Colbert's Fact-Free Diet

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and asking, What would we do without Stephen Colbert?

"Here's the truth you ordered," he welcomed his audience one recent night. "Watch out, the plate is very hot."

Yes, it's hot and, often, hilarious -- the same no-fact diet he used to serve us as a commentator for The Daily Show, Jon Stewart's celebrated fake newscast.

But a year ago tomorrow, Colbert began his own phony show on Comedy Central -- a spoof of Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, whose host, Bill O'Reilly, oversees what he calls "The No-Spin Zone" with messianic bluster that simply cried out to be mocked. You might say Bill O'Reilly's greatest achievement is inspiring The Colbert Report.

Presiding from his "No-Fact Zone," Colbert is an arch-conservative, close-minded egomaniac who can boast, "There's no bigger supporter of our troops than me -- my underwear is made entirely of yellow ribbon."

The Colbert Report airs Mondays through Thursdays at 11:30pm, and it's largely a one-man show, given over to Colbert's pompous punditry, which he delivers from his shrine-like, red-white-and-blue anchor desk.

But here's the really remarkable thing: In the capable hands of Colbert -- and here I mean the real-life humorist -- his make-believe blowhard comes through on his pledge to enlighten us. With his backward version of what any sensible American should believe (every day on the Report is Opposite Day) Colbert has made himself an indispensable reference -- the man for this bone-headed, faith-based age.

Slim and sharp-featured, with those school-masterish rimless glasses, Colbert recently voiced support for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's aversion to TV cameras in the courtroom, saying, "Those justices have to be able to make the decision that we have no right to privacy, in private."

He has also called for laws upholding the separation of science and state. "Science is already too involved in government," he declared, blasting interlopers like the National Institute of Science and the Centers for Disease Control.

"I don't want my kids forced to practice someone else's beliefs," he huffed.

Like Jon Stewart, Colbert is often cited as a source young people rely on for information about current events, rather than, say a newspaper. But what strikes me as more significant is how Colbert's brand of topical humor pays off so richly for people who actually do read the paper. His comedy is smart, informed and -- no matter how absurd or even silly it may be -- it advances the story it lampoons.

Like any great satirist, Colbert flouts the facts, yet seizes on the truth. For instance, with that term he coined last fall: Truthiness.

"Now the Word Police are gonna say, 'Hey, that's no word,'" Colbert sneered. "But people like that rely on books" -- which can't be trusted. "They're all facts, and no heart. And that's what's pulling this country apart.

"We're divided," he went on, "between those who think with their heads, and those who know with their hearts."

You probably recall that "truthiness" -- which confers the status of fact on concepts you only believe to be true -- was chosen by the American Dialect Society as the word best reflecting the mind-set of 2005.

Well, if anything has changed thus far in 2006, it escaped my notice. So happy anniversary, Stephen Colbert, and carry on, looking out for America from your No-Fact Zone. You make us laugh. And you've got us pegged.

Watching television for KCRW, this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.