I hope you'll forgive my vocabulary taking a turn for the Anglo-Saxon, but it's only appropriate because it's one of his gags on The Colbert Report
I have always loved Stephen Colbert since he was on The Daily Show. Did I love him more than Jon Stewart? No, of course not; that's a silly question, like asking whether I like Abbott more than Costello. Like Abbott and Costello, they each had diametrically opposed roles to play, with Jon as straight man and Stephen as comic foil. While I love The Colbert Report, I still feel a sense of loss that Colbert's not doing the Daily Show anymore. Jon has a whole cast of comic foils, and some of them are quite funny, but none of them quite have the magic that Stephen Colbert brought to his bits.
But enough of that; I'm talking about the White House Correspondents' Dinner which, through divine providence, I just happened to catch last night on C-SPAN.
Do a quick Google search and you'll find all sorts of political analysis of Colbert's speech. Let's talk for a minute about his acting chops. It's one thing to perform this persona night after night in your own studio, amongst your own friends and/or employees, to an audience that knows you and your schtick and is responsive and appreciative. That's easy. But how easy would it be to suddenly be faced with the very people you are lampooning (one of whom happens to be the so-called "leader of the free world," whatever that means); people who have tremendous power either as political figures or prominent journalists (or good-looking movie stars). People who, in some cases, are aggressively isolated or aggressively isolate themselves from any sort of criticism or mere SUGGESTION that they may be doing slightly less than a perfect job. These people begin sense the metaphorical knife blade you are holding to their ribs as you are ostensibly tickling them (though it took them a good five minutes), and they have ceased to be amused. They fall eerily silent, as though they're listening to you give your own eulogy.
A lesser performer might falter, might drop character, might start to feel ashamed or self-conscious or somehow attempt to salvage the moment and ingratiate himself* to his audience.
But Stephen Colbert (one slight misspeak notwithstanding--he recovered beautifully, as is his wont) never blinked, never faltered, never let his persona slip. He continued to smile sweetly at Mr. Bush and speak in a voice of awed deference, shoving spoonful after spoonful of sugar laced with [some foul-tasting yet non-toxic medicine, I'm drawing a blank--that's what I get for trying to write elegant prose] down his throat. And Bush just had to sit there and swallow every mouthful.
It was beautiful. And no one else--no, not even my beloved Jon Stewart--could have pulled it off.
Just prior to Colbert's speech Bush did a bizarre and distubing act in which he stood next to a frighteningly accurate impersonator of him, who told us what Bush is "really" thinking when he speaks. It was a completely lame and and unimaginative act, but I would have loved to have brought the impersonator back during Colbert's speech to tell us what the president was "really" thinking.
I suspect that it would have had to be aired on a five-second delay.