When the United Farm Workers announced their “Take Our Jobs” campaign this summer, I put it in my “maybe blog about this” folder and never came back to it. It’s a clever idea—legal residents are invited to replace migrant farm workers in the field—but the news media didn’t write a whole lot about it then, either.
They are today. That’s because today Stephen Colbert testified—in character—before the immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. After the late-night host accepted the UFW’s invitation to spend a day as a farm worker, subcommittee chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) invited him to testify. While taking questions after his prepared statement, Colbert eventually got serious. (He even quoted Matthew 25, progressive Christian that he is.) But the statement itself was full of shtick—"Apparently, even the invisible hand [of the market] doesn't want to pick beans"—much of which bombed in the bizarre context of the hearing room.
Not that he minded. Colbert’s genius isn’t in finding comedy gold in outrageous places, though he’s done that. It’s in his deep awareness of how completely the distinction between news and entertainment has dissolved. Some people wring their hands over this; Colbert exploits it to bring attention to an issue he cares about. Good for him.