This week, Stephen Colbert is bringing laughter and joy to a devastated quagmire of misery and destruction: Newsweek. Oh, and Iraq.
The comedian guest-edited this week's issue of the newly redesigned newsweekly. And, of course, it begins with editor Jon Meacham explaining the joke, because the old people who read "magazines" might not get it, otherwise. "Everything he did in character is signed, so there should be no confusion about what is NEWSWEEK and what is Colbert." Oh, good, we wouldn't want any unexplained absurdism or fun in this issue.
Colbert's editor's note is better, at least.
Of course, guest editing is more than just sitting around tanning myself by the gleam of Fareed Zakaria's teeth. I set the editorial agenda, assigned stories and yelled at Peter Parker to get me more photos of that web-slinging vigilante, Spider-Man. He's a menace!
I took advantage of my powerful new perch and published all my letters to the editor that NEWSWEEK had rejected, provided my Conventional Wisdom, took a red pencil to Meacham's editorial foofaraw and took the bias out of the columnist bios. Most important, I sent NEWSWEEK's reporters to find out whatever happened to Iraq. Unfortunately, this meant cutting the cover story they had planned: "Hey, Have You Heard About This Thing Called 'Twitter?' "
Shit, Time, we hope no one retweets that ZING @ you, or whatever one does, exactly.
So. The issue is all about Iraq, and it features a serious cover story on the war by Fareed Zakaria, the official spokesman of the Neo-Liberal Geo-Political Consensus. The issue is all about Iraq, in fact, because that is where Colbert took this show this weekend.
The location of Colbert's "Persian Gulf" trip was an easily-guessed secret (until Sarah Palin revealed it to the terrorists). And, of course, his performing his easy-to-grasp satirical routine for members of the armed forces means a lot of condescending attempts to figure out whether our child-like troops really "get it."
The troops didn't seem to care much about the meta-ness of Mr. Colbert's visit, nor were they uneasy about his political shtick as they laughed at the gags about clearing Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and last year's shoe-throwing incident involving the man who was then their commander in chief as much as at Mr. Colbert's self-deprecating jokes about his lack of fortitude.
"I know his persona is all pro-American," Lieutenant Klempan said, trying to explain the math of Stephen Colbert and "Stephen Colbert" and which one of them had come for what reason. Finally he gave up.
"I'm glad either one of them showed up," he said.
Yeah, you know, the thing about being a good comedian is that you are funny to everyone, and not just New York Times readers.