When the television series All in the Family came out, it was quite a sensation when Archie Bunker expressed all of the prejudices that we had come to believe were held by white working class members of society in the 1960s through the early 1980s. Just to be sure that no missed the point that the show was a satire, Archie would argue with his liberal college student son-in-law, Michael Stivic (played by Rob Reiner), to bring out the contrasts to Archie's Neanderthal beliefs. Archie (played brilliantly by Carroll O'Connor) was always happy to be right in his own mind, even when proven wrong.
Part of what made the show so funny was to hear someone espousing prejudiced views in a seemingly sincere fashion, with no apologies to anyone.
Stephen Colbert's book, I Am America, captures that same essential humor as he espouses the prejudiced views of the white conservative person . . . but with no one to argue with him except you the reader in your own mind.
If you have ever watched Mr. Colbert perform on television, I'm sure you'll be like me and hear his voice recounting the one-liners. That made it extra fun for me!
The book has an unusual design that adds to the humor, including room for margin and foot notes to spear the points even harder, fictitious essays by average citizens, humorous photographs and illustrations, puzzles, games, stickers, and even a bound-in book ribbon.
Unlike a lot of humor books, he doesn't shy away from the delicate subjects like religion, sex, homosexuals, evolution, and illegal immigrants. Having seen how much fun he had in those areas, it made me wonder why more comedians don't take these areas in "clean" ways like Mr. Colbert does.
The humor often digs into a deeper level, exposing the hypocrisy of self-serving self-promotions that many book authors shamelessly employ, those who failed to act in honorable ways (such as those who produced names of "fellow travelers" for the HUAC in the 1950s), and even the toadying that goes in with regards to Islam in the media.
The only way he could have made this book any funnier would have been to create a state-by-state version of wrong headedness. Perhaps that will be the focus for a future book.
I Am America bears close reading; many of the layers of humor are well submerged below the surface of the main gag. I found myself rereading many sections several times in appreciation for the subtle jokes.
Alas, it's all too true. If you are like me, you'll probably find yourself realizing that you, too, have room to improve.
Bravo, Mr. Colbert!