I’ve been in New York all of a month, and already I’ve crossed two things off my bucket list: attend tapings of “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show.” I tend to watch Jon Stewart more regularly than I do Colbert, because, well, I’m getting old, and staying up past 11:30 p.m. is proving more and more challenging. Having said that, I admire Colbert as much as I can a complete stranger. Although both shows inform their audiences in a hilarious way, it takes a special kind of intelligence to execute satire in a consistently clever and provocative manner. Colbert clearly possesses that intelligence, and I left the taping of his show feeling as though I had just been in the presence of a genius.
In the episode I saw taped, Colbert discussed the money presidential candidate Mitt Romney would be raking in thanks in part to Citizens United. It was a funny yet frustrating bit, only made more frustrating by the couple I encountered on my walk home.
I was stopped somewhere around 60th Street and Third Avenue along with what must have been at least 100 other people. President Barack Obama’s motorcade was about to drive by, and the appropriate security measures were being taken. I was anxious to get home after a long day, but I figured if I was going to have to wait on a smelly New York sidewalk, this was a legitimate, kind of cool reason. Shortly after stopping, an older couple tried to push past me. I apologized, saying there was nowhere for me to move, that we were all waiting for the president’s motorcade to drive by.
You would have thought I told this woman the Naked Clown Parade was about to pass by from the look of utter disgust on her face. She quickly started ranting to who I assume was her husband about how much campaign money Obama was raising. She was right: He was. According to “The Colbert Report” taping I had just attended, both candidates were. This is exactly what her husband told her. “You have no idea how much money these rich Texans have,” he said.
She responded with, “Sure I do. My brother’s a dentist in Tulsa!”
I had to manually close my jaw. It’s a lot harder to take anyone’s political stances, regardless of what they are, seriously when they lack a basic grasp on American geography. A more jarring comment followed, however, when she shouted, “Why doesn’t he just get out of the car so I can shoot him?”
Although I managed not to voice it, I was horrified. I was in supposedly liberal New York. Was this actually happening? I never expected to miss my blue bubble of Madison when I moved east, but this had me crying for Lake Mendota. And regardless of the politics at hand, had this woman just made a threat on the president’s life? It was evident this was merely her pathetic attempt at a joke, but you didn’t have to look at her to closely to know she had been alive for the JFK assassination and attempts made on Ronald Reagan’s life. How could she possibly have thought this was an even remotely OK thing to say?
Obviously, this killed my Colbert high. I called a friend to rant about what I’d just witnessed, fell onto my bed as soon as I walked through the door and retreated to a memory I often visit in moments like these: November 4, 2008, the day Barack Obama was elected president, when everything seemed just a little bit simpler through my 18-year-old eyes.