If the recent summit between a mirth master (O'Reilly) and his amusing apprentice (Colbert) proved anything, it was the sheer comedic brilliance of Fox's sardonic culture warrior. For a full decade now, Bill O'Reilly has been living out--in public--the greatest impersonation of a knee-jerk right-winger since Senator McCarthy waved his lists of communists...and it's long overdue he receive the credit he deserves.
Night after night, O'Reilly never cracks. Like a method actor on steroids, he remains diligent in his mission (wink, nudge) to ferret out liberals, tree huggers, and the blame-America crowd. This isn't Andy Kaufman "becoming" a wrestler for a little while or even Jim Carrey "becoming" Andy Kaufman for a movie. We're talking ten years of staying in character. Ten years of driving the folks at FAIR crazy (or perhaps they're in on it?). Ten years of delivering dazzling one-liners like: "The ACLU has now become a fascist organization that is imposing a perverted interpretation of the Constitution upon the American People" and "If Jimmy Carter were president today, we'd all be speaking Arabic and we still wouldn't know squat about history or geography." This, my friends, is the humorist equivalent of Cal Ripken's streak.
What I particularly love about Bill is the way he coyly outs himself every now and then...just for the hell of it. According to the always reliable Wikipedia (insert laugh track here), "O'Reilly is often called conservative, but denies this and describes himself as an independent." On his own show, Bill has stated: "You think I'm conservative? See, that's a big misnomer." And then BAM: he's right back to, say, exposing the war on Christmas. "Nobody sticks up for Christmas except me," he chortles. "Did Peter Jennings stick up for Christmas? How about Brian Williams? Did Rather stick up for Christmas? How about Jim Lehrer? Did Larry King [say] "hello, I love Christmas"? No."
(I honestly thought that skit would flop. How could anyone possibly believe it was serious? Answer: when it's in the hands of a comic mastermind.)
Sometimes, Bill gets far more daring with his confessions, fully admitting the charade. In November 2005, when Mr. No-Spin-Zone pretended to be angry with San Francisco for banning military recruiters from city schools, he drolly invited Al Qaeda to blow up the Coit Tower. When this clever bit backfired, he calmly explained it was "obviously" a "satirical reference."
Here's to William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr.: a man ahead of his time.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net