Imagine, if you will, the incongruity of "Reliable Sources" host Howard Kurtz, the overly earnest media critic for the Washington Post, working his hardest to look stern and sanctimonious about the Mayflower pokings of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Then cut away, on the same show, to an oddly ebullient Kurtz poking fun at his own appearance on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," trying to match wits with actual comedian and host Stephen Colbert, in what clearly wasn't a fair fight. At least Kurtz was man enough to show some clips.
Kurtz's guests, Fredric Dicker [could he possibly have been better named?] of The New York Post, Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV, and media critic Matthew Felling, apparently felt that Reliable Sources, "one of television's only regular programs to examine how journalists do their jobs and how the media affect the stories they cover," was the perfect place to audition for "The Improv."
HK: "Fred Dicker, your newspaper on Friday had a topless Ashley Dupré on the cover ... and other [similar pictures] inside."
Dicker's response: "Well, I thought they were very attractive pictures, myself, Howard....These were pictures of great public interest."
HK to Felling: "The reaction of TV newsdom was: 'This is so tawdry, so tragic. How many segments can we get out of it?'
Sexy cellophane of seriousness
"The media love to cover sex stories, but sometimes we feel like we have to wrap it in a cellophane of seriousness."
Yeah. Exactly like what you were doing with the "segments" comment.
Then there was Kramer, serving as straight man (?) for Kurtz. She had received a tip, called the gov's office the Friday before the story broke, "feeling sort of like a fool," she said, because she basically had to ask, "'Is this Mr. Moralistic Governor involved in a prostitution ring?'
"It was just an amazing thing to even contemplate that Eliot Spitzer, who had been the moral voice of Albany, was suddenly involved in something so sleazy."
Ol' smooth Howard stumbled into a mastery of the smarmy obvious: "That's an uncomfortable phone call to make."
Maybe he was thinking about his next question, rather than worrying about personally sounding like an idiot.
Times out-sexes The Post!
But the best one-liner was reserved for Dicker, after The New York Times had scooped his racy tabloid Post: "Some reporters were joking that when The Post has to quote The New York Times on a sex story, what does it say about journalism?"
Around here, that one got a standing ovation.
Dicker followed it with a reverse gotcha on Kurtz: "You know, Howard, it seems tailor-made for your show as well, because you're leading off with it."
It might constitute piling on, but Steven Colbert also got Kurtz: "You're a member of the media, but, yet, you are also a media critic. Isn't that sort of like the fox watching the hen house?"
Kurtz tried to look amused, but waited until he'd had the chance to hone a response, before offering it in his own unchallengeable venue.
We guess that's the way it is with these comedians.
Our thanks to The New York Post and the Daily News for their headline and jump link ideas.