In what were probably some of the most awkward and uncomfortable moments on Capitol Hill since the Clinton impeachment, comedian Stephen Colbert took his act before the mainly humorless House Judiciary Sub-Committee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.
The host of "The Colbert Report" was invited to testify about migrant worker policy after he did a segment on his show in which he spent a day picking beans with migrant farm workers in upstate New York. For the most part, Colbert stayed in character as an elitist, free-market Republican, and it was clear that many on the subcommittee either didn’t want him there or simply didn’t understand his sense of humor.
While the biggest laughs came at the onset, when Colbert said he hoped that his celebrity status would bump his testimony “all the way up to C-SPAN 1,” a few other zingers seemed lost on the subcommittee members, who were probably already in a bad mood for having to work on a Friday.
“Now, the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables,” Colbert said. He then delivered the punch line, “And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, many Americans have already started.”
Iowa Republican Steve King was so uptight about the ordeal that it felt like replacing Colbert with horror author Steven King would have lightened the mood. After Colbert’s testimony, King spoke as if he were running for director of buzz-killing operations for Iowa’s 5th Congressional District.
"Maybe we should be spending less time watching Comedy Central and more time considering all the real jobs that are out there, ones that require real hard labor and ones that don't involve sitting behind a desk," said King after Colbert was finished.
As it turns out, King does have a history of being controversial from behind his own desk in the House of Representatives. King has been compared to Joseph McCarthy for his attempts to block the naming of a post office in San Francisco because the potential namesake was a woman he claims was affiliated with Marxism. But wait, there’s more. King has brought up the idea that any member of Congress who supports amnesty for illegal immigrants should have to wear a scarlet “A.”
Of President Barack Obama, King has said, “If he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11.” King is also one of a handful of representatives who voted against aid to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
But let's go back to Colbert ... he ended his prepared remarks with perhaps his best twist of the knife. Colbert closed by saying, “I trust that following my testimony both sides will work together on this issue in the best interest of the American people as they always do.” This is when the chamber erupted with belly laughs, and a Mr. King produced a big frown.
Colbert’s presence on Capitol Hill seemed to accomplish two things: Colbert raised awareness of the migrant labor issue in America, but he also reminded Americans that many of the folks they have elected to Congress are out of touch.
Take a look at a clip of Colbert’s statement and King's scowls below: