Monday, September 27, 2010

Is there a place for satire in Congress?

Recently, Stephen Colbert was asked to testify before Congress regarding undocumented immigrants working in America. Colbert participated in an event where Americans were asked to come work in a job that was typically done by illegal immigrants. Colbert worked in a field for a day. Since Colbert was one of only a few that participated, he was asked to talk about his experience.

But Colbert, being a comedian, turned the table. He chose to speak in character, as the pompous blowhard commentator he is on his show. He wrote his testimony the night before and handed it over to the committee. Many were upset that he was going to speak "in character." Both democrats and republicans stated it was inappropriate. Some however did not have a problem with it.

So here's my question. Even though Colbert's testimony was, on its face, part of a comedic act, is there value in what he did? Or was it a waste of time? His celebrity certainly brought out the cameras. Many congressional members said there were more cameras there than normal.

For clips of the event, click here.

30 comments:

Megan said...

I don't know about the rest of the class, but I found Stephen Colbert's testimony hilarious. He made many good points even though he made them through jokes.

In my opinion, Colbert did not make a mockery out of the committee. The committee and legislation has made a mockery out of itself. He was invited to speak before the committee.

I also think that there should be more recognition of this illegal immigrant problem. I do not believe that Americans would not do the jobs that these illegal immigrants are doing. There are many Americans right now that are searching for jobs and would gladly take on the job of picking beans just so they could feed their family. On the other hand, I believe there are many Americans that feel they are above picking beans.

Taylor Lang said...

Recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell commented on this issue stating that, “illegal immigrants do essential work in the U.S. and he has firsthand knowledge of that - because they fix his house.” Powell, a moderate Republican, urged his party to support immigration because “what’s keeping this country’s lifeblood moving forward.” That article can be accessed by clicking the following link: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/09/19/politics/main6882567.shtml It’s comments from individuals with stature such as Powell that will make a sizeable impact on this issue. Steven Colbert was continuing to do his job as a comedian and no one should have expected more from him. I don’t see much value to The Daily Show or Colbert Report seeing that they are comedy shows, nothing more. Once in awhile they will make a strong argument on a particular issue, but often in such a comedic sense that it devalues the arguments.

The fact that the committee assumed that Steven Colbert would not speak in character was a bad assumption to make. The bigger picture here is that the issue was getting some air time and
real attention. If anything, it was poor planning on the committee’s part to ask Steven Colbert to participate and assume that he would not testify in character.

rap201 said...

To answer the question, I believe that both comments are correct; if I were a member of Congress, this was probably a complete waste of time. However, as a member of the viewing public, this was the first interesting thing I have seen come out of a Congressional Hearing in some time.
Although, I found Colbert's comments quite entertaining, I cannot say that I thought this was the best time/place for a comedy act. The Chairwoman that invited Colbert is the person to blame if any member had an issue with the presentation. Colbert was simply being himself. Personally, I do not think that one day as a field worker qualifies someone to be an expert that should be attempting to convince Congress by presenting his/her findings.
On the bright side, with the public opinion of Congress at anemic levels, a comedy act may actually be the one thing that could improve these ratings. Additionally, I do not see the value of a greater than normal amount of cameras. As long as the major news networks are covering the story, most people will have access to it.

Robert
(rap201)

Melissa Laster said...

I do believe there is value in what he did. I think that it show a lot that he showed up to give his testimony. I think that there were parts of his testimony that should have been said. Those parts were very helpful with understanding what he felt. I also think that some parts about him being in character were rude. I am pretty sure that parts of his testimony offended some of the representatives. I think that being in character made it hard for some of the representatives to take him serious. Like the lady they show that is looking at her Blackberry. I don’t think that being in character helped much but I don’t think that it was a waste of time.

bkp36 said...

How refreshing. I believe this testimony should make many Congressmen ask themselves this question, “Would I work in the field for just one day?” Honestly, I believe the answer would be no. No matter what spin is put on the testimony that one answer places value on the five minutes Colbert used of the committee’s time.

Any time a celebrity becomes involved in a social issue cameras instantly appear. It just happened this time the celebrity was a comedian. I think his testimony was valuable because he did take one day out of his world to work along side immigrant workers. Maybe we should all take one day and walk in the shoes of others. America, we are so blessed…use the talent you have, no matter what that may be and make a difference.

bpaganelli

Daniel said...

