Both Joaquin Phoenix and Stephen Colbert have taken recent criticism for giving performances that masqueraded as serious but were really charades.
Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS/AP
So, if you crack a joke and nobody laughs, is it funny? That is a question making the rounds of the punditsphere this week after the curious political/pop culture one-two at the end of last week.
On Friday, there was Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert testifying before a congressional hearing on immigration and farm workers' rights – fully in character as a mock-conservative talk show host. Some representatives smiled gamely as he made mock racist comments and rapped politicians in general, while others – notably Republicans – called him “inappropriate.”
On Wednesday, actor Joaquin Phoenix told late-night talk show host David Letterman that Mr. Letterman had been an unsuspecting player in the actor's new movie, “I’m Still Here.” In 2009, a bearded and disheveled Mr. Phoenix went on Letterman's show to announce his retirement from acting. But that announcement, it turned out, was a hoax made for the actor's new faux documentary.
Letterman, with a vigor that appeared only half-joking, demanded that Phoenix tell the audience he had been duped and was not part of the hoax.
Looming just around the corner are two full-scale mock rallies in Washington, D.C. – initiated by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart in tandem with Mr. Colbert. The event has more than a few politicians as well as fans scratching their heads about whether to laugh, jump a plane to the Woodstock for this generation (sans drugs and nudity, according to Stewart) – or demand the National Park Service refuse the pair a permit to meet on the National Mall.