If ever there was evidence of a higher education bubble, it's the promulgation of college courses and scholarly research devoted to the study of Stephen Colbert. This morning, The Washington Post's Paul Farhi informs us that an academic "cult of Colbert" is taking shape on campuses across the country. "There are dozens of scholarly articles, monographs, treatises and essays about Colbert, as well as books of scholarly articles, monographs and essays," he writes. The result is things like a Boston University seminar called "The Colbert Report: American Satire" or a theology book published by Villanova University in 2010 titled "The Wørd Made Fresh: A Theological Exploration of Stephen Colbert" or a Towson University freshman seminar with a focus on Colbert or the myriad of scholarship we ripped from Amazon below:
What's the justification for all this ivory tower obsession? Amy Bree Brecker, a communications studies professor at Towson who teaches a course on Colbert, explains it to the Post. “It’s a very good way to get young people who would normally not pay much attention to politics to learn a little more,” she says. “You have to know something to get the joke. [The show] encourages people to find information from other sources.”
This sounds sort of sensible until you look at the actual Colbert Report demographics. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the portion of Colbert's audience that are college graduates is 39 percent, which is pretty dang average compared to the general population. Miraculously, a whopping 61 percent of the audience seems to be enjoying the program without a college degree!
We're not saying you shouldn't celebrate Colbert's ability to sandwich civics lessons and comedy. We've been trumpeting his gonzo Super PAC crusade against campaign finance rules since the beginning. But, of course, we're not charging you thousands of dollars to read us and aren't soaking up months of your formative years on high-minded dissections of a half-hour late-night show. More to the point — you can't force college students to eat their vegetables. By the time they've left high school, either they want to learn how the world works, or they don't. And, on a comedic level, if you have to explain this stuff at length in a classroom setting, you're ruining the joke.