Stephen Colbert made several good observations on immigration so in fact, I do not believe that it was a waste of time. Colbert's participation will also help to bring more publicity to the issue. All in all Stephen Colbert did an excellant job albeit a different way testimony is commonly given before congress. To me it was a nice change.

I do see the point of some members of congress that it was a waste of time. What were they expecting though? Colbert did what Colbert does. If they were looking for more serious testimony why invite a comedian to testify. It really makes no sense to have him testify. It was funny, somewhat informative, but makes no sense to invite him to testify.

Daniel Ray

jessimpson said...

First of all, do not ask a comedian to testify before the Congressional Sub-Committee unless you want a good laugh. I am sure that the chairwoman wanted Stephen Colbert to speak because of his experience as an immigrant farm worker for a day, but she knew what the implications of this might be. I feel it was wrong for one of the committee members to ask him to leave especially since he was invited. His opinion matters just like the rest of America's opinion matters. Not to mention, that Colbert is highly watched on his show the Colbert Report. Where the majority of people do not enjoy the news and choose not to watch it, they will watch shows like the Colbert Report. This makes the show and its host extremely substantial and important. Colbert must stay in character for his show and reputation.

Also, he brought out some very important issues that the American people want addressed. Those of which being: immigrant labor, obesity in America, the November midterm elections, and the AgJob Bill. He made a valid argument if you can read in between his comedy. We, as Americans, are concerned that our farmland has been shutdown and moved to Mexico, that there is no such thing anymore as "American made or grown", and that our immigrants are treated so poorly when they do the hard labor that we refuse to do. Colbert pointed out "84,000 acres of farmland has been moved to Mexico along with 22,000 farm jobs. And 1 million acres of farmland has been shut down in America". He said, "We should secure our borders, but then who will pick our crop". He brought out some valid points. Our people need to realize what will happen if we throw out our immigrants and increase border patrol, etc. Sometimes the only way to reason with an American is through comedy.

Jessica Simpson

LHipp said...

Well, it certainly did get the committee hearing more attention than it would have otherwise. Even his in-character speech had meaning. I do not think this reflected poorly on Colbert, as some politicians said. His fans know him and what to expect. He does not often “turn off” the persona he has created. Frankly, this committee should have known that. I don’t think his presence really damaged the national discussion of issues facing migrant workers.

I do think this is one more example of congressional time wasting. Other celebrities, like Elmo, have testified before Congressional committees, and there was little value in their presence. It’s just a gimmick to get the cameras there, and it’s about as useful as Congress tackling oh-so-important issues like drugs in baseball. We’re on the edge of massive deficits and they’re worried about sports and celebrities.

Renita Moore said...

I personally do not have a problem with the things that Colbert said. Maybe he used the humorous side to keep from crying because this is definitely a serious problem in the USA. The committee and the legislators need to listen to his testimony again. This time they need to eat the grass and spit out the hay.

Paula said...

I believe that a little humor is good for the soul. The committee had to have known that by inviting Mr. Colbert to speak that there would be a possiblity that he would make a humorous comment or statement, he's a comedian at heart.
He did make some very good points however in a very humorous way. The immigrant problem is something that is very prevalent and needs to be addressed;the committee needs to take heed in the things that Mr. Colbert suggested and act upon them.

There are many people seeking employment and I believe that as long as you're making a honest wage you will do whatever to survive.

Paula G

jerodine said...

I do believe that was important what he did. I think that should mean something when he showed up to give his testimony. He did make some very good points in a very humorous way.

I believe, because he was a character it was hard for some of them to take him serious. Because the lady was looking at her cellphone instead of listen. Sometime being a character don't help at all.

Jerodine]

lhw55 said...

I think that Colbert's testimony before congress was a complete waste of time. No that I didn't think he was funny or that he brought a much needed light heartedness to the seriousness of the committee meetings, but it was not productive or progressive at all.
I think that our Government is not a place for one to go and use it as a stage to make his comical career stronger. Americans have paid tax dollars to these congressmen and women to be productive with these meetings and make changes for the better of or government.
Instead Cobert used his hour that was intended to be serous to make a joke out of the issue before him. I think that it was disrespectful for the people who are fighting so we can have the freedom of government.

john ray said...

