The Colbert Report went to Baghdad for the first of four episodes last night, and it was a victory for comedy both satirical and silly. Walking onto a stage dressed in a business suit made of camouflage, Stephen Colbert brandished a golf club: an unspoken homage to Bob Hope, who used to swing a putter during his numerous USO tours. Facing an audience of enlisted soldiers, he made Hope-style jokes about the heat as well as warfare (“Iraq: a country so nice we invaded it twice”).
In a gesture much appreciated by his audience, Colbert had his head shaved to a military-regulation buzz-cut by Gen. Ray Ordierno, under the direct order of the Commander in Chief. (President Obama, in a taped message that included the command, “Shave that man’s head!”)
Not entirely avoiding politics, Colbert declared victory in Iraq, as he put it, “by the power vested in me by basic cable,” and an on-screen joke told the troops, “Obama should deploy you to GM.” Indeed, Colbert’s visit is intended, in part, to remind those of us here stateside that there are a lot of men and women doing very difficult work overseas, even as the news media is dominated by our economic woes.
But you’re not going to catch me, as someone who blogs about Jon & Kate Plus 8 among other topics, chiding the news media… the great thing is, Colbert does it all by himself. What he’s also doing, via his hilariously huffy, cowardly Colbert persona, is continuing a great tradition of entertainers who make the effort to travel to where troops are deployed and give some brief pleasure to soldiers. More power – and less hair – to him.
Did you watch The Colbert Report in Iraq? What did you think?