Thursday, October 26, 2006

Running for office? Better run from Colbert
Most politicians are as likely to pass up free TV face time before an election as they would be to refuse a campaign check. Then again, there's a price to be paid for looking stupid.

Media has a role in politics - I think it's safe to assume we're not naive about that. But we still ask, as we should, how that role should be defined. For good or for bad, we find ourselves in every nook and cranny of the political arena.

Politicians turn to the media looking for a way to define themselves in the public eye and one of those impressions they want to give viewers is that they're not as stuffy as government work makes them look.

Ever since Richard Nixon delivered the "Sock it to me" punch line on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" during the 1968 presidential campaign, politicians have sought to use comedy shows to prove they aren't the stiffs they seem to be.

One of the criticisms against Al Gore was that he was "too serious" and lacked personality. I've heard some folks say that if they knew he could be as personable as he is today, they would have voted for him! Bill Clinton's been on the "Tonight Show" and played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall's talk show.

See, I think these things are great. I think opportunities to see government leaders in "friendlier" environments is necessary and helpful to voters who want to feel connected to elected officials. However, some comedies can be borderline "stupid."

"I watch it all the time," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), "and I think, 'Why would anybody go on there?' "

Pelosi is referring to Stephen Colbert's show that is so blunt, it is either too honest or too vulgar.

Paul Lewis, a Boston College professor who has studied humor and politics, said the series was just "a trap" for politicians.

"When they go on the show," he said, "they often seem like buffoons."

Read the actual article for specific examples of Colbert's interviews. Are comedy shows a bad idea for politicians?

Posted by AL


At Thursday, October 26, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I don't think so. The thing that some people fail to recognize is that politicians are humans too. They have a right to step outside the political arena and to take part in entertainment. The more affable the politician, the more likely he or she is to win the votes. As a guest on a comedy program, politicians have more room to show their personality. There's no abundance of media harassing them for sound bites, just a relaxed host looking to kid around. When someone moves into the live television medium, however, there's always a chance for embarrassment. People make mistakes. The most human of human, on occasion, even look stupid. As the saying goes...nobody's perfect.


At Monday, October 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think only really quick qitted politicians should go on a show like Colbert's otherwise they will no doubt look like a jackass. And then it'll end up on YouTube!


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