Review of I Am America (And So Can You) by Stephen Colbert

Note: This was written as an assignment for a class I took a while back and some information may be outdated. 

I am a member of Colbert Nation you should be too.

Colbert Nation is very similar to Rush Limbaugh’s “ditto heads.” For lack of better words, it is a fan club. This fan club is a means of supporting the role of Stephen Colbert—a fictional character created by Comedy Central for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” His fame increased and he was given his own show. However, Colbert makes note to differentiate his character from himself “Now, as you have explained to your grandparents, my name is Stephen Colbert, but I also play a character on TV who is named Stephen Colbert. I don’t always know which of us has been invited.”

Anyway, let me tell you how I was introduced to the character of Stephen Colbert.

When I was in high school, I discovered the “Jesus is a Liberal Democrat” clip on the “Colbert Nation” website (produced by Comedy Central). I loved the clip and was routinely sharing links to the videos. I had already kept up well with the news but it was Colbert’s style that really got me to care about the news. I also began to watch and keep up with “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which also features the character of Stephen Colbert.

These two shows have created a new style of comedic television programming meant to provide commentary and humor much like talk shows such as Jay Leno or David Letterman. But, “The Colbert Report”approaches the humor differently as it is more of political satire modeled after Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” He even makes many references to O’Reilly who he calls Papa Bear- like in the clip that began my addiction.

Oh, I also think you should become a part of Colbert Nation because everyone else is. Stephen Colbert and his character have become dominating media leaders. With the publication of I Am America, they have reached every medium currently available. ‘“The Colbert Report’ has a nightly viewership of 1.5 million, and with ‘The Daily Show,’ its companion fake newscast, beats both Leno and Letterman in the coveted 18-to-34-year-old viewing segment.”

I Am America is simply a manifestation of “The Colbert Report” in written form. However, what is extremely sad is that while the character remains the same between “The Daily Show”and “The Colbert Report,” Colbert remains lower in ratings than “The Daily Show.” People don’t understand that the purposes of the show are different. The character of Stephen Colbert as stated in his interview “will not change. He’s the exact same guy from ‘The Daily Show,’ and he has just been promoted into the host’s chair. We’re trying to establish a persona here. He’s a well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot.”

This differentiation between Colbert and Colbert is crucial because the book is written by Colbert as the character of Colbert. This book reflects his show in that it is political and cultural satire—based on facts but purely fictional. It is simply a book of satire and opinions (of the character of Stephen Colbert). “Well, like a lot of other dictators, there is one man’s opinion I value above all others. Mine. And folks, I have a lot of opinions.” As his show mimics the “O’Reilly Factor,” I think that this book is simply a mockery of all narrative non-fiction books that may or may not have high levels of “truthiness”. You need to understand this; otherwise, I Am America (And So Can You) can be considered highly offensive and libelous.

I also have to explain his qualifications as a character or as himself to write this book, I guess. Apart from his importance as a media leader and his massive following, there are no real qualifications to write this book. He says so himself in the introduction:

“I am no fan of books. And chances are, if you’re reading this, you and I share a healthy skepticism about the printed word. Well, I want you to know that this is the first book I’ve ever written, and I hope it’s the first book you’ve ever read. Don’t make a habit of it.”

Now, you might ask yourself, if by yourself you mean me, “Stephen, if you don’t like books, why did you write one?” You just asked yourself a trick question. I didn’t write it. I dictated it. I shouted it into a tape recorder over the Columbus Day weekend, then handed it to my agent and said, “Sell this.”

His satirical approach to writing does not detract from making great points on everything from religion to the media. It is also important because of his commentary on the media in chapter 10, “What’s wrong with NPR? Just listen to Morning Edition. This is by far the least zany “Morning Zoo” ever to hit the airwaves. Instead of the get-up-and-go-larity provided by your local Scott and Tom, or Ted and Zeke, or Denise and Santana, or Coyote Mike and The Beemer.”

On a final note: if politicians are taking Stephen Colbert and other political comedians more seriously then why shouldn’t you?

As a member of Colbert Nation, I believe in Truthiness and this letter is truth,

Adam Schrader

P.S.

That one man can have so much influence over an audience is fascinating.

P.P.S.

Colbert also is deeply catholic — he even teaches Sunday school. The Rev. James Martin, a friend and the culture editor of American magazine, a weekly catholic magazine, said these are not small points: “I think, in a way, Stephen is participating in what the Vatican calls the new evangelization, which (is) trying new ways of spreading the gospel. Satire can be a form of evangelization. Jesus used parables as satire.”