Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Final Farewell for a Fake

colbert-goodbyeNaturally I was disappointed not to make the celebrity invite list to share in the moment of Stephen Colbert’s farewell performance as a fake. I was especially offended that Abe Lincoln was invited and I wasn’t.

In truth, what I’m actually bemoaning is the loss of my favorite news show. Where else am I going to go to get all the news that wits?

Colbert has that special talent to interview anyone and make them look stupid, sometimes with little assistance. This skill will come in handy when he assumes the nighttime talk show desk being vacated by David Letterman next year. Except he will have to re-engineer his approach to help his guests seem less stupid.

As press and pop culture reports have gushed, Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Report is a 9-year phenomenon unlikely to be repeated. Other than the Desperate Housewives, who else could fake it that long? Unless you take Bill O’Reilly at his word that he really is a sensitive, cuddly guy.

Partisan press reports have gained popularity as they spellbind their true-believer bases with facts designed, if not stem-celled engineered, to please. What made the Colbert Report so fascinating was that it made fun of conservatives by making fun of liberals. You could take the show at face value or yuck it up as satire. For those self-medicating, perhaps you could do both at once.

Colbert and his writing team displayed a deft touch in humor, gag events and the use of language. You wouldn’t exaggerate by calling Colbert the soul of wit. More so than anyone else on TV every night, Colbert could crack a funny joke with pitch-perfect timing in response to just about anything, and always in character. I can hardly wait for Colbert in his new role to interview Billy Crystal.

Television holds ever-shrinking appeal to me, but I always looked forward to the Colbert Report. Seldom was I disappointed.

tumblr_ldnlnavkTa1qzyd6pOne of my favorite bits was The Word, which apparently is the longest recurring meme on the show. A takeoff of O’Reilly’s Talking Points Memo, The Word gave birth the now famous “truthiness.” But it was always a great launchpad for a rant with rolling punchlines.

Colbert’s interviews with seemingly witless congressmen were always good for a laugh, until you thought for a moment that these were the people making decisions about the direction of the country. When a Member of Congress prudently declined the honor of being harpooned in front a national television audience on the eve of an election, Colbert showed the pluck to interview their electoral challengers. That tended to make you less upset that incumbents always manage to win.

Other great bits featured Colbert defrocking anti-Christmas warriors, finding evidence the Cold War hadn’t melted away and proving Democrats were as dangerous as terrorists and termites.

colbert-morgan-debate-gun-controlWhen Colbert “ran for office,” he did so with a bluntness that made him seem politically endearing. Of course, he also exploited all the secret cash campaign tricks so no one paying attention could forget who was really calling the shots in elections.

All of us secretly wish we could act out our inner thoughts and feelings. I always felt that’s what Colbert did on his show. As he told his kids, don’t believe what you hear. But I think you could safely believe in what we all saw.








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