Seriously funny: satirist takes on the US Congress

Stephen Colbert stumps Republicans with immigration broadside

If the Republicans are hoping that flag-waving members of the populist Tea Party will help them to victory in November's mid-term elections, then America's Democrats appear to be putting faith in an even more colourful group of cheerleaders: the nation's best-known left-leaning comedians.

Not long after announcing that he and his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart plan to organise a demonstration against what they call the increasing extremism of the Republican movement, the satirist Stephen Colbert travelled to Washington to address lawmakers grappling with the thorny issue of illegal immigration. In an occasionally farcical speech to the House judiciary subcommittee, Colbert discussed what he'd learned from filming a recent episode of his chatshow in which he spent a day picking vegetables with migrant farm-workers in upstate New York.

Adding to the surreal nature of the occasion – which he was attending at the invitation of Democrat Zoe Lofgren – Colbert chose to appear in character, as the blustery, right-wing political pundit he portrays each night on his Emmy-winning show.

"America's farms are far too dependent on immigrant labour to pick our fruits and vegetables," he duly told baffled lawmakers. "Now the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you will see that many Americans have already started." The satirical five-minute speech brought a crowd to the usually empty room where the subcommittee was meeting to consider efforts to give farm workers who are in the US illegally a path to citizenship.

"This is America," said Colbert. "I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian .... Maybe, the easier answer is just to have scientists invent vegetables that pick themselves."

Colbert's speech drew criticism from several Republicans, who argued that it eroded their committee's credibility. Even one Democrat was uneasy: after thanking Colbert for bringing an impressive crowd to the hearing, John Conyers asked him to leave. The comedian politely declined.

His critics looked particularly pained when he suggested that "few Americans are clamouring to begin an exciting career as seasonal migrant field worker" and challenged Republicans on the committee to shed their reputation as the "party of no", and come up with a viable solution to the immigration problem.

"What's the answer?" he asked. "Normally, I would leave this to the invisible hand of the market. But the invisible hand of the market has already ... shut down a million acres of US farmland due to lack of available labour. Apparently even the invisible hand doesn't want to pick beans."

Though Colbert's alter ego boasts fans across the political spectrum, he has lately begun to explicitly ally himself to liberal causes. At the end of October, he and the satirist Jon Stewart are organising a public rally in Washington that hopes to provide a left-leaning counterbalance to Glenn Beck's recent demonstration there.

Stewart will lead a "Rally to restore sanity" on 30 October. On the same afternoon, Colbert's character will invite supporters to join what he is calling, with his usual brand of somewhat un-American irony, a "March to Keep Fear Alive".

Congressional Cameos

George Galloway

Most witnesses at Congress are in awe. Not so George Galloway, who used a hearing on profiteering in Iraq to slam the Senate for traducing his name. He told Republican Norm Coleman: "I know that standards have slipped. But for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."

Kevin Costner

Celebrities are often invited to give evidence to draw attention to their pet cause. But when Kevin Costner was there, he spoke as a real expert, giving evidence about technologies that could mitigate oil spills based on his own experience as an entrepreneur and inventor.

Elmo

Easily the cutest celebrity to appear before Congress, and the only non-human, the Sesame Street star came to discuss music in school. "Elmo loves to sing and to dance," he explained. "It helps Elmo learn ABCs."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli (left) trudges off at half-time last night, to be substituted during the interval
football
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Part Time SEN 1:1 Teacher

£40 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experience SEN Te...

ICT/Business Studies Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: ICT/Business Studies ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?