Friday, June 12, 2009

Colbert Nation On the Road in Iraq

[Left: Not funny. Below: Very funny]

I thought Stephen Colbert and his crew, aided by the USO, pulled off an astonishing feat doing a week of four very funny "Colbert Report" shows for the troops in Iraq. That segment on Colbert going through boot camp was a riot, I thought. I also couldn't believe he persuaded President Obama, via satellite, to jokingly order General Ray Odierno, the well-liked commanding general in Iraq, to give Colbert a boot-camp buzz hair-cut on stage in Baghdad. Now Colbert has to wear his grunt hair in New York till it grows out. And that Brooks Brothers camouflage suit was a true inspiration.

Nice work all around, and the shows were obviously wildly popular with the troops.

In some mainstream news accounts today, I did detect an occasional note of condescension about Colbert, who often gets depicted as someone who appeals to people who don't read and instead get all their news from, well, Colbert and, one presumes, YouTube. Dunno, my wife and I TiVo Colbert every weeknight. We get plenty of news that we wouldn't otherwise see from Colbert, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow.

On several occasions, Colbert mentioned the well-known USO tours by Bob Hope, who made something of a second career (after the movies) with his Christmas shows in war zones, which he had plenty of to choose from over the years. In what he called an "homage" to Hope, Colbert carried a golf club on stage, swagger-stick-like, the way Hope used to.

Here I gotta put in my two cents, as they used to say back when Bob Hope was considered funny (which was roughly during the Korean War).

I was in Vietnam, in the audience for the Bob Hope 1968 Christmas Show, and while the troops were enthusiastic for the effort (and the dancing girls), very few thought the guy was funny. I would say he basically bombed (poor choice of words, I know). People were scratching their heads. Here and there some chuckles rippled through the crowd, but essentially he laid an egg with stale jokes.

Later on, when the program was broadcast on network television, it was obvious that the TV people had sweetened the soundtrack with uproarious laughter, which I sure never heard that day.

Also, I spent a little time that day with Mr. Hope, who was already well-known for his increasingly reactionary politics. He struck me as a nasty old fart who jollied it up with the brass and basically ignored the grunts, when he wasn't snapping at the poor enlisted guys assigned to serve him.

Ann-Margaret, though, she was way cool, a classy woman.

Thanks for the memories.


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