Sending off ‘The Colbert Report’ at just the right time

Alyssa Rosenberg in The Washington Post:

ColbertThe #CancelColbert kerfuffle earlier this year never seriously threatened either Colbert’s current job at Comedy Central or his move up the ladder to one of broadcast television’s prized late-night spots. But the incident, in which Colbert was criticized for a bit that invoked anti-Asian animus to mock Washington football team owner Dan Snyder’s attempts to buy off opposition to his team’s name, signaled a shift. “The Daily Show” (once Stewart arrived at the anchor’s desk) and “The Colbert Report” became hugely popular precisely because they were insurgent voices, aiming Rube Goldberg-style verbal slingshots at the George W. Bush administration, conservatives in Congress and on the Supreme Court, and emerging powerful right-wing donors such as the Koch brothers. Whatever differences existed on the left (or in the frustrated center), viewers could unite around the genius of a concept like “truthiness.” But as the Obama years have faded into frustration and obstructionism, the left has turned inward. #CancelColbert grew out of the idea that no matter how much Colbert had done to target racism on the right, he didn’t have standing to employ anti-Asian sentiment, even in jest and even in service of a larger point about the continuing cultural and material discrimination against Native Americans.

This is a difficult environment for a satirist of good will to operate under, though the turn toward sincerity has produced plenty of other pieces of great pop culture. One of the biggest hits of 2014 has been the breakout podcast sensation “Serial,” in which Sarah Koenig struggles to be fair in her assessment of an old murder case. In superhero movies, the wisecracks of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) have given way to the moral meditations of Captain America (Chris Evans) and the unabashed enthusiasm of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who goes by the decidedly unselfconscious moniker Starlord. Lorde’s achingly direct album “Pure Heroine” continued to be a refuge from the wearisome posturing of rapper Iggy Azalea. And rather than be rendered irrelevant, Colbert is in a strong position to fit right in.

More here.