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Comedy Central's Life After Stephen Colbert

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 28 Apr 2014 16:30
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Jason Jones and Sean Hannity

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Finding someone else to "play" The Report's version of Stephen would be a ridiculous proposition... but that doesn't mean the punchline can't be retrofitted to a different version of the joke.

There's some truth in the common oversimplification that "all" Colbert Report did was poke fun at American political-conservatives, but his target was more specific than that: The Report aesthetic aped the right-wing Fox News cable network, while Colbert himself played a vicious parody of Bill O'Reilly whose O'Reilly Factor was Fox's most iconic show in the early-00's when Colbert first kicked off his series. But a decade is a long time in TV, and while O'Reilly is still popular, the most prominent face of Fox today (Glenn Beck managed to burn bright and flame out right in the middle of Colbert's run) is Sean Hannity. If someone wanted to create a successor show to The Report moving to Hannity as the prime target of satire would be a logical first step.

Hannity is a different character from O'Reilly, reflecting their network's change in approach from feigning neutrality by accusing everyone else of "bias" ("We Report, You Decide!") to a loud-and-proud network wide embrace of Culture War berzerkerhood. Whereas O'Reilly (and Colbert's send-up of him) was defined by his unique mix of bullheaded self-righteousness and finicky personal hang-ups, Hannity is basically a human-cudgel. He is the TV host version of the fraternity bro whose "political awareness" was nonexistent until his daddy got him a job and he found out what income taxes were. He is a schoolyard bully in a tacky suit with a pronounced loathing for even O'Reilly's version of "intellectualism" who exists to shoulder-check whichever political or pop culture targets his corporate/party bosses point him at.

It's a spectacle that's every bit as ripe for parody as "Papa Bear" was, but would require a real comic talent: Colbert found (and understood) the wounded, insecure humanity that fuels a personality like O'Reilly's, but Hannity appears far less complicated - he just seems to simply be mean, and that's harder to penetrate for comedy. One possibility? I could see longtime Daily Show contributor Jason Jones pulling off a terrific faux-Hannity in the vein of the insensitive-blowhard routine he occasionally employs to prod unaware interview subjects. The question would be whether Jones, who currently works part-time for Daily in order to devote time to other comedy projects and to his young (and growing) family with wife and fellow-contributor Samantha Bee, would want the added workload of a nightly show?

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