When parody stops ‘spinning’

Published 11:31 am Monday, April 24, 2017

I don’t know if I’ll miss Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. Well, let’s just say, I don’t know right yet.

I tuned into “The Factor” sometimes. It always helps to know sometimes what all sides are thinking – better yet, are saying; sadly, that’s even if its bolstered in fear, anger, and hate. It was perspective for me, and more often than I’ll admit, I did more head-shaking and smirking.

“Welcome to the No-Spin Zone”, he always said to introduce his show. Instead, I came away spinning so much that I was getting one of those dizzying headaches you got as a kid when you held you arms out and twirled around as fast as you could.

But it takes all kinds of people to make up a world.

Last Wednesday night I watched as comedian Stephen Colbert on his late-night show sidestep his usual “Trump-bashing” to almost recite a homily to the deposed host of “The Factor”.

You see, there’s history here. For over 10 seasons on Comedy Central, Colbert played this fictional conservative named: Stephen Colbert, not the actual, real Stephen Colbert, but a character that amused us nightly on the “Colbert Report.”

On that satirical show, Colbert’s pompous, fear mongering character was a send-up of an entire class of cable-news blowhards of whom O’Reilly stood at the forefront as the king of the genre.

Wednesday night, after the announcement from 21st Century Fox that O’Reilly was off Fox News following revelations in the New York Times of a string of sexual harassment complaints; many of which were settled surreptitiously, Colbert revived “Colbert” to pay tribute to his inspiration.

“You know, over the years, I have talked one or two times about Fox News host and bold, fresh piece of humanity Bill O’Reilly,” Colbert, the real one, said in his monologue.

“Now, Bill and I did not see eye-to-eye on … anything,” he continued. “I’ve done my share of jokes about him, he’s been a guest on this show, and I take no pleasure in his downfall. Okay? I’m not going to sit here and publicly gloat.”

I knew the joke was coming.

Sure enough, the comic went off-camera and you could hear snickering, gloating sounds.

Nice, Stephen, we get the yuks.

But then Colbert acknowledged the obvious.

“Here’s the thing: I owe a lot to Bill O’Reilly,” he said. “I spent over nine years playing a character based largely on him — and then 12 months in therapy.”

So, as a tribute, he resurrected the Colbert “character”: a brash, loud-mouthed, right-wing know-it-all with some parting words for a brash, loud-mouthed, right-wing know-it-all.


“Hello nation — and shame on you,” said Colbert, the character with the arched eyebrow. “You failed him; you failed Bill O’Reilly. You didn’t deserve this great man. All he ever did was have your back — and if you’re a woman, have a go at the front, too. And what, suddenly sexual harassment’s a crime? But that’s the country we live in now.”

And then he appeared to choke up, adding: “Stay strong, Papa Bear.”

O’Reilly made several trips to “The Late Show,” on which Colbert once called his fellow pundit, “a cable-news superhero.” Earlier, before its demise, Colbert of ‘The Colbert Report’ appeared on ‘The Factor’.

Someone once called those moments as where parody meets inspiration.

During one of those appearances, O’Reilly is reported to have said, “I’m not a tough guy. This is all an act.”

Colbert retorted as though his mirror-image of O’Reilly had been broken like the ‘fourth-wall’ in television, or theater: “If you’re an act, then what am I?”

What’s an act, and what’s real?

Now that’s something for those of us who’re no longer ‘spinning’ to stop and really think about.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.