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I never fully understood Stephen Colbert, possibly because I started watching The Daily Show during the time that he was transitioning from there to The Colbert Report. But as soon as I began watching the Report I realized that there was something about Stephen's brand of satire that really struck a chord with me. He tells the truth by over-emphasizing the other side. It's sardonic, devilishly funny, and some of my favorite moments of the Report's first year was watching it with my ultra-conservative roommate who was thoroughly convinced that the man was being serious.

When I Am America (And So Can You!) was announced, though, I looked forward to it with cautious optimism. What Colbert sells almost lacks translation. I admire him in the spoken form but it was strange to think of reading his "truthiness" without his tell-tale verbal delivery. I wasn't sure how I would feel about the book, but it's Stephen Colbert. Like I will buy anything CSI related, I will buy it just for Stephen.

That said, I think some of my suspicions were well-founded.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy the book. Of course I did. Set up as a series of explanations of what threats are facing America today, there were segments that made me laugh aloud because of the sheer audacity of his fun-poking. And really, Colbert's always had a unique ability to make fun of himself, which is almost as important as making fun of others.

But overall, it just fell flat. I felt in a way as though I was perpetually waiting for a punchline that never came, which was a let-down after reading 100 pages in a night to get to the end and feel like there should have been something more. There was no real gut-punch, no real cohesion, and I can't help but think that there was no logical place to end it so it simply ended. Of course, in a book of this type, which purports to be part self-help and part text book while being all satire, I suppose reaching for a conclusion was perhaps going a shade too far.

Then again, in my mind, the full-text of Stephen's White House Correspondent's Dinner speech was worth the purchase. That, if anything, is the best work he's done, and it's fitting that he puts it in as an appendix; anywhere else, it really would be a tough sell, if only because his other material didn't hold a candle to it.


the forest-dweller

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