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Marianne Paskowski

Today’s Laugh: Colbert’s Presidential Stunt

October 18, 2007 1:44 PM

Comedy Central prankster Stephen Colbert declared during his show Tuesday night that he was going to take a shot at the presidency, running as both a Democrat and a Republican in his native state of South Carolina.

Hey, why not? We all know it’s just a ratings stunt, if in fact he even meets the Nov. 1 deadline to get on the state’s ballot. He can make hay with this attention-getting ploy to push sales for his new book well in time for holiday gift-giving.

If nothing else, his short-lived presence in the political arena could provide some needed comic relief during this oh-so prolonged race for the spoils in 2008. Soon, and probably already, this will go down in history as just another New York minute. But if he pursues this, hopefully Colbert will shed some light on the real presidential hopefuls, and not just serve as an amusing but annoyingly ego-driven distraction.

Meanwhile, does anyone remember how long Pat Paulsen, a comic from “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” lasted in his run for the presidency in 1968, and if it made any difference in the show’s ratings back then?


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Comments (19)


I think the only rating getted boosted is the one for your blog, and that's the real tragedy.

Marianne Paskowski:

Whoever you are, I love you, you are a jaded cynic.

Thanks for the post, although I'm not quite sure what you meant.



To answer your question, Pat Paulson's most famous campaign for President was during the run of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. But he repeated the stunt at least two more times, the last time verging on Andy Kaufman-like comic reality.

Paulson's candidacy, his wonderful "editorials" and other hilarious memories are preserved in his memorial website:


Paulsen, like Tommy Smothers, also gained fame as a winemaker although he sold his winery in 1988.


Jim Forkan:

Hi Marianne
Sorry, but I find Colbert's stunt annoying rather than amusing, and I don't see it as having much ratings impact. Of course, I'm not much of a Colbert fan to begin with.
I also found Pat Paulsen's "candidacy" annoying back in the day, although he did have some funny moments on the Smothers Brothers' show.
Maybe I'm not laughing so much because there's too much serious and even tragic going on in today's world.(Then too, Vietnam was no laughing matter either, and that was a war I almost landed in, courtesy of the draft.)
All that said, I'm finding the "real" candidates annoying as well in their debates. They're spending too much time attacking the frontrunners or sidestepping the issues. But I guess that's nothing new, right?

Marianne Paskowski:

As always you are a treasure trove. Thanks for the link to the hi-jinks.



Stephen Colbert has something most of the candidates don't: presence and an ability to articulate. Even his crazed personae is 10 times more eloquent than most of the legitimate pols. The first rule of a free society -- we can laugh at our rulers. Colbert does. At least, until Kevin Martin cottons on to the fact that its irony and not reality that Colbert champions nightly.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jim,
If you don't laugh you cry. What I don't like about this Colbert stunt is that he's going to make money from it and distract the viewing public from things they are largely ignorant about.

Having said that, I hope it leads to something good.

Thanks for the post,


Marianne Paskowski:


I wish you were running for president.You are one of the sanest people I ever stumbled upon. And fun, too!

Thanks for your 4 cents worth,



I think it's great that he's running. We're already months into the campaign, and we still have another year or so to go. We need a little respite and humour to get us through this. Already, with the moved up first vote, we can expect a holiday season filled with mean-spirited campaign ads. Just as his and Jon Stewart's shows take some of the pressure and pain off the day's news, so will Colbert's run for presidency.


I find it sad that both parties have eroded to the point that a faux-conservative would run against them. Colbert in a debate with either side would be similar to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck...an educated individual who would not only pulverize flawed logic and poor decision making, but would appeal to americans by going at the 2-fold heart of the matter of polical cynicism today...
1. Career Politicians running this country instead of Citizens rising to a politician for a term for the people, and good of society...not for power and money...(And bribery in all forms)
2. Politicians pointing the finger at each other, name-calling, and in the end doing nothing but getting paid...instead of dealing with issues which are causing the downfall of the US of A.
Cynics are funny they see the storm but don't do anything. I'm getting the 3k signatures to put Colbert on the Ballot in my state. (should take 2 weekend days at the local mall) Since he has viewership mostly by liberals and disenfranchised 20- and 30-something voters...He could actually win over the government-payroll-purchased vote of the socialist party.

P.S. Hillary Clinton WAS guilty of a federal crime in the case brought against her in the 90's. They just found the evidence which would have made an open and shut case after her trial (in the car trunk of an aid who committed suicide over the guilt). The facts say she DID do it. Would you vote for a known criminal?


I hope to hear from Stephen quotes we can use like the following from Pat Paulsen.

"I've upped my standards. Now, up yours."

"All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian."

"Assuming either the Left Wing or the Right Wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles."

I guess we get to live it all again.

Marianne Paskowski:


Well enjoy the yucks why they last, Colbert is like I say a New York minute, that's probably over. Have you seen much ink about this? No.

Thanks for the post,

Marianne Paskowski:


Colbert is not the answer, it's Al Gore. Oscar, Emmy and now Nobel prize winner. He's got substance.

Thanks for the post,

Marianne Paskowski:


Thanks for the blast from the past. I barely remember PP


Andy S.:

My problem with Colbert's brand of satire is that he's indistinguishable from the subjects he's trying to spoof. If anything, he's blander and less entertaining (I mean, what could be funnier than Mitt Romney trying to seem genuine, Rudy trying to act presidential or Hillary trying to look spontaneous?). And of course he's just as greedy and mercenary. So what is there to laugh at? I grant that satire in America in general is a difficult job these days; it's close to impossible to get more extreme than the reality that's already out there. But what I've seen of Colbert simply isn't very clever or funny.

Marianne Paskowski:

I Andy,
Long time no blog, nice to see you. Colbert indeed wears thin after a while. His run at the presidency is clearly a land grab to introduce older viewers and readers to his show and book.

But viva America and the dream!

Thanks for the post,

Carl LaFong:

What most people forget about Paulsen's 1968 Presidential run was that he didn't "run" while he was on the Smothers Brothers Show.

The ongoing TV bit was that he absolutely wasn't running - complete with American flags, handshaking and kissing babies in the audience, and fireworks to drive the point home. The reason for the ruse was to avoid equal time problems with CBS affiliates.

Paulsen began his Presidential run in earnest in June of '68 when the Smothers show went on summer break.

He also ran in '72, but he didnt have a weekly TV platform by then.

Carl LaFong:

Oh, and Paulsen's 68 and 72 presidential runs lasted until the bitter end. He got one or two percent of the popular vote nationally

Marianne Paskowski:


Thanks for your clarification.


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