Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Colbert Portrait

Stephen Colbert is one of our national treasures. If you don’t believe it, just ask him. In his short time on the national stage, he has accomplished a great deal. His book (reviewed here) is a bestseller. He nearly ran for President. He cowrote one of the most e-mailed Maureen Dowd columns ever. And he has captured the imagination of our nation’s youth. My son made me buy the book and he read it in practically one sitting chuckling the entire time.

The yellojkt family was in DC on recently having brunch near the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery. We had a few minutes to kill before our show when I told my son that a portrait of Stephen Colbert was on display at the nearby Portrait Gallery for a limited time only. We let my wife go pick up our will-call tickets while we dashed over. The docent manning the information desk knew exactly what we wanted to see. It was on the second floor in the toilet room alcove. Next to the painting was this scholarly plaque:

Stephen Colbert born 1964
Born Washington, D.C.

Stephen Colbert, the mock pundit for the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report recently contacted the National Portrait Gallery hoping to donate this portrait of himself from his show. While this triple portrait is not one that would typically be accessioned into the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection, NPG agreed to go along with the joke and hang the portrait for a limited time.

In episodes of The Colbert Report that aired on January 10, 14, and 15, 2008, Colbert tries to convince the Smithsonian that he should be considered a national treasure. He attempts to donate his portrait to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, but the museum’s director suggests that perhaps Colbert should speak to the National Portrait Gallery. Finally, after much “discussion,” the director of the National Portrait Gallery finds an appropriate place to hang Colbert’s portrait, in between the bathrooms and above the water fountain.

This portrait will only be here for a limited time, so refresh yourself at the drinking fountain while contemplating this portrait while you can.

Digital image on canvas, 2005
On loan from The Colbert Report
While we were there, a steady stream of admirers and gawkers wandered by. One dad commented how ironic it was that the family was so fascinated by this painting when a historical portrait of George Washington was just steps away.

Thanks to popular demand, the display has been extended until the astoundingly appropriate date of April 1st. Be sure to see it while you can.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What is the magic of Colbert's schtick?


Jeff and Charli Lee said...

That's awesome that you went there. I would have done the same thing.

Colbert has found that fine line between sarcastic mockery and believability. I would imagine that there are a large number of people out there who don't actually realize he's making fun of Republicans. He's like a liberal double agent.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Colbert and Stewart...two of the funniest guys ever.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I think it's the same kind of thing that makes Will Ferrell's characters popular: there's no real guile in them at all, no irony. They play it very straight and let the reactions land wherever they will.

It occurs to me that you have a certain willingness to be photographed in places that I don't seem to have. I couldn't necessarily prove that I've been anywhere because I don't get photographed much.