Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

M. Lane Bruner - Chair

Second Advisor

Alessandra Raengo

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Bennett


I analyze comedian Stephen Colbert's performances as the bloviating "fake" pundit, "Stephen Colbert." Colbert's work reflects the progression of personality-driven media and performance-driven society. His frequent shifts and blending of characters – from actor and entertainer to pundit and politician – call attention to the similarly character-driven nature of "real" figures in politics and media. Using Kenneth Burke's theory of tragic and comic frames of acceptance, I analyze three sets of Colbert's performances – hosting The Colbert Report, speaking at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, and running for president – as well as the conventional situations and discourses he complicates. I argue that Colbert's comic critique provides perspective by incongruity about the processes of production, mediation, and persuasion in the business of news punditry – and the literal staging of politics performed as entertainment.


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Communication Commons