Wow! First of all, I love Stephen Colbert and his show, but this was such a joke. Did our government really waste their time on this. We are in a national crisis and our economy is failing and we are dealing with jokes like this.

Colbert has some meaningful points but they were overshadowed by his jokes that nobody laughed at. Nobody in Congress took anything he said to heart because it started and ended as a joke.

I do appreciate the fact that his testimony will probably bring more attention to the matter, but he blew a chance to really do something productive. Glad to our Congress is seeking out comedians to testify on important USA matters.

--John Ray

Ebb said...

Stephen Colbert did make good comments on immigration. I do not believe that it was a waste of time.

Colbert was a comedian so, they should have expected nothing less than the answers to be funny but realistic from a comedian point of view.

clp said...

I feel that Stephen Colbert's insight into the struggle of the immigrant worker is primitive at best. I followed my dad around at work one day as a child, but that does not make me a expert on his job. Stephen Colbert is an entertainer. He did exactly what an entertainer does, which is entertain. Despite his flippant banter throughout his testimony, some of his ideas were valid. His idea concerning increasing the number of workers visas to improve the status of the immigrant worker has merit and is worth exploration. This idea was, however, overshadowed by his numerous comedic solutions that he proposed.

Even though his celebrity did increase media coverage of the issue at hand, he made light of a very serious matter. His one valid plan to remedy issues of boarder security, immigration and citizenship was poorly developed and overlooked due to his other absurd proposals. His testimony was a waste of time, because any gained viewership was watching to be entertained rather than seek a solution for a serious problem.

Codi Phillips

Ruthie Robison said...

I think there was value in what Stephen Colbert did. He not only brought out some very important points about immigrant work, but he also brought great media coverage about the subject in hopes of improvement for immigrant working conditions.
I think Colbert’s being in character actually helped the issue even though it made some members of Congress upset. Sometime taking a satiric approach is the best method for getting a message across. It also makes the opposing side sound ridiculous.
The things he said were funny. In addition, coming up with a different way, like using humor, to raise awareness about an issue is a great way to grab people’s attention. I also think that if you invite a well-known comedian to testify in front of Congress, you should expect a few jokes. However, I think the jokes made the greatest impact on the point he was making.

Sara said...

I do not think that Colbert was wasting his or anyone's time. I thought his testimony was hilarious. He made several good points about immigrants and what they do.

If the question "would you pick beans for one day" was asked to the standard public, I believe the popular answer would be no. Unless someone was struggling to make ends meet, they might gladly pick beans.

Most immigrants that are picking beans and vegetables in a field are doing so to feed and clothe their family. In this case, mexicans will do just about anything to make money. I honestly don't care who picks and packages the vegetables I eat; I'm just glad I'm not the one doing it!

Sara Walters

David said...

I really think there are two points to be made regarding Colbert's Report: 1. There is some level of truth in all of his comments 2. How much of our tax dollars were wasted for him to further his career as a celebrity?

I enjoy his show as well as the Daily Show on the Comedy Channel. I think he is hilarious and can't say that his testimony didn't make me smirk. However, in my opinion it was a huge waste of our country's time to him to testify to Congress about a one day's work as a farmer. I would like to know how much that cost us. He makes jokes about our deficit and certain dollars wasted at the hands of our representatives in Congress; yet he is guilty of the same actions. I guess he is not above such corruption...as he once stated.

Currently, there are nearly 10% of the workforce in the US unemployed and 20% of the workforce underemployed. Now is not the time to be using this kind of humor and it is insensitive to those families stricken by the underperforming economy. We have all be touched either directly or indirectly. Let's stop wasting time, let's stop talking, and let's start doing something again. This country was made great because of immigrants who came to the US for a better life, people who were full of fight and wouldn't let anything get in their way. We need to start going and stop wasting time of our congress so maybe they can actually pass initiatives that will stimulate the economy or at least stop spending and let the free markets perform the natural ebb and flow.

