Monday, June 8, 2009

Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando

Yes, the location has now been revealed. Stephen Colbert is in Iraq and will be there all this week. The first of 4 shows will be on tonight.

The NY Times and USA Today both have articles about the show and reveal some details.

From USA Today, comes this:

Apparently, all it took for victory in Iraq was a visit by late-night funnyman Stephen Colbert.
"By the power vested in me by basic cable, I officially declare we have won the Iraq war!" the mock pundit joked before a cheering crowd of about 300 U.S. servicemembers who gathered here on Sunday for a taping of his TV show, The Colbert Report.

Colbert, who has been raising money for charitable organizations that support U.S. troops, had been trumpeting his plan to tape his show before U.S. servicemembers in an undisclosed location. Taking heed of Defense Department security precautions, Colbert would only say in recent shows that, where he was going, "there will be sand and people that wish we would leave."

Before the show, some soldiers wondered whether Colbert, whose TV persona pokes fun at conservative punditry, would dial it down for a military audience.

No way. "He went totally all out," said 1st Lt. Virginia Brickner, 29, of Van Wert, Ohio.

The man who invented the word "truthiness" joked that Iraq must be a pretty nice place, considering many of the servicemembers in the audience "keep coming again, again and again."

"The good news is you have enough frequent flier miles for a trip to Afghanistan," Colbert told the troops, who responded with hearty laughter.

He has been talking this up for weeks, and until clueless Palin said she had taped a message for him to deliver no one really had a clue where he might be going.

Then NY Times also brings up some points and has this to say about the show that were quite funny and interesting:

It was Sunday night in Baghdad, and President Obama was ordering Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of the American troops here, to shave Stephen Colbert’s head. (Not to give everything away, but the general is not as brutal with an electric razor as one would expect a bald man to be; Mr. Colbert’s hairdresser, on the other hand, has a merciless streak.)

Into this comes Mr. Colbert. He is taping four episodes of “The Colbert Report,” the Comedy Central show featuring his egotistical, fake-macho, nationalist blowhard alter ego, in Baghdad this week. It’s the first time in the history of the U.S.O. that a full-length nonnews show has been filmed, edited and broadcast from a combat zone.

The week of shows, taped a day or two before they are broadcast, is called “Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando,” and it has a pretty fancy guest list (in addition to General Odierno, and the president, whose appearance was taped ahead) that includes Iraq’s deputy prime minister. But there is also something kind of meta about the whole thing. Mr. Colbert’s entire career is based on being gleefully insincere, a man who literally wraps himself in the flag to the screaming of majestic computer-generated eagles.


So it was easy to wonder if, given the setting, he would be a little less mock Bill O’Reilly and a bit more risk-free Rich Little.

Any doubt was dispersed the minute Mr. Colbert ran out onstage wearing a business suit made of Army camouflage and, shortly afterward, declared himself the only person man enough finally to declare victory in Iraq. (General Odierno, whom Mr. Colbert compared to Shrek, diplomatically talked that declaration down.)


“Think of certain reporters who lose themselves in their own self-importance and accidentally give away troop movements and get kicked out of the country,” he said in a not particularly oblique reference to Geraldo Rivera.

“The best way I can show gratitude is to do my show the best I can and make them laugh,” he said. “If I tried to tailor my material to people in the Army, there’d be two things. A, that’d be patronizing. And B, I’d be wrong.”

But then I think this is the most important part of the article and it should shame every reporter, every pundit, and even most of us.

Shortly after the inauguration, though, he began talking to a fellow board member at Donorschoose about the troops in Iraq.

There was a general feeling among soldiers there, the board member said, that Americans had largely tuned the war out, that the economy had vacuumed up all the attention even though there are around 135,000 troops still here and still doing dangerous work.

“There’s a thesis statement there, which is something for my character to hang on to,” he said. “My character thinks the war is over because he doesn’t hear about it anymore. He’s like a child. A ball rolls behind the couch and he thinks it’s gone forever.”
Soldiers here are all too aware of America’s attention span about this war, several of them at the taping said. So the visit of Mr. Colbert, postmodern or not, was an unexpectedly high-caliber event among the recent string of retired baseball managers (Tommy Lasorda actually), wrestlers, cheerleaders and actors whose names require a little Googling.

“I’m surprised that anybody comes here,” said 27-year-old Lt. Travis Klempan of the Navy, from Lafayette, Colo. “I mean we had the guy from the Allstate commercial. It’s like: that’s nice.”


For all of Mr. Colbert’s exaggerations, there are extremes to life in Baghdad that are difficult to caricature. The set of the show here, with a desk made of sandbags painted as an American flag and a backdrop depicting soaring jets, rolling tanks and the ubiquitous porta-potties, pales in tackiness compared to the ceiling it is sitting under: the palace’s blinding pastel gaudiness is unmatched.

The troops didn’t seem to care much about the meta-ness of Mr. Colbert’s visit, nor were they uneasy about his political shtick as they laughed at the gags about clearing Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and last year’s shoe-throwing incident involving the man who was then their commander in chief as much as at Mr. Colbert’s self-deprecating jokes about his lack of fortitude.

“I know his persona is all pro-American,” Lieutenant Klempan said, trying to explain the math of Stephen Colbert and “Stephen Colbert” and which one of them had come for what reason. Finally he gave up.

“I’m glad either one of them showed up,” he said.

I can't wait to see it.. I think this will be the best shows Colbert will ever do and I for one think the historical nature of it is also something we have to think about.

We have forgotten this war. We have forgotten the men and women who are fighting, not we, so much as the press, the media, you seldom hear about it. Unless it is something terribly bad. Something the right can do to try to slam Pres. Obama, or something the left can use to slam former Pres. Bush.

Other than that, no one talks about the war in Iraq. We still have a large military presence in Iraq, yes, Pres. Obama is bringing them home, just as he promised, maybe it is a little slower than some wanted, but he did say he would listen to the commanders and do it as they thought was the best.

It has to be that way, he has always said he, Pres. Obama, wanted to be as careful coming out as we were careless going in. That's the key phrase right there. Because we, as a country, were careless going in.

Watch, Colbert this week, remember the troops, remember we still have a war in Iraq.

1 comment:

ZenYenta said...

Thanks. I didn't know about this. I don't know if I'll be able to stay up. I usually can't make Colbert no matter how I try, but I'll make sure to see it online or to record it. Good on him for going. I hope it inspires others to visit as well.