecting to begin with.

  9. Ben Long said

    I think Stephen Colbert had every right to be there. Whoever arranged his visitation surely wasn’t expecting a serious report, especially if he were to stay in character. I highly doubt they let Colbert in on the premise of a serious news report; he’s a very successful news show host and comedian. As such, I don’t think he would “pull a fast one” on the members of the legislation for the sake of a few laughs. I’m sure a government position is very stressful, and maybe they wanted a lighter air that day. One would not watch the video to take it seriously, most of Colbert’s show is very satirical. When I watch Colbert, I take what he says with a grain of salt, but I do take some of his information seriously. Colbert is a non-serious guy who gives a breath of fresh air to an otherwise serious atmosphere.

  10. Jishirll Clifton said

    I personally think that this is a different and intresting way of doing things. I saw this on youtube a couple of days after and i think that Stephan Colbert shows great ethos, pathos , and logos. Ethos is credibility, the fact that he is a comedian and he choose a funny approach to the whole situation made it very credible to me. The pathos which is emotion was shown in mostly humor, and he had a lot of great points throughout this whole speech that impacted me, like when he said how hard the labor is and how most of us dont want those kind of jobs anyway. lastly he used get logos, which is logic, he put things in senerials that made me think you know what let them do the jobs we wont because eventhough a lot of Americans don’t have jobs, that doesn’t mean they want to do hard labor for little pay. I also think that a lot of people took this way out of hand, they asked him to come speak on the issue, so him “making a joke” out of the situation probably should have been thought about before he was invited. I also think that this issue has became more heard because of the coragous act he took upon him self, because honestly if he was just blabbing on and on I would have never even watched it.

  11. Manuel Crespin said

    I agree with many people here who know for a fact that Stephen Colbert is strictly a comedian and a television show host. When they invited him into the court system, they knew they weren’t expecting another man in office. If they wanted people to think this were all in seriousness they would have brought in Arnold Swartzenegger instead. He is not by any means known as a well credited journalist. He is in show business for a reason, because he knows what people want to hear. Although, yes, i do find his comedic approach to finding sources to be quite credible. As we can see, Stephen does at the very least know what it is that he is talking about. As well as many other people around him. I have a friend that is a comedian who opens for the Colbert Report every week. He said Stephen is a funny, yet sensible guy who is knowledgeable of his appearance is not afraid to use it to his advantage. I believe all is in plan for Colbert and this little mishap at the Supreme Court, was all for money and attention. No matter what though, he is not a step behind.

  12. Greg McWilliams said

    Colbert might not really have the knowledge to testify for migrant workers and probably didn’t really have a place talking at the hearings but, the House might want to take a step back and re-examine their own choices if they have an issue with an invited TV show host, who’s main job is to satirize current events, doing exactly that. With that being said, Colbert should be given some credit for being able to point out the sometimes absolute ridiculousness that we call politics. There have been many times I’ve seen him interview politicians etc. and throw them for a loop, if anything his ability to cut through bs should be valued, even if that really doesn’t do much.

  13. Alex Miller said

    I think that sometimes you have to break the ice with humor. Even if the setting is a little extreme or professional, I still think Colbert had the right to throw in a little humor. When people speak at funerals there is often some type of humor expressed to relieve some of the tension built up in the room. I think that Colbert was trying to replicate the same gesture. People are over reacting when they say that their tax money has been wasted. People have different ways of delivering speeches in effective ways.

  14. Danita Wyatt said

    I feel that they should have already known what they were getting into when they asked his opinion no matter what the setting or the topic.He gets paid for a living to make jokes about current topics in society no matter how serious they may be, so why would he be any different in any other setting, Colbert is Colbert and he proved that by the way he answered his questions and he is going to be himself no matter what. As humans we can either take it or leave it.

  15. I find it funny that they would call on Colbert for a testimonial. After all he is nationally known for making fun of politicians and news stories on a weekly basis. This was a bad form of public appeal and like mentioned in the article “a huge waste of taxpayer time and money”. After an image is branded by a person or corporation, that image sticks. It doesn’t go away because of a straight face and a sob story of an event that you endured with not so fortunate people. It’s like the story of the “boy who cried wolf”, make a certain image for yourself, and after a while it will be what sticks, no matter how much you may want to get rid of it.

  16. However adding on Colbert’s responses were not of sob stories, he was being Colbert. My wolf comparison does not tie directly to him.

  17. Vanessa Emerson said

    Again I can see where many would feel the speech given was uncalled for but it may come across funny to some while what he was saying had truth to it. The way he delivered his message I’m sure to many is not the norm and in some cases offensive but he did keep it respectful and gave his version of what correct. Media needs another way to get the message to its viewers and Bill O Reilly made his point. I feel he didn’t do it to disrespect Americans and the American legislative process but more or less to make his conversation and speech with them very colorful and connective with the them and their audience. A dry speech can fall on deaf ears easily and I think he was avoiding that with this method. Plus I think we need to review who is giving the speech. A known comedy that has a show based on this type of speech so to except anything else would be out of character for this man and his history. I enjoyed it and took away from it what I felt I needed to without feel disrespected.

  18. Dom Harris said

    Stephen Colbert is a comedian correct? He gets paid to speak about current topics whether they are serious or just jokes. Therefore knowing this why would anyone ever take him seriously they might say this was “a huge waste of taxpayers’ time and money” but look how long he has been doing this for. Now all of a sudden after a few remarks this was a waste of money? How come they haven’t figured this out a long time ago if true people are just so sensitive. Give the man some credit he is able to point out some of the ridiculous things politicians do and say and he spins it to make for a good comedy sometimes.

  19. Deherrera Stephanie said

    I don’t think that working in a bean field for one day makes Steven Colbert an “expert” on migrant workers. I come from a small town and have personally worked in the fields as a summer job and “one” day does not even begin to compare to how it really it is to work in them. Colbert did answer the question like he was supost to but he is going to be himself no matter what. We can either take it or leave it. One good point i thougt he made was why tell someone too leave the states when they are helping to keep it running in-a-way. What harm are they really doing? They are all humans just like us/

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