In the end, it was enjoyable to see a comedian in a room full of people who are the butts of jokes however I do not like our tax dollars wasted because the chairperson enjoys his TV show as I do. I don't have him come in for a day at our place of employment in order to entertain my staff!

David dlt174

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Unfortunately it became a waste of time. It drew attention to the issue, but is all attention good? When Colbert makes a mockery of an extremely important and serious issue, it seemingly becomes a big joke. Colbert can be very witty and make valid points, but it comes off as ludicrous and people who agree with him laugh, and people who disagree are able to quickly dismiss it as absurdity.

Colbert appears to be an intelligent and informed “journalist”. He has a very large and dedicated audience. If he was able to turn the comedy and persona off and on… or at least dial it down at times… then I think he would be able to attract more people to take his cause serious. But when he says (paraphrasing) that to eliminate illegal migrant workers in the fields is for Americans to stop eating vegetables makes a punch line of the situation. People laugh at it, but the cause is lost in the translation.

Nick Abernathy

Beth ann said...

I have always thought the Congressional hearings were for very serious matter. These hearings are called for the purpose of the presentation of testimony from individuals, who have information that would help the committee come to a decision. The testimony given by Stephen Colbert was a joke. There are no issues more important than that of illegal immigrants and the role they play in the agricultural industry. In no way, was he an authority on this issue, just because he worked one day packing corn in a box.
I heard on the news, he presented a copy of his remarks to the committee before he testified, but read from an entirely different script. This tells me, not only is he not qualified on the issue of illegal immigrants, but is also dishonest. He used this platform for a publicity stunt at the expense of the taxpayers. I also heard on the news, it cost a minimum of $300,000 dollars a day to hold these type hearing. The United States wasted a lot of taxpayers’ dollars in court on the day Colbert testified.

Elizabeth Wade

JOHN B said...

The fact that Stephen Colbert added a little levity to his testimony does not detract from the importance of his message. Although his testimony was a little unorthodox, he did say things that needed to be said. He is a comedian. The committee should have anticipated that his testimony would not be presented in the same way that others may testify. If they didn’t want the comedy act, they should not have invited him to speak. Colbert made some valid points and succeeded in calling attention to a problem in America. I don’t believe that his testimony was a waste of time. It is doubtful that his testimony would have generated the attention it did if he had presented it in a serious manner without the comedy.

I think that the media should be trying to elaborate on the problem rather than trying to shock the American public by intimating that Colbert was their to testify only to advance his own personal agenda. I believe he was serious in his belief even if he presented it comically.

John Rabalais

Rebecca G. said...

I think that Colbert's testimony had value. While his testimony may have been considered one big joke for the most part, it brought much needed attention to the issue.

I think that it should've been expected that he would appear in character before the committee. I can see where many people would consider it a waste of time and money to have a comedian speak before the committee, but the additional coverage should have made it worth it.

Rebecca Grimes

Lisa Scott said...

There was value in both Colbert's participation in the event and his testimony before the congressional committee. Colbert was comical in delivering his testimony but the point of his message was not comical. Picking beans being bent over in field all day is not easy work. I was raised in the country and we grew most of our own vegetables. I remember the long hot days in the summer planting and weeding and then harvesting. When school started it was a welcome relief from the farm. I can only imagine if picking beans bent over all day was my 9 to 5. I am sure the work is exhausting and the wages for illegal immigrants are low. Will Americans do this type of work? In some parts of the country, I think they will. In other areas of the country, I think no.

How will we ever know if Americans will perform this type of work if illegal immigrants are continually allowed to do it. If the workers are illegal, then I am sure the work conditions and pay are well below standard. I do not think American workers would accept these conditions and pay which is part of the reason why the farmers or corporations allow illegals to perform the work.

Colbert's testimony was valuable in that it brought humanity to the illegal worker and the type of hard work that they perform. However, they are still illegal immigrants. If the crops are grown on American soil, then American workers should pick the crops.

Thanks,
Lisa Scott

emdaco said...

