Today the Colbert Report was broadcasted from the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugee, Border Security and International Law. Colbert testified before the committee in character about the plight of migrant farm workers.
About a month ago, on his show, Colbert promised to work on a vegetable farm in upstate New York as part of a United Farm Workers Association campaign called “Take our Jobs” a program that invites citizens to work on a farm all day. Colbert delivered, working on the farm for a whole day, making him an expert.
Today he spoke from “vast experience”, delivering a prepared speech that drew very few laughs from legislatures, or the press:
“REALLY not sure this is funny,” tweeted ABC’s Rick Klein.
“Colbert is making a mockery of this hearing,” said Mother Jones’ David Corn.
“Stephen Colbert packs corny punch,” read the Guardian.
“His ‘testimony’ was an embarrassment to himself, his country, the Congress and the entire issue of immigration reform” said Bradley Blakeman of Fox News.
Representive Steve King went on Fox after the hearing to proclaim the performance an “insult to the intelligence of the American Public.”
In Colbert’s defense, I thought it was hilarious.
The show almost didn’t happen. Representative John Conyers, a democrat from Michigan, asked Mr. Colbert to leave and submit his testimony in writing. Chairwomen Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California who had appeared on the Colbert Report to discuss the issue, insisted he stay.
The awkwardness in the room was palpable. A balding young professional in thick black glasses sitting behind Mr. Colbert shifted nervously, occasionally cracking a faint smile. One Congresswoman took the opportunity to check her Blackberry. Mr. Colbert pushed on:
“The obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at recent obesity statistics, you’ll see that many Americans have already started.”
“I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-SPAN1.”
“Why isn’t the government doing anything? Maybe this AgJobs bill would help. I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.”
In response to Representative King’s question about whether footage of Colbert packing boxes of corn was legitimate, Stephen answered:
“I was a cornpacker. And I know that term is offensive to some people because cornpacker is a derogatory term for a gay Iowan.”
Gay jokes aside, in the last minute, Colbert delivered his first serious answer and hit a home run:
CONGRESSWOMAN JUDY CHU: Mr. Colbert, you could work on so many issues, why are you interested in this issue?
COLBERT: I like talking about people who don’t have any power. And it seems like some of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time ask them to leave. And, you know, whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, these seem like the least of our brothers, right now. And I know that a lot of people are the least of my brothers because the economy is so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that, but migrant workers suffer, and they have no rights.
Stephen Colbert really cares about illegal farm workers. With his performance today, and the rallies he and Stewart have planned in DC on October 30th, it seems the comedian is to beginning to flex his legitimate political influence IRL.