Watch it through once, and you probably won't notice that it's a weak performance as a stand up routine goes. There's no real structure or format, just a loose string of gags. Critiquing it as a comedy routine shows that it lacks something. No sequence, no buildup, and some recycling from the Colbert Report. So it's understandable that many of the major news outlets didn't report on it, and when the fact that they didn't report on it became news, they reported on the fact that it was unfunny.
That doesn't mean that they're right.
Stephen Colbert's performance was hilarious. Stephen Colbert, in his persona as a right wing partisian shill, stood before the most powerful person in the world, and in the guise of compliments, delivered the most pointed critique of this administration that has been delivered. That, itself, is fucking hilarious. Never mind the fact he upbraided the press corps as well, let's simply focus on what he did.
1) He pointed out the staged nature of many photos taken of the President.
2) He claimed the President was opposed to reality (and vice versa).
3) He called 1/3 of the American public backwash. This would be the one third that still supports Bush. And that's backwash as in, "You can have some Mountain Dew, but don't backwash in it."
I think that's enough- watch it yourself. Oh, his opener jokes were lame. His closer, the "audition tape" was silly and pointless. But everything in between was comic gold if only because he was standing in the room with the President. That's what's funny. And that's why the news folks are so upset.
Y'see- Stephen Colbert did exactly what the press is supposed to do- skewer the people in power. Let me get one thing straight- I am not in favor of a "balanced" media if that means half the media thinks the President is right, and half the media thinks the President is wrong. That's not balance. Balance is not about taking a political stance. Balance is about finding the facts and reporting on them- and there is no elected official in power anywhere in the world that is not threatened by facts. Stephen Colbert, in his own mind, was just standing there making jokes, but to the rest of America, he was providing the much needed voice, the sense of moral outrage that we have about wiretaps, Iraq, Iran, and this administration in general.
That is why I laughed so hard that I had tears in my eyes. Because for fifteen minutes, Stephen Colbert was the most powerful man in America. Because a two-bit comedian on a mediocre late-night cable show pounded nails into the testicles of the Washington establishment and they couldn't do anything but let him do it and smile politely the whole time. Because I saw, embodied behind that pulpit, everything America stands for.