Research: Conservatives believe Colbert isn't joking

Researchers at the Ohio State University examine the reactions of people of differing political persuasions to the Colbert Report. They discover many conservatives don't think he's actually joking.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

They say that many people now get much of their news from satire. Which might make you wonder where they get their satire from.

However, researchers at the Ohio State University wanted to get into the bowels of the political satire phenomenon and were perhaps a little surprised at how it is all being digested.

They subjected 332 people of varying political bents to a three-minute clip of "The Colbert Report." They then produced their own report, fetchingly entitled "Political Ideology and The Motivation to See What You Want to See in the Colbert Report."

The guinea pigs were flawless and flu-less in their concentration. They seemed to have all laughed. Yes, Stephen Colbert is funny, they all seemed to agree. Except for the fact that many conservatives appear to think that he is only pretending to be funny.

You see, he's clenching his right fist. Clearly a right-wing gesture. CC BrokenTrinkets/Flickr

Which cries out for the question: "So is that still funny?" Shortly followed by the question: "You think he's just Bill O'Reilly, but thinner?"

A "yes" to both questions appears to offer a fair and balanced view of the situation.

Lead researcher Heather LaMarre was quoted by Miller-McCune.com as saying: "Liberals will see him as an over-the-top satire of a Bill O'Reilly-type pundit and think that he is making fun of a conservative pundit."

She continued: "But conservatives will say, yes, he is an over-the-top satire of Bill O'Reilly, but by being funny he gets to make really good points and make fun of liberals. So they think the joke is on liberals."

I know many large heads will say we are all so timber-skulled that we choose to see what we want to see in any living--or even dead--thing. You know, Ronald Reagan, Che Guevara, Chia Pets, John Denver, Lady Ga-Ga, PCs, hairy backs.

We choose to believe someone loves us when, to others, it is clear they haven't even noticed us. We choose to believe we are cool, clever, tall, short, fat--hey, even funny--regardless of any objective facts that stare us in the face and shout: "Oy! Fact here!".

LaMarre and her fellow examiners are positing that rather than stopping people on their subjective road more traveled and making them reassess their mental direction, Colbert may actually be reinforcing their prejudices.

Which, some might think, isn't very funny at all.