Picks and Pans Review: The Colbert Report

updated 11/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Comedy Central (Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 p.m. ET)

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His last name is pronounced "col-BEAR," and so host Stephen Colbert, a comedian with a superb sense of subversive illogic, insists that the "report" in the title also end with a silent "t." It's The Colbear Repore, and it's something of a spinoff from The Daily Show, on which Colbert was consistently one of the funniest correspondents. A send-up of conservative FOX News programming, the series so far seems to be a loosely conceived experimental vehicle (more like a bumper car) that gives the former Daily Show correspondent the chance to try out a new persona; a dumb, chest-thumping anchorman who calls Bill O'Reilly "Papa Bear" and says things like "Ever walk into a room and everyone stops talking? That's how it feels to be America."

I wish it were easier to put a fix on what makes Colbert so good. Here we have a pleasant if unremarkable-looking man—actually, he's something like a lean, gentlemanly penguin—who specializes in weird discursions into deadpan fatuousness. Note how in the opening credits he pulls off his glasses to look "authoritative." All he looks like is a complete imbecile. Scrutinizing foreign press coverage of the US of A, he holds up an inscrutable cartoon from a Middle Eastern newspaper and concludes, "It's calling for a fatwah on a regional theater." Best repeat gag: When it's time to introduce the day's guest, he gets up from his own desk and trots over to a separate nook on the set—allowing him to get the studio audience's cheers of welcome.

Whether Colbert can sustain this schtick night after night, four days a week, remains to be seen. Unlike Daily anchorman Jon Stewart, he's not only ridiculing the headlines but mocking himself. This is closer to acting than comedy, and it may be tougher. But Stephen Colbert is a great American and deserves our support. And suppore.

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