Stephen Colbert has many titles: comedic genius, fantastic improviser and the guy who broke his wrist. Now he has a new praise-worthy trait. Colbert often brags about something called the “Colbert Bump,” a phenomenon characterized by a sudden surge in popularity, resources and success for anyone who appears on his show, “The Colbert Report.”
Colbert claims that his bump is responsible for a number of cultural popularity surges, such as Toby Keith’s number-one album, Salmon Rushdie’s knighthood and the temporary rise of Ron Paul. His claims may seem outrageous, but they now have scientific backing. UC San Diego Associate Professor James Fowler analyzed the rate and success of fundraising campaigns by House candidates who appeared on “The Colbert Report.”
His conclusions generally confirm Colbert’s claims and help explain the election results of the last four years. Democrats who appear on Colbert’s “Better Know a District” segment raise 44 percent more money in 30 days than Democrats who do not. Sorry, Republicans, you don’t seem to get the same lift. The results are further confirmed when one considers that in the 2006 election, 100 percent of the Democratic incumbents who appeared on the show were re-elected.
The validation of the Colbert Bump is a symptom of larger-scale changes in American politics. People seem weary of both traditional government and typical media responses to that government. The public is tired of dead-pan interviews stuffed with prepared questions.
Those days are ending. Since the invention of the television interview, politicians received the same prepared questions and rehearsed answers