Joe Gandelman, in his informed review [he is a professional comedian and ventriloquist], notes that Colbert's routine was based in heavy irony -- or as I would put it, "snark" -- and explains that irony only works in front of a crowd that shares your basic assumptions. Clearly the lefty bloggers shared Colbert's hostility to the President; that's why they praise him. I don't share those assumptions, and from its reaction neither did the audience of mostly left of center journalists and celebrities. For the most part Colbert received only nervous titters. In short he bombed.
Some attribute this to his daring hipness and the stodginess of the audience. But more important, I think, is the fact that Colbert completely misunderstood the purpose of the occasion. The Correspondents' Dinner is supposed to be a place where journalists and government figures can let down their guards and interact in friendly environment. Self-deprecating humor is the order of the day. But Colbert's humor, if that is what it can be called, was nasty and mean, completely contrary to what was called for in those circumstances. It was simply inappropriate behavior.
Bloggedygook takes the discussion beyond the question of left/right bias or appropriateness and trains his guns, quite rightly, on the absurd pretentiousness of both Colbert's fans and the media figures in the audience. The suggestion, made by many on the left, that Colbert was being brave in speaking truthiness to power or some such thing is just plain ridiculous. Bloggedy points out that snark is pervasive in Washington dialogue as is a sense of self-importance that is impervious to satire. He writes:
[I]t has become tiresome to hear talk of courage in this case, as if Colbert is in some fear for his life, but chose to stand against the fascist state and mock the president and media. Rubbish. The easiest place in the world to be snarky is Washington D.C. The Capitol virtually runs on snark. I pointed out that courage would be exemplified by an Iraqi mocking Saddam (when still in office) where speaking against the government carried very real danger.
The other point that begs to be made is that the shrieking about police states, etc. demonstrates just how humorless much of Colbert's audience is. There is less comedy being made than the fiction that Colbert and Jon Stewart "speak" for some voiceless mass. In the age of the ubiquitous opinion, screaming at the top of one's lungs that one's speech is being stolen is absurd and in itself, the best form of satire practiced today.