James Wood in The New Republic:
There is an interesting difference between watching Colbert on video (I was not at the dinner) and reading the text of his skit (available on dailykos.com). Colbert is not always funny on television: He sometimes fluffs lines, he has a limited range of facial expressions, and he is trapped in the jacket of his impersonation of Bill O’Reilly, condemned to a single parodic posture. At the White House dinner, all this was evident.
But the transcript is something else. To read it is to be subjected to a brilliant, relentless flow of the bitterest invective. There are plenty of funny cracks, if you are after the kind of comedy-by-committee that provides Jay Leno with his nightly ration: “By the way, before I get started, if anybody needs anything else at their tables, just speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers. Somebody from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail.” Or: “I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.” Or: “I’ve got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble: Don’t let them retire!”
But more interesting are those moments when Colbert’s text is not funny: “I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that, no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound–with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world.”