Comedian Stephen Colbert, a fake newsman on his evening cable television show, drew a huge crowd to a real U.S. House subcommittee hearing on immigrant farm labor Friday. Colbert didn't disappoint, lacing his testimony with one-liners and concluding with an offer "to take your questions and pose for pictures with your grandchildren."
"I certainly hope my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-SPAN," Colbert wisecracked in a reference to the cable channel that televises congressional sessions and hearings, however dry and mundane. Click play below to watch video of the testimony:
Colbert appeared before the Judiciary panel in character -- that is, as the super-patriotic conservative commentator he plays on his Comedy Central Show, "The Colbert Report." American farms are way too dependent on foreign laborers to pick their fruits and vegetables, he informed the subcommittee. "Now the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you'll see that many Americans already have started," he said, according to a Washington Post report. "I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian."
Colbert said his great-grandfather did not travel across the Atlantic Ocean to America to see it "overrun by immigrants." He did it, Colbert deadpanned, "because he killed a man back in Ireland."
Colbert was there at the invitation of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of an immigration and citizenship subcommittee. But his appearance caused such a hubbub that Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) asked him to leave, saying, "You run your show, we run the committee," the Associated Press reported. Lofgren signaled for him to stay in the room, and Conyers thought better of it and withdrew his request.
Lofgren said Colbert may have attracted the biggest crowd to the hearing room since the Judiciary Committee considered the impeachment Bill Clinton. The hearing was originally called to address an on-going problem: American growers need seasonal laborers, but many of those who take the jobs are in the U.S. illegally.
Colbert recently spent a day picking vegetables on a farm in New York. Hard work, he said. "I don't even want to watch Green Acres again," he told the lawmakers who may or may not have been familiar with the 1960s rural-themed sit-com. Colbert appeared alongside a real life character -- Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers Union.
He plans to be back in Washington next month. Colbert and mock rival Jon Stewart, liberal host of Comedy Central's satirical newscast, the Daily Show, say they'll stage competing rallies on the National Mall on Oct. 30.