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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Operation Stephen Colbert

Sorry, Conan, but Stephen Colbert is the funniest man on late-night television. It takes real cajones, to use a Colbert term, to satirize a war as a faux right-wing pundit for an audience of soldiers in the former palace of the dictator the war intended to topple. It's so meta, it isn't even meta. This week's episodes of "The Colbert Report" come straight to our television sets from a marble palace in Camp Victory in Baghdad. In Iraq. Taped in front of an audience dressed almost entirely in U.S. Army-issued fatigues. At Saddam Hussein's former "water" palace.

Now Colbert, unlike his counterpart Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show," has never openly declared his political views, despite his scathing address at the White House Press Association dinner a few years ago. Based on the crowd response to the blowhard alter-ego pundit's visit to Iraq and video addresses from John McCain and President Barack Obama, it's doubtful his political leaning matters to anyone.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from last night's first episode. If it's any indication of what's to come in the remainder of the week of what Colbert is calling "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando," it's a glorious start to the week.

1. The opening montage where Stephen finally finds out "where in the Persian Gulf" he's going. Check out the video:

2. Stephen declares victory in the War on Iraq. Using the "powers vested in" him by "basic cable," Colbert does what few generals and Presidents have dared to do -- declare that the mission is, in fact, accomplished. It's met with laughter, but it's hard to ignore the underlying message. Colbert's opening salvo is that he didn't know the war in Iraq wasn't over because he hasn't seen anything on the news. And it's far too close to truth. Don't believe me? Watch CNN.

3. John McCain advises the troops in a "shout-out" to make sure they always take the time to clean their muskets, adding "I learned that at Valley Forge." Sure, the John McCain is really, really, really old jokes are, well, kinda old, but it's still funny.

4. Stephen undergoes basic training. It's like "G.I. Jane" with a no Demi Moore.

5. "If Stephen Colbert wants to play soldier, it's time to cut that man's hair." With those words, President Barack Obama orders the Commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, to shave Stephen's head. It's clearly a scripted moment (Obama's message was taped previously), but it's pretty darn fabulous. Also, serious props to Gen. Odierno for overlooking Stephen's dig at his baldness and the comparison to Shrek.
"The Colbert Report" airs on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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