Bishop N. T. Wright appeared on the Colbert Report the other day, and I have to say that this match-up didn’t bring out the best in Tom. He’s a quick-witted guy, and his scholarship stands among the best in the field of New Testament studies, but he was making an argument that didn’t fit well into the Colbert format, and he persisted at trying to drive home his point when the few moments might have been better spent playing along with Colbert, I think. See for yourself:
I’m interested, in a student-of-comedy sort of way, in how this segment works. Tom interjects a few asides, but he tends to mutter them. That works well in his lecturing, as it gives an audience something to puzzle over for a few seconds, then catch with amusement, then rejoin the main stream of his narration — but it doesn’t work here. In essence, the whole of an interview segment on Colbert is “asides”; it’s almost all banter, without much room for making a point of substance. Tom kept pushing his book’s thesis, more than treating the segment as an opportunity to make a jovial public appearance, trading witticisms with Stephen Colbert. In the end, I thought he seemed stiffer and less funny, and more censoriously didactic than is characteristic of him. Not that my own (lower-profile) media appearances have gone any better — the New Testament Scholars Union may need to hold some media workshops.