“I want you to know that this is the first book I’ve ever written, and I hope it’s the first book you’ve ever read.”
So begins Stephen Colbert’s “I Am America (And So Can You!)” This satirical book is written in the vein of “The Colbert Report” and follows in Jon Stewart’s footsteps, evoking “America (The Book)” by “The Daily Show” team.
Colbert’s effort misses the element of humor that is present in “The Colbert Report”, “The Daily Show”, and “America.”
The introduction is promising enough, offering up such gems as “I deliver my Truth hot and hard. Fast and Furious.”
The section entitled, “How to Read This Book” is also entertaining, in which readers are told: “No image of me should ever be removed from this book for any purpose, including but not exclusively: book reports, decorating walls or placing in your wallet to imply our friendship.”
However, it’s soon after this auspicious beginning that the book falls flat. The material would be excellent for the show, but without Colbert’s delivery it feels forced, fake and sometimes offensive. This is not a book meant to be read cover-to-cover, nor to oneself. This book is meant to be skimmed. Read aloud it does become more entertaining. Unfortunately, “I Am America” is missing those elements that would make it consistently funny. Rather, it is boring, slow, and unentertaining.
The “Stephen Speaks for Me,” and “Fun Zone” sections, as well as the three segments from Colbert’s life as well as many of the margin notes are entertaining. The margin notes evoke “The Word” segment on “The Colbert Report.” Disappointingly, the chapters in general have more misses than hits, and plenty of flubs.
The mock right-wing pundit that shoots from his gut does not translate well to the page. He inhabits the screen, and without that presence, he’s really not very funny.
My favorite parts of the book though were the visual components. From the paper on the inside cover featuring Colbert facing himself in red and blue, to the sign signaling to firefighters how many copies of “I Am America” are in your home, the visual accompaniments are outstanding.
Each chapter begins with the writing set up to evoke an American flag, and Colbert dressed in his suit with props relating to the chapter’s theme. These vary from Colbert atop stacks of books, sword in hand in the chapter on higher education, to Colbert clutching a bouquet of roses for the chapter entitled “Sex and Dating.”
Stickers are provided within the book, with the instructions: “Don’t trust your memory… Here are some handy stickers to remind you when you agreed with me the most.” Alternating between red and blue, they declare, “Show to Mother,” “It’s Morning in Colbert-ica,” and “I think it, Stephen says It,” among others.
Had the authors of “I Am America” more thoroughly adapted their writing for television to writing for a book, “I Am America” might have been more successful. It misses its mark without Colbert’s presence, and is a disappointment.