The Time 100 Gala is a yearly event that celebrates the 100 most influential people of the year. This year, celebrities, activists, technological pioneers and even athletes graced the list and the red carpet of the event. The eclectic group of guests received awards and gave speeches after being put in the categories of Breakouts, Pioneers, Moguls, Leaders and Icons.
My favorite pundit and yours, Stephen T. Colbert regaled the audience with a speech that left people in stitches, tears and cheeks blushing with flattery. Colbert’s speech was the blending of news and entertainment and its finest. The Time 100 gala is considered a very prestigious event and honor that is given to those who are deemed significant enough to be narrowed down to a category and thrown into a suit or gown for an evening of schmoozing and champagne other significant enough people. Something that everyone should be aware of, (and no matter how many people know there are still so many that don’t,) is that Stephen does all of his interviews, speeches, appearances and pretty much anytime he enters public, in character – a character that is mockingly right wing and strikes a healthy balance between informed and oblivious. Stephen’s speech followed a pattern, one that was consistent with his character and the theme of the evening. In this excerpt from his speech he set a casual and light-hearted “report” and continued to acknowledge his fellow influencers and gave a special nod to the comics on the list.
“You know, it’s actually a bit dangerous to have this many influential people in the room. What if something should happen? It would wipe out the world’s supply of influence. That’s why some members of the TIME 100 are not here tonight, we have sequestered Warren Buffett and Viola Davis and in an undisclosed location in case we need to repopulate the world with influentialness.”
Stephen Colbert, placed under the category of “Icon,” intemperately mentioned fellow icons and shamelessly put them into his own categories. Colbert continued to name Georgetown student, Sandra Fluke, actress and comedian Kristen Wiig and Cardinal Timothy Dolan all feminist icons. I don’t think the crowd had a tough time deciphering where Colbert was being facetious…
“Now, TIME 100 honoree, his eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan disagrees — sir, lovely to see you again. Of course, now some, some critics have said in response to this that if the Catholic church’s insurance does not cover Sandra Fluke’s birth control, it shouldn’t cover Cardinal Dolan’s Viagra. Oh, no, no, no. Oh, no, no, no, that’s called celibacy plus. That’s how the pros do it. Because chastity is one thing, but it shows true commitment to uphold your vows when you are sporting a crook you could hang a miter on. Oh, wow, see you at mass on Sunday, sir? I hope he doesn’t become Pope. I’m a Catholic, it’s okay. I go to confession, it will be fine. Thank you.”
The second theme that I would like to discuss in this blog post is if Stephen Colbert’s speech once again poses the question, how seriously do we take political pundits? The interest that Colbert’s speech generated at the Time 100 Gala rivaled the media attention of Hillary Clinton’s public statement that she would be stepping down as Secretary of State next January, regardless of who the next President of the United States will be. Sometimes, even as a former Colbert Report employee and testament to the real Stephen Colbert’s character, I can’t believe that a persona so ridiculous is so faithfully praised. To the public, Stephen is nothing more than his character. To those who don’t know him, his political opinions, family life and interpersonal actions are only subjects of speculation. It provides people with an entertaining way of receiving political news; it’s the best of both worlds. Is political punditry merely a blending of news and entertainment, or is it a desensitization of the pressing political issues at hand? If we continue to give this much attention to this particular style of news delivery, will we ever want to watch the news on CNN, Fox, ABC or NBC?
Anticipating the start of my job at CNN this summer and someone who is currently blogging on this subject, I have recently made an observation about patterns developing in news shows. Anderson Cooper’s Ridiculist is being talked about by his page on Facebook and Tweeted about more than ever in the last three months. Is it possible that hard-hitting journalists like Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett feel that Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are competition for their respective news programs? It makes me wonder if we will look to Comedy Central as a main news source and speculating that a portion of the American audience already does, will we be able to identify the differences between The Colbert Report/The Daily Show and Anderson Cooper 360° and OutFront?