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There used to be just two Stephen Colberts, and they were hard enough to distinguish. The main difference was that one thought the other was an idiot. The idiot Colbert was the one who made a nice paycheck by appearing four times a week on “The Colbert Report” (pronounced in the French fashion, with both t’s silent), the extremely popular fake news show on Comedy Central. The other Colbert, the non-idiot, was the 47-year-old South Carolinian, a practicing Catholic, who lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, N.J., where, according to one of his neighbors, he is “extremely normal.” One of the pleasures of attending a live taping of “The Colbert Report” is watching this Colbert transform himself into a Republican superhero.
Suburban Colbert comes out dressed in the other Colbert’s guise — dark two-button suit, tasteful Brooks Brothersy tie, rimless Rumsfeldian glasses — and answers questions from the audience for a few minutes. (The questions are usually about things like Colbert’s favorite sport or favorite character from “The Lord of the Rings,” but on one memorable occasion a young black boy asked him, “Are you my father?” Colbert hesitated a moment and then said, “Kareem?”) Then he steps onstage, gets a last dab of makeup while someone sprays his hair into an unmussable Romney-like helmet, and turns himself into his alter ego. His body straightens, as if jolted by a shock. A self-satisfied smile creeps across his mouth, and a manically fatuous gleam steals into his eyes.
Lately, though, there has emerged a third Colbert. This one is a version of the TV-show Colbert, except he doesn’t exist just on screen anymore. He exists in the real world and has begun to meddle in it. In 2008, the old Colbert briefly ran for president, entering the Democratic primary in his native state of South Carolina. (He hadn’t really switched parties, but the filing fee for the Republican primary was too expensive.) In 2010, invited by Representative Zoe Lofgren, he testified before Congress about the problem of illegal-immigrant farmworkers and remarked that “the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables.”
Photo Slide Show: “A Day with Stephen Colbert”.
Full Article: “How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?”
Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow may be a running gag on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, but it is spending money as it sees fit, with little in the way of disclosure, just like its noncomedic brethren.
Comedians, including Mr. Colbert in the last election, have undertaken faux candidacies. But his Super PAC riff is a real-world exercise, engaging in a kind of modeling by just doing what Super PACs do.
“I am much taken by this and can’t think of any real parallel in history,” said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution. “Yes, comedians have always told jokes about elections, but this is quite different. This is a funny person being very serious, actually talking about process. What comedian talks about process?”
Mr. Colbert not only talks about process, he has become a part of it. The current law governing political action committees was laid down in a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, which lifted many restrictions on how corporations, unions and others could spend money on behalf of almost any cause.
While most of the rest of the news media continue to cover the coming election with long-running tropes — whose horse is ahead and who has the most loot? — Mr. Colbert has taken the equivalent of a political homework assignment and sprinkled a little silly sauce on top, and people seem happy to dig in.
“He is taking on a serious subject that many Americans find deadly dull and is educating the broader public on why it matters and what is at stake,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. Still, she adds, “it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, like a specific campaign or the electoral system.”
One person who works on “The Colbert Report” who declined to be named, in keeping with the secrecy of Super PAC-hood, said that like the other soft-money operations with soft and cuddly names, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow is in it for the long haul, because, as he pointed out, “there wasn’t a lot of competition for this piece of real estate.” “Not even the actual news reporters want to cover campaign finance. We decided that we would just see how far we could go,” he said. “And it turns out that, like everyone else raising money in politics, we can pretty much do what we want.”
Full Article: New York Times.
(Thanks to Susan209 and Mariana312 for the link)