Sunday, December 03, 2006

Coal Bear County, Alabama

December 3

Never mind that comedian Stephen Colbert pronounces his name cole-behr, as in French, and the county in which Helen Keller was born and raised is pronounced colburt -- the name's the same and in it he or his people saw an opportunity for a joke.

They approached officials of Colbert County, Alabama, with this idea -- the Colbert Report (pronounced "rappoar" to similate the faux French of "cole-behr") would feature the opening of The Stephen Colbert Museum in downtown Tuscumbia and close it the next day. The premise was that Stephen Cole-behr assumes the county is named for him. All in good fun. Some of the sensitive people of the area were a little skeptical that their town was going to be the butt of a big-city joke. They needn't have been.

The character Stephen Colbert portrays is pompous, conceited, Conservative politically and not a little stupid -- in short, the kind of person I tend to avoid in life. But his lampoon is so perfectly tuned that he can be fun to watch, and the "museum" segments fell into this category.

The people of Tuscumbia, Alabama, went along with the joke and acquitted themselves well, providing an interview with their affable mayor, a parade by the high school band, a visit with an earnest Helen Keller Museum employe, and a scene from the local amateur theatre's production of The Miracle Worker. Paul Dinello, the actor portraying a Colbert Report assistant named Tad, made an ass of himself trying to tell Helen Keller jokes at the museum and succeeding in stealing the pump Annie Sullivan used to teach young Helen to speak, displaying it at the Colbert Museum.

The Colbert Report managed to milk the joke for three days, and it was remarkably funny to the end. Stephen himself never went to Alabama (he was too busy), but appeared in a pre-recorded message. The shows will probably appear for years on re-runs, so I won't give away the reason that the Museum closed as suddenly as it opened, but I'll say this: the last laugh goes the young actress portraying Helen Keller beating on the door of the Museum to get in and being turned down. "Tad" tells her, "Sorry. We're closed." She says, "I know! I just want my pump back." and storms away in a charming, little-girl huff.


Bert Bananas said...

You should be writing movie reviews for the New Hope Clarion Trombone, or whatever the name of your local paper is.

Mary Lois said...

I was tv reviewer for Women's Wear Daily for about ten minutes in the 1970's. I gave All in the Family its one bad review. I think I've told this story here before. I think I like writing movie reviews on the blog better. The pay is the same (nothing) and nobody tells me what to write.