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Originally published June 10, 2009 at 11:40 AM | Page modified June 11, 2009 at 9:44 AM

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Fort Lewis officers join Stephen Colbert's Baghdad road show

Fort Lewis' Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby and Command Sergeant Major Frank Grippe appear on "The Colbert Report," which is broadcasting from Baghdad, June 10 and 11.

Los Angeles Times


"The Colbert Report"

11:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on Comedy Central.

Tonight in Prime Time

HOLLYWOOD — Stephen Colbert's road show to Baghdad features two Fort Lewis-based soldiers this week: Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, Commander of I Corps and Multinational Corp-Iraq (MNC-I), appears on Wednesday's show and General Jacoby's senior Non-Commissioned Officer, Command Sergeant Major Frank Grippe on Thursday's.

Colbert is broadcasting from Saddam Hussein's former Al Faw Palace, now within the confines of Camp Victory, as part of a USO tour. On the first show Monday night, he appeared in a camouflage-patterned suit, with khaki shirt and tie, and carried a golf club as a kind of salute to Bob Hope, who did this sort of thing all the time, on TV and off.

"What an honor it is for you to have me here," Colbert told his audience, gathered in a high-ceilinged marbled hall into which he imported his own brand of visual overkill.

As is widely known, but not always well understood, Colbert plays puffed-up right-wing pundit Stephen Colbert; much of what he says is meant to be ironic, but not all of it, which makes his character a little hard to define. Indeed, an Ohio University study suggested that conservative undergraduates were likely to identify Colbert's on-screen character as an authentic Republican, while liberals saw him as joking. This is in part because the real Colbert (a self-identified Democrat, a serious Catholic) is not entirely masked by the fake one, and because, like most of us, he is more complicated than any labels you might apply to him.

Monday's opening show from Iraq ("a country so nice we invaded it twice") was not often political, at least not in any clearly partisan sense. If there was a point to the United Service Organizations-sponsored trip — besides the obvious one, to entertain the troops — it was, Colbert has said, to reawaken public consciousness of the war and the people fighting it, and he seemed genuinely happy and excited to be there.

Republican Sen. John McCain appeared on tape to advise the audience to "make sure to always take the time to clean your musket"; President Barack Obama appeared by satellite — in a delayed kicker to an earlier filmed segment in which Colbert went to boot camp — to order commanding Gen. Ray Odierno to "shave that man's head." This unlikely comedy trio were mostly a testament to the audience, but it says something as well about the cultural power of Colbert's comedy show.

Seattle Times staff contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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