It’s rare to find a single thing that encapsulates both what I appreciate and what I disdain about a subject. The last minute and a half of this Colbert Report clip. In it, Philip Zimbardo tries to suggest that Lucifer was right, showing incomplete knowledge of theology. Stephen Colbert takes 30 seconds of national cable show time to provide proper perspective. And he gets cheered! When Dr. Zimbardo notes that the host learned well in Sunday School, the response is above: “I teach Sunday School, M—–F—–!” It’s funny. It’s also true, as Colbert notes in this Parade interview. There’s even a blog about Catholic Colbert, which contains clips and information on elements of faith in the show. I didn’t find the time where Colbert recited the Creed, but for an excellent example of Catholic social teaching, I recommend the segments on the 1969 South Carolina nurses’ strike.
The problem, though, is that last word. The juxtaposition of gentle church instruction and a vicious profanity causes us to laugh. It’s strange and unexpected. But, somewhere, I know Mr. Colbert can do better. Lots of comics rely on profanity to get a reaction, beginning about as soon as a kid understands why certain words are uncommon. Like sesquipedalian. That’s incongruous and funny, right? Ultimately, though, we move towards better ideas of irony and atypical situations and strange events, and only the mediocre comedians rely on shock. Because he’s not mediocre, I get frustrated when Stephen drops to that level.
That’s true about his show, and that’s true of his book, I Am America (and so can you!) Lots of parts are quite funny, like how all the figures are of him, and the fake Ordinary People, and the pre-annotated pages. That’s great. So why do he and his writers have to resort to vulgarity? They’re better than that. Without the f-bombs and bad innuendo, this book would be highly recommended. As it is, it drops to a 2 out of 5.