Contrary to what you might expect given his outspoken distrust of all things written word, Stephen Colbert has published a book, “I Am America (And So Can You)”. There’s an accompanying audio-book version with the same title, and word has it they’re not exact replicas of each other. No doubt someone at the publishing house is hoping to sell both versions to a few of the more die-hard members of the Colbert Nation.
To compare it to its cousin in source material, the literary companion to The Daily Show, “America (The Book)”, was fairly spectacular but was also somewhat divorced from the show itself. The authors took the tone of the show and applied it to American history as well as American politics, ending up as a sort of cross between The Daily Show and The Onion. Colbert’s book, meanwhile, stays closer to home, and I think that might have been a poor decision.
I’ve been more than well aware of how much the live aspect to The Colbert Report amplifies what I like about it, but listening to Colbert’s humor without the crowd and with careful editing really takes something away from the humor. Without going too deeply into the increasingly frustrating divide between The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (and I also hope without sounding too harsh), I think its fair to say that Stewart has regressed into poor imitations of Bush and Cheney for punchlines while Colbert has been pushing into new territory and experimenting as a comedian.
Watching Colbert flub a joke because the on-screen “Alpha Dog Of The Week” graphic barks too early is just as funny as watching him land a joke with perfect comedic timing. Similarly, there’s something amazing, even watching from home, the way he can get the crowd involved. I’m even fairly certain that the flub is planned, but I don’t really care as long as I can get lost in Colbert’s fantastically bizarre universe of wrist injuries, Tek Jansen novels, and killer bears.
By staying close to the format of the show and the character but channeling it into book format, I think Colbert and his staff of writers might have missed the opportunity to push in a different direction, something they do so well on their TV show. Its good for what it is, but the restrictions of the format have left it far short of even the more mediocre bits on the show.
A preview clip from his book can be found here.
And now, your moment of zen: