Stephen Colbert is America, whether we like it or not

Andrew Gaug

While Barack Obama has his Audacity of Hope and Hillary Clinton is Living History, no book by a half-Democrat, half-Republican faux-presidential candidate will compel you more than Stephen Colbert’s I Am America (and So Can You!).

But while the others compel people to think and more importantly attempt to get your vote, I Am America just wants to compel readers to laugh. And it does, to varying degrees.

Following “The Daily Show”‘s 2005 America: The Book, Colbert’s book models its format after its predecessor while adapting a faux-preachy tone more aligned with his show, “The Colbert Report.”

Much like the show is a parody of “The O’Reilly Factor,” the book is a spoof of O’Reilly’s best-selling books. Colbert rants about women’s basketball (“Everytime I see a lady make a shot I think ‘I bet a guy could’ve made that better.'”), education (“The more you know, the sadder you’ll get.”), religion and the media (“There are a few journalists who aren’t registered sex offenders. These people work for Fox News.”), among others. All the while contradicting jokes go on in the margin, similar to Colbert’s popular reoccurring segment, “The Word.”

Therein lies the problem with I Am America. With America: The Book, “The Daily Show” writers were able to adapt the show’s snarky sense of political humor into a book that could stand on its own. To truly enjoy Colbert’s deadpan, pundit-skewing humor in the book, you’d have to have at least watched a few episodes as a prerequisite.

Like watching one too many episodes of “The Colbert Report,” its cynicism can only be taken in small doses before it loses its edge. Thankfully, it breaks from Colbert’s comedic tirades before they become grating for some of the book’s best bits. From the table of “Things That Are Trying to Turn Me Gay” (one of them being Clive Owen) to a one-sentence summary of a number of college courses (he sums up Careers In Poetry as “Just move back in with your parents now.”), the book offers something beyond Colbert’s usual quips.

Like most comedy books, I Am America is hit-or-miss fare. For every two great jokes about how God won every war that ever happened, there’s a lame one about Big Secularism and how its screwing up our nation. The book’s tongue-in-cheek nature never allows it to be taken seriously, but can’t save it from being repetitive at times.

Colbert’s show came along in 2005 as a more conservative parody of politics and found success in its lampooning of the many 24-hour news station talking heads.

I Am America may not be as diverse a collection of comedy as its predecessor, but it evokes enough laugh-out-loud jokes to make it required reading for any fan of the show. Casual readers may just want to stick with America: The Book.

Contact all correspondent Andrew Gaug at [email protected].