At a time when surveys show younger voters turning away from the mainstream media in favor of blogs and late-night television, politicians and their strategists recognize that "The Colbert Report" is a powerful way to reach a swath of Generation Y.Yeah, it's because of blogs... (Or were you just trying to get me to link to this?)
"We really don't have a broadcast medium anymore; we have sort of a narrowcast," said Chaka Fattah, Democrat of Pennsylvania, another Colbert guest. "So you've got to look for opportunities."There's the real danger, that loss of control, as Colbert goes on and on, trying to produce something that will be really funny in the edit. It's the same with real reporters too, though. They talk and talk and talk to you, and then they use one sentence that might be entirely different from everything else you said. Later you read the paper, see the quote, and suspect that that's the thing they were hoping all along that you would say and that's what all the questions were designed to elicit. So you've got to keep your wits about you through the whole interview. But anyone who's going to be a member of Congress has got to know how to do that.
Mr. Moran said 40 percent of his Northern Virginia district was composed of highly mobile, transient voters in their 20's and 30's. "They're very difficult to develop a relationship with," he said. "Now they see me on the Colbert show, they think at least he likes the same show we like."
Rich Galen, a Republican strategist, sees the youthful hand of hip Congressional aides at work. "The younger staffs of these folks are convincing their bosses that if you really want to be president of the United States some day, you've got to get in with the crowd on Comedy Central," he said.
Thus did David All, the 26-year-old press secretary to the 50-year-old Representative Kingston, persuade his boss, who is also the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, to be Mr. Colbert's guinea pig, his first guest. Mr. All then sent an e-mail message to other House Republican aides urging their bosses to do the same, and arranged for a showing of Mr. Kingston's Colbert clip at a recent weekend Republican retreat.
"We're all about the new media," Mr. All said, adding, "It's good that Republicans can be humorous."
But so far only one other Republican representative, John L. Mica of Florida, has appeared, only to suffer as Mr. Colbert poked fun of his less than elegant hairpiece. Some Democrats say that the dearth of Republicans proves that Republicans have no sense of humor, while others say that no Republican in his right mind would agree to appear on such a blatantly liberal outlet....
Mr. Colbert's victims — er, guests — report that the interviews can last as long as two hours, all boiled down to a few minutes on air. Most, with the notable exception of Mr. Frank, said they would do it again. Mr. Moran said he thought Mr. Colbert "let me off kind of light," and Mr. Pascrell said that while the interview was "like going through water torture," he had "no complaints."
Should Republicans stay off the show because Colbert is obviously a liberal (playing the role of a conservative fool)? I think all the members of Congress are in danger of coming off badly. They key consideration shouldn't be whether a given representative is Democratic or Republican, but whether he's sharp enough to understand the situation and poised and good natured enough to let the humor flow around him.
It's not really a matter of who has the better sense of humor. The representative has to be a good straight man. Being good natured and relaxed is much more useful in this situation than being a good humorist yourself. Thus, Barney Frank seemed utterly humorless on the show, though, I think, when he has the floor, he can be pretty funny. But he did badly on the show, because he got pissed off.