While there was value to Stephen Colbert's testimony, it was diminished when he provided it in character. He had an excellent opportunity to make a valid statement: illegal immigrants are not “taking away” any jobs that American citizens would willingly perform, because it is the lowest paid and most physically demanding of work. He still attempted to make that statement, but it had less of an impact coming from his portrayal of an aloof, ultra-conservative. Had he said what he meant to say as the real Stephen Colbert, all the people who get their news exclusively from him and John Stewart would have understood the real meaning behind his performance in front of the panel.
The fact of the matter is that the people who employ migrant workers to pick produce in the fields probably prefer to employ undocumented aliens because those individuals won’t speak up if their employer violates labor laws or pays them less than minimum wage. Also, with regards to the field work performed by Stephen Colbert, while the United States is in a tremendous recession, we are not in the depths of the Great Depression, and it is highly unlikely there is even one case of an American citizen who even attempted to find work picking produce, let alone one American who was turned away from such work due to an abundance of illegal immigrants in that occupation willing to work for less. If all the undocumented workers who performed our lowest paid and most menial jobs were deported, unemployed American citizens would not be performing those jobs, and that work just would not get done. The entire argument of illegal immigrants “taking American jobs” is a thinly-disguised attempt at using the legal system to enforce racism.

emdaco said...

While there was value to Stephen Colbert's testimony, it was diminished when he provided it in character. He had an excellent opportunity to make a valid statement: illegal immigrants are not “taking away” any jobs that American citizens would willingly perform, because it is the lowest paid and most physically demanding of work. He still attempted to make that statement, but it had less of an impact coming from his portrayal of an aloof, ultra-conservative. Had he said what he meant to say as the real Stephen Colbert, all the people who get their news exclusively from him and John Stewart would have understood the real meaning behind his performance in front of the panel.
The fact of the matter is that the people who employ migrant workers to pick produce in the fields probably prefer to employ undocumented aliens because those individuals won’t speak up if their employer violates labor laws or pays them less than minimum wage. Also, with regards to the field work performed by Stephen Colbert, while the United States is in a tremendous recession, we are not in the depths of the Great Depression, and it is highly unlikely there is even one case of an American citizen who even attempted to find work picking produce, let alone one American who was turned away from such work due to an abundance of illegal immigrants in that occupation willing to work for less. If all the undocumented workers who performed our lowest paid and most menial jobs were deported, unemployed American citizens would not be performing those jobs, and that work just would not get done. The entire argument of illegal immigrants “taking American jobs” is a thinly-disguised attempt at using the legal system to enforce racism.

Emily Conroy

Hunter Boerner said...

I think there was value in what Colbert did. He was only one of 16 who took on the challenge. I think any time celebrity status is involved with an event, it will always enhance and bring recognition to the issue.I think by using comedic slang as he spoke, it gave him the ability to really speak his mind and open up the issue for more discussion. I do think that there needs to be more recognition brought to this issue. Our economy is slumping because we are buying all of our products overseas due to the cheap labor, and employing more immigrants just because they are cheap labor is not helping Americans get jobs. I agree that many Americans would not want to pick beans in the field because everyone wants a 9 to 5 glamorous desk job with benefits because this is what success to most people looks like here. I think success should be geared more toward being able to provide for your family no matter what kind of work it is. Maybe between Colbert and the government pushing the issue more, our country can improve this situation.

drm198 said...

I do believe that Colbert's testimony was a waste of time but along the same line, Congress also should have known what they were getting by inviting him to testify and in my opinion the committee is the one that wasted the time of the American people by inviting him in to testify.

While I do agree that a little humor may be needed especially when it comes to congressional hearings, I believe that there was no reason for Colbert to have been invited to testify before congress.

Cperkins said...

I think that Congress should have known better to ask someone like Stephen Colbert to take this seriously. He makes a living at satire. His followers watch his show to see his commentary on Politics.

If anyone wasted time, it was Congress. Stephen Colbert did what Stephen Colbert does. Congress, however, should hold its proceedings in a higher regard than to let someone who constantly riducles them into their chambers and offer him a more prestigious soapbox to speak from.

Carolyn Perkins

scacapit said...

The testimony was very funny. There was truth in the things that were said. People have to stop being so sensitive and see things for what they are. Stop taking life so seriously.

Most of the committee didnt even participate in working at the jobs as he did so they dont know what it's like. The point that Americans won't even do the jobs that the immigrants do is very accurate and true. Something needs to be done where both parties can benefit from the situation.