David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines

Holy crap.

Stephen Colbert is bombing at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. The crowd is just not laughing. It's painful to watch.

I've never seen a dive like this. Aching for the hook.

FOLLOW-UP: Interesting. Editor and Publisher has a report of the event that's so far removed from reality, it makes me wonder what show they were watching.

As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and left immediately.

E&P's Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting--or too much speaking "truthiness" to power.

That isn't what I saw. Colbert got remarkably few laughs during his presentation, and as I watched it I saw him look increasingly panicked and desperate. It wasn't one of the better Correspondents' Dinners, and everybody seemed a little off their game -- President Bush's gag speech was okay, but he's done far funnier material in previous years -- but Colbert just *bombed.*

Colbert's opening gag, I thought, was pretty good: "Will the owner of the fourteen black bulletproof SUVs please move your car? You're blocking the other fourteen black bulletproof SUVs."

It got crickets.

Colbert kept going. He put up a brave front, though at one point he stumbled badly, blew a joke about the President's approval rating, and weakly restarted it. (It wasn't a bad joke.) The people sitting near Colbert didn't look uncomfortable, as E&P claims. Colbert did. There were literally minutes where nobody even chuckled. Colbert threw out gag after gag -- not all of them needlers -- and they just kept flopping. He tried to stay smooth and professional, but you could see panic in his eyes: he's a man who's used to having his audience scream with laughter, and the crowd was giving him nothing. When the video sequence about his stint as White House Press Secretary began, you could sense fresh hope: maybe he'd be funnier on tape. The first stint, in which Colbert rose to the podium by elevator through a trapdoor, got a small laugh. He didn't get to the uncomfortable joking about Iraq for a while; he just started with giving the press corps silly nicknames. It didn't play. The polite chuckles vanished quickly.

When Colbert finished, he got polite applause. Very mild, polite applause. The chair of the association stood to clap, as did the rest of the panel surrounding him on the dais (including President Bush and the First Lady). When Colbert, limp with sweat, left the podium, President Bush didn't hustle out, as Editor & Publisher claims. He left first, as the President always does at these things, but before he did he went over to Colbert and shook his hand. He also shook hands with everybody on the platform, including reporter Helen Thomas, who'd co-starred in Colbert's video. Colbert wasn't snubbed by anybody. He just failed, big-time. And if you look at the man's face when CSPAN replays the show, you'll see that he knew it.

What I'm not sure of is why. Colbert's style was wrong for the event, and his timing was off, but there has to be more to it than that. He was more stridently liberal than usual, particularly for the event, but the Washington press corps should have eaten that up. I don't know why the press didn't laugh for him. Maybe the fact that he mocks them for a living has something to do with it.

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