October 29, 2007

Colbert Brings Satire, T-Shirt Gun to Barton Hall

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The embodiment of pure truthiness, standing in at 5’11” and 180 pounds, Stephen Colbert entertained over 5,000 Cornellians and Ithacans in two consecutive shows at Barton Hall last Friday. The comedian, a self-proclaimed whiz of sharp-edge satire and intellectual wordplay, is the star of the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report and is a regular contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
“Who thinks I’m news? I’m not news. I make shit up all the time,” Colbert said, in reference to college-age students getting more news from his show than genuine news reports. “I have no journalistic integrity! I give just enough information to get my joke across!”
At the start of the show, Colbert mentioned Cornell’s mascot bear and began to explain that he had a fear of bears due to a traumatic childhood experience. Before he could finish his sentence, however, the bear ran onto the stage, only to be pummeled by Colbert’s t-shirt launcher. Without the express permission of the University, Colbert’s t-shirt launcher would be illegal to possess on campus, according to the New York State penal code.
Admitting that most of his knowledge of Cornell was derived from a Wikipedia article, Colbert noted that the University boasts of having eight NASA astronauts as alumni.
“There must be something about Ithaca that just make people want to flee the earth,” he commented.
Last weekend was First Year Family Weekend, guaranteeing that there were numerous parents in the audience during Colbert’s show. This fact, however, did not stop Col­­bert from making jokes with sexual in­nuendo or from confronting the parents themselves. He claimed that the youth of America today were the “softest generation … the most coddled generation of all time.” He blamed the parents in particular for instituting “time-outs,” which he called “white-collar prisons.” He praised youth for “organizing on the internets” but that “making YouTube videos about Britney [Spears] is not activism.”
Colbert recently announced that he would be running on both the Republican and Democratic tickets for president in South Carolina, and at the show named his campaign slogan: “Hail to the Cheese Stephen Colbert Nacho Cheese Doritos 2008 Presidential Campaign.”
But when asked about his presidential campaign in detail, Colbert responded, “I don’t actually want to win, I just want to fuck with people.”
He also addressed his stance on a prominent hot-button political issue, immigration, by arguing that the U.S. needs to seal all its borders and surround it with a “moat made of a river of [fire] … patrolled by flame-proof crocodiles.” He said that although immigrants built this nation, “it’s already been built,” and only needs some “touch-up and repair.” Americans should kick out all of the immigrants after forcing them to build the “Freedom Dome” that would enclose the continental U.S., he added.
At the end of the show, however, Trevor Moore ’08, one of the attendees, asked about his proposed Freedom Dome. Moore wanted to know what Colbert would do with “burrowing immigrants” who wanted to enter the U.S.; the comedian immediately picked up his t-shirt launcher and began to scan the floor for immigrants.
Colbert also presented a version of The Word with the word “U.S.” or “us.” The Word is a sketch frequently performed on his television show.
Colbert was asked a wide range of questions, including whether he wanted to go to a fraternity party that night (“Sure, I’ll catch up with you”), who his biggest influence was (“Giraldo Rivera”) and advice on where an aspiring young stand-up comedian should go (“Chicago”).
Despite the rain, attendees waited in a line on Campus Road that extended to Bartels Hall for both shows. The second show was added after the 7 p.m. showing sold out online within two hours.
Colbert faced some technical problems during the first show; his microphone frequently cut out in the middle of a punch line and the video display was out of sync with his jokes.
His performance received mixed reviews; many attendees found it funny but “not as good as Jon Stewart,” who performed at Cornell two years ago.
“I’d much rather be installing Leopard,” one junior remarked during the show, referring to the new Macintosh operating system that was released on Friday.