by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & The Colbert Report & r & & r & (Comedy Central, 11:30p, Mon-Thurs) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & rt, it turns out, can also imitate idiocy. Case in point: Stephen Colbert, who may be in the middle of the longest-running satire in world history. For more than three years now, The Colbert Report has kept late-night TV watchers hypnotized with Stephen Colbert's patented brand of bombastic wing-nuttery. Just in case you're the last one in America to get in on the joke, earlier this month, Colbert admitted it was all an act -- inspired by bombastic wing-nut Bill O'Reilly.
The elaborate spoof offers some of the most reliably funny stuff on TV -- often funnier than even The Daily Show, where Colbert got his start. His ongoing "Wriststrong" campaign was hilarious, and his well-chosen interviews (just last week he had & lt;a href="http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/189691/october-28-2008/sherman-alexie" target="_new" & Sherman Alexie & lt;/a & on) are pure absurdist theater. The fun part is watching the guests squirm -- only the good ones can keep up. If you can survive Colbert, you've got chops.
The show runs on the wicked wit of Colbert -- a winner of multiple Emmys for his comedy writing -- whose affected buffoonery perfectly lampoons so much of what has passed for opinion-making in America.
And Colbert's lack of knowledge on most issues never slows his pontificating, making the show more of a spoof, perhaps, on America than on any one loony loofa lover. He's our know-nothing-in-chief, and we love him for it.
Sometimes humor is serious business; it has taken the likes of Mark Twain, Will Rogers and Lenny Bruce to really pin down what's been wrong at different times in history. And when Colbert took on both George W. Bush and the D.C. media in a scathing speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in April 2006, he became an instant folk hero.
But Colbert's shtick is being threatened. What happens when nobody's listening to the guys he's making fun of? These past three years, irony and sarcasm were about the only weapons available, but now you wonder if it's even funny to pick on the likes of O'Reilly. With Democrats on the rise, maybe Colbert (the character), like a lot of Republicans, will have to start looking for a new line of work. Consider the Jason Alexander Syndrome -- the pigeonholing named for the actor who so became George on Seinfeld that he never really worked again. So for the good of Stephen Colbert (the extremely talented comedian), he may want to start planning his next gag.
You loved her as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, and now Tina Fey's very funny series about life behind the scenes at a Saturday Night Live-esque show is back. We're always skeptical of too many guest stars, since the cast (all the way down to the bit players) is so solid, but tonight's episode features Oprah Winfrey. (Thursday, 11/6, 9:30 pm, NBC)
The Crash of 1929
This is a repeat but a timely one. Not only did we just celebrate the 79th anniversary of the big crash, but Wall Street has been teetering on that same edge all over again. Featuring interviews with people who lived through it, from newsboys to stock traders, it's from the folks at American Experience, so it'll be solid. (Monday, 11/10, 9 pm, PBS)
Top Chef: New York
The election's over and Top Chef is starting a new season. Perfect, we can start escaping again -- away from too much CNN and into great food and delicious backstabbing. Our favorite reality show is back, this time in center-of-the-food-universe New York. If you can't wait, you can meet the 17 hotshot chefs from around the country at bravotv.com. (Wednesday, 11/12, 10 pm, Bravo)