Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Book Review: I Am America (And So Can You!).

There's a reason The Colbert Report is a half-hour.

More than 30 minutes induces fatigue.

Reading Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!) takes a page from the television show's satirical set-up and plays its single note over many chapters.

After a chapter or two, I was wishing for the end-credits. For those not familar with the television show, Colbert assumes the posture of a smug conservative blowhard for the purpose of lampooning him. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to deduce Colbert's character is based (almost entirely) on Bill O'Reilly. The purported autobiographical references sprinkled in I Am America essentially point in a singular direction: Irish-Catholic, Ivy-League-educated political pontificator on cable television. Wonder who that is.

There are some kernels of comedy to digest. Example: "Now, you might ask yourself, if by yourself you mean me, 'Stephen, if you don't like books, why did you write one?' You just asked yourself a trick question. I didn't write it. I dictated it. I shouted it into a tape recorder over the Columbus Day weekend, then handed it to my agent and said, 'Sell this.' He's the one who turned it into a book. It's his funeral."

Another: "And talk about hypocrisy! In 1952, the Supreme Court made another 'ruling.' This time, it was that movies were protected by the First Amendment! That's right, just four years after they criminalized Hollywood's free market, they upheld Hollywood's free speech! Which is it, Supreme Court? Are 'free things' good or bad? I thought rulings were for kings!" (Emphasis in original.)

Another: "There are some who claim that DNA is an instruction manual for all living cells. But if IKEA has taught me anything, it's that I don't need instructions. My coffee table works just fine, provided I remember to attach the counterweights."

Finally, and perhaps my favorite because it perfectly encapsulates Colbert's character's smugness and also his affected approach to revealed truth: "You're lucky to have this book as your one and only scripture. Every word of it is the revealed Truth, so interpret it literally. Including the typos. I put those in here for a reason--a mysterious reason that I know, but you don't. It should give you great comfort that I will tell you the reason after you die. I promise." (Emphasis in original.)

Colbert's book covers myriad subjects, including religion, sports, education, movies, media, race, class, science, and immigration. Despite the variety, the monotonous tone overpowers the topics and leaves a singular impression. We get it; you're making fun of the bloviator by bloviating.

One can only tolerate so much. The small, digestible bites of The Colbert Report go a long way.

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