Looking for a way to become 25 percent more patriotic? Well, according to Stephen Colbert, simply picking up his new book and opening the cover will do the trick.
The self-proclaimed “no fan of books” and host of “The Colbert Report” is taking a shot at another means to reach his audience. Over the course of less than a year, Stephen Colbert, the character, spewed his truths to the nation in an attempt to impregnate America with his mind.
Colbert’s on-air character, known for hilarious parodies of conservative pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, has translated that brilliant 30-minutes of television into a 230-page book — I AM AMERICA (AND SO CAN YOU!). What he proclaims is nothing less than a “Constitution for the Colbert Nation” — his version of the American story with absolutely no research.
And although the “facts” both on “The Colbert Report” and in I AM AMERICA are really just the Colbert character’s opinion, the cult-like fan base happily eats it up.
Though it contains distracting foot and margin notes and useless, although fun, sticker nominee medallions for “The Stephen T. Colbert Award For The Literary Excellence,” the book beams with the energy and sarcasm his fans know all too well. The well-intentioned but poorly informed alter ego of Colbert grabs the reader beginning with the cover through to the last page.
In a standout chapter entitled “Sex and Dating,” Colbert mocks the popular dating Web sites and informs his readers that the U.S. is the only Western country with cousin-marriage restrictions.
“YOU CAN’T HURRY LOVE — but you can certainly take the shortcut. Instead of paging through Match.com, try flipping through the family photo album,” he writes.
I AM AMERICA is divided into three main sections with short autobiographical anecdotes at the beginning. But first, readers are instructed on how to read this book with the “Accepted Minimum Standard of Respect.”
In this preface, Colbert warns readers never to remove any image of him from the book for any purpose, including placing in a wallet to imply friendship or using it for decorating walls.
The first section, “My American Childhood,” explores topics including family and “old people.” In his section on mother/father roles, Colbert says, “A good mother cooks, cleans, drives, organizes charity events so her children can earn community service points for college and expects nothing in return except love and breakfast in bed only one day a year.”
According to Colbert, America has become a nation of sperm donors and baby daddies. In addition to being a role model for his children, a father also must be “a distant authority figure who can never be pleased.” He notes Josef Stalin as a surprisingly good dad.
Later in the book, Colbert warns the youth of today to steer clear of higher education. The “New Ideas” poison that infects undergrad students nationwide is precisely the thing that makes college so dangerous. He suggests denying tenure on campuses and replacing it with a series of clear-cut requirements professors must complete.
The requirements, albeit a few reeking of Colbert’s sarcasm, are not all that far-fetched. First and foremost, penmanship — how many times do professor’s hand back papers and exams with red scribble on them? Colbert challenges professors to legibly write a brief paragraph and then to use those skills to write an essay on how Ayn Rand would kick “[Shakespeare’s] a– in a bar.”
I AM AMERICA does have the occasional flaw. The influx of somewhat confusing and definitely corny humor, usually used in the margins and footnotes, can be distracting.
The biggest disappointment in the book was the chapter on the conservative stance on the War on Terror — and that’s because there wasn’t one. What would seem to make a perfect satire for Colbert’s alter ego was completely overlooked. Perhaps he wanted to avoid hurting any feelings on such a controversial issue, but this seems hard to believe when considering the character.
Hot issues like abortion and the blending of church and state were also left out, although chapters on “Homosexuals,” “Class War” and “Race” help make up for this.
All in all, I AM AMERICA is definitely worth the $26.99, even on a poor college student’s budget. The offbeat, satirical humor Colbert encompasses is at an all-time high throughout the entire book. By the way, it’s 30 percent off at Barnes and Noble.