Book Review: I Am America (And So Can You!)

I Am America (And So Can You!)

By Stephen Colbert

Published October 2007

Grand Central Publishing

240 pp.

ISBN 0-446-58050-3

Date reviewed: November 7, 2007

Originally reviewed at:

On Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert has done something few actors do so well, or at least so visibly: he has created a character whose theater is the real world. His alter ego – an arrogant pundit set in his beliefs – is a joke the entire world plays along with, a character that can get eagles and planes named after him and even mount a presidential campaign.

Now, Colbert has added to the character mythos with the wonderfully titled “I Am America (And So Can You!),” a satire of the memoir/advice books published by Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. In the book, Colbert offers his advice for keeping America great: believing everything he says, no matter what the reality is.

Each chapter has the Colbert character expounding his opinions on varied topics: the family, homosexuality, immigrants, religion, Hollywood and the media. These opinions range from intolerant (senior citizen look like lizards) to simply idiotic (baby carrots turn people gay) and in every case are defended with a zealot’s fervor. Colbert is clearly wrong every time, but the joke is in how he defends it – building his argument up to total absurdity, yet coming out “right” in the end.

“I Am America” is written with the same cunning spirit that drives “The Colbert Report,” and it’s clearly targeted for that audience – almost too much. Anyone who isn’t a fan of the show or hasn’t seen at least a week of episodes will miss a lot of the jokes, and will likely get offended as Colbert claims non-Christian religions are wrong and anger is important against “the gays.” This book belongs to the self-proclaimed Colbert Nation, the network of fans who proudly wear WristStrong armbands and feel America’s greatest threat is bears.

Members of that network though, will find some excellent gems of satire. Emulating 2004’s brilliant “America: The Book,” “I Am America” contains features such as a mad lib for family counseling, a flow chart for deciding if someone is gay, corporate sponsors for the sports chapter and Colbert’s summary of science (“It attacks our cherished opinions”). Plus, the book is filled with marginal comments reminiscent of the show’s “Wørd” routine, offering a second joke that’s frequently funnier than the first.

Colbert’s shtick may not make a seamless transaction – a lot’s lost without his performance – but it’s still put together by one of the greatest writing staffs in today’s entertainment and that effort shows. “I Am America (And So Can You!)” is a fine addition to the political satire first developed by “The Daily Show,” and is yet another prop to keep the Colbert joke going.


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