There is no bigger fan of Stephen Colbert and “The Colbert Report” than I — the man is my true god, one of the few authors I’d genuinely like to
sleep with meet. But while I was ecstatic about reviewing his new book, I Am America (And So Can You!), a certain doubt swirled into my mind. Would the book be half as good as the show? Could I give a truly objective review, devoid of personal bias?
But then I opened the cover. And I immediately felt more patriotic. Exactly 25 percent more, according to the dust jacket.
Because Pajiba is a bastion of left-leaning, blue state, flag burning, gay marrying, America-hating communists, many of you are quite familiar with I Am America’s older sister book, America (The Book!), written by the “Daily Show” staff. Just as that book parodied the history books we’ve all come to know and loathe, Colbert’s tome lampoons the recent spate of self-aggrandizing cerebral hand jobs I have dubbed “pundit books,” like Bill O’Reilly’s Factor series and a certain hellspawn of dubious gender and her scratching in brimstone titled Godless. Part memoir, part propaganda piece, and all America, I Am America takes you on a trip into the gut of Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, like nothing before. Be sure to wipe your shoes before entering, though. You don’t want to track anything into the bile duct.
From the front cover, prominently displaying Colbert’s face, to the back, depicting Colbert as the Hulk and warnings about fake Chinese copies, the fun doesn’t stop. The book is divided into three sections, themed for childhood, adolescence, and maturity. The intros to these sections include actual pictures of Colbert that will make many of you go “Awww…,” but you must resist. The book further splits into chapters that allow easy digestion. Each chapter covers a different topic, such as Animals (they don’t love you, so show dominance early or they will rip your throat out), Religion (where he helpfully introduces you to world religions, ordered by relative heresy), Media (which includes mock magazine covers such as High Times’ “That’s Right: This Magazine Exists!”). And he even includes helpful charts and tables, such as the Train Table (Jesus, Crazy, Mad, and Midnight To Georgia) and an “Is He Gay?” flowchart.
But Colbert doesn’t hog the book. No, he includes “Stephen Speaks For Me,” essays from people who agree with him, such as a screed on immigration by The Guy That Sits Next To You At The Stadium (direct quote: “Woooooooooo!!!!!!!”) and Gill Honeycomb, Oldest Man In The World (who dies mid-sentence, prompting the editor to congratulate the new Oldest Man In The World). The end of each chapter features the absolutely gut-punching “Fun Zone,” mini games related to the topic he just finished. For example, in the Animals chapter, the reader must match the back sack to the appropriate male dog before the female dog comes out of heat; among the choices is a panting Bob Barker. Or the Race chapter, which has a racial-slur word find. Also included are bonus stickers, some to be used to remind you where you agreed with Colbert the most, and some proclaiming “The Stephen T. Colbert Award For The Literary Excellence” for you to put on whatever book you feel (in your gut!) sufficiently “embodies the values of the Colbert Nation” (of course, I Am America comes pre-awarded). I Am America closes with a transcript of the speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, prefaced with an account of how he ended up there in the first place.
If you’re wondering how it reads, well, it’s exactly like the show. You will literally hear Colbert’s voice as if he was standing over your shoulder; his “Americone-Dream” scented breath tickling the nape of your neck. The margins and footnotes are similar to “The Word” on “CR,” but instead of being a snarky counterpoint to Colbert as they are on the show, they are hilarously near-subliminal throwaways. A lot of the material is steeped in inside-jokes and callbacks to “Colbert Report,” e.g., referring to “the brown haired guy who’s not Steve Doocy.” It’s a true love letter to the Heroes (namely those who bought the book and watch the show), and as such, newcomers to Colbert (apparently they still exist) may be lost on some of the humor. Still, if this describes someone close to you, sit them down and make them watch the show immediately. If they refuse, stop talking to them. Do not accept their phone calls. And throw out any inexpensive gifts they have given you. They deserve it, because if they haven’t seen the “Report” by now, they obviously hate America.
Another note: Don’t make the same mistake I did and inhale I Am America; take the book in slowly. Savor the words like a fine wine (you liberal cut-and-runners still like wine, right?). While the book is great to read straight through, it’s infinitely better if you take your time and read maybe a chapter a day. In fact, here’s my reading advice: Whenever you hear something ridiculous in the news, or are watching the “Report,” or on the john, or listening to somebody drone on and on about their problems (often known as “significant other” or “Mom and Dad”), just crack open I Am America, turn to the related chapter, and pick a page. You will find something hilariously appropriate for your situation.
Pajiba critic John Williams recently posted on his own blog an entry about books that make you laugh out loud. This is one of those books, and one you ought not read while dining at Benihana’s, lest you choke and a less patriotic diner refuse to offer aid. Bottom line: if you are a fan of the show, or are just a visitor to the Colbert Nation (and were thoroughly searched by airport security), you absolutely need to get this book. In fact, buy several copies and give them to friends, and encourage them to buy several copies to give to their friends. Or better yet, buy the book, then burn it and buy the audio version. After all, Heroes don’t put stock in books, but in the gut.
And that’s The Word.
Claude Weaver III aka Vermillion knows that with every dollar made, another step is taken towards the release of “Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure.” He now waits with baited breath over at Vermillion’s Brain Receptacle. Vote for Colbert in 2008!
I Am America, and So Can You by Stephen Colbert / Claude Weaver III
Books | October 25, 2007 | Comments ()