A certain style of comedy video has become prominent on social media over the past year. A young actor plays a generic, bumbling or morally compromised (although usually affable-seeming) posh person with a connection to a topical event. The videos are described by the actors and their fans as ‘satirical’, although the target of the satire is often unclear, and the performers appear to punch down (or at least sideways) as often as up. The acting is deliberately hammy, derivative and reliant on stereotypes, and the humour seems to come primarily from the theatrical emphasis placed on the fact that a person is making a joke. I’ve come to think of them as ‘funny voice videos’.
Last Thursday, Stephen Colbert, the comedian, gave Stephen Colbert, the character, his perfect send-off: a death scene the character was too stupid to see through, though many old guests – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Alan Alda, Christiane Amanpour, Ken Burns, Katie Couric, Peter Frampton, Henry Kissinger, George Lucas, Yo-Yo Ma, Willie Nelson, Randy Newman, Samantha Power, Gloria Steinem, Michael Stipe and others – had gathered to sing him on up to heaven. In the background, just behind Barry Manilow, I caught a glimpse of George Saunders.