Colbert, Canton Flap Is Satirical Brilliance

There are less than 1,000 people who reside in my hometown of Canton, yet recently the small, sleepy community made a splash on the national news scene.

On Wednesday, cable network Comedy Central fake-news program “The Colbert Report” had a segment that slammed Canton.

On a previous episode, the show’s host, Stephen Colbert, had called Canton, Ga., “crappy” when talking about Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign stop in Canton, Ohio.

The mayor from that Georgia town told local news crews that he didn’t appreciate the comment, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story about it.

Well, anyone who watches the show regularly knows Colbert is not one to be bested, so he issued an apology to Canton, Ga., and explained it was a mix up.

He meant to insult Canton, Kan.

I am glad he made the clarification.

“I would say we should convert it to a landfill, but that is insulting landfills,” Colbert said of Canton, Kan., during the nearly minute-long piece. “If Dorothy were from Canton, Kansas, she would have wished that the house dropped on her.”

The bit was hilarious. (If you want to see the clip, click here.)

“How many Canton, Kansas, residents does it take to screw in a light bulb? None! They don’t use lights because they don’t want to see where they live,” Colbert said.

I have never laughed that hard at his show.

Bravo, Colbert. Bravo.

The area news folks swarmed the town (KWCH, KAKE, The Hutch News, Kansas City Star).

The residents they found to interview apparently forgot how to take a joke.

One resident and local hair salon proprietor Heidi Rouse was interviewed and said Colbert shouldn’t have said what he said because bad publicity can make it even harder for a small town to survive.

I must disagree.

A lack of jobs and things to do are what hurt a small community trying to get by.

Attention on a show that is watched by more people than who read or watch the news is not just a good thing.

It is a great thing.

You couldn’t buy that kind of publicity.

A TV news crew from KWCH Channel 12 asked Bonnie Westbrook what she thought she would do if Colbert came to town.

“Hit him in the nose,” Westbrook said to the reporter.

A little girl promised to “kick his booty,” and KAKE Channel 10 aired an interview of local Roger Regehr saying Colbert could incur bodily harm if he visited the town and said such inflammatory statements.

Rather than shake my fist in his face, I would shake Colbert’s hand and pat him on the back.

It was funny.

I understand wanting to be proud of your community and willing to defend it if needed, but Canton clearly doesn’t need defending.

Canton needs residents with funny bones.

Satire is a beautiful tool, and if anyone has ever watched the show before tuning in just when media types are pining for a story and a reaction, it would be clear what the true message of the slam was to earn a laugh.

Look at it this way, he probably did a Google search for another Canton to use in the bit, and Canton, Kan., came up.

That’s good.

That means when others search for a Canton while online, Canton, Kan., has a good shot of showing up, which could mean a myriad of positive things for the town.

Everyone that was interviewed seemed upset by the whole thing, except one voice of reason – Jack Koehn.

Koehn is the Canton-Galva High School principal, and he told it like it truly is.

“It’s pretty funny,” he told reporters at The Hutchinson News. “I guess you kind of have to understand the context of his character.”

And he’s right.

Stephen Colbert is a character. He plays an over-conservative talk show host that is incredibly self-centered.

It is make-believe. Fiction. It’s not real.

To get this worked up over something that is pure comedy is silly and embarrassing for Canton.

Be thankful he did it.

Before, Canton was only known for a wildlife game preserve and a “hot” and a “cold” water tower.

Now, we have a “Colbert Report” appearance to add to our list.

“You know what they say about Canton, Kansas? Nothing. Nobody talks about it,” Colbert said during the show.

Judging by the media attention, however, that’s not exactly the case.

Some may think it was a negative showing, but remember there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Besides, at least the town isn’t known for something ridiculous like a pancake race versus people from across the pond.

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About toddvogts 773 Articles
My name is Todd Vogts. I am an assistant professor of media. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm a published author and journalist. Visit my website at and follow me on Twitter at


  1. You are absolutly right. The good people of Canton need to understand its a joke. I would guess a lot who made these comments have possibly never seen or heard of the Colbert Report. What they don’t see is Colbert probably picked that Canton hoping to get a reaction and since he did it was probably in his plan to search for another Canton and rip on that one. Lets hope the people of this next Canton are a little more open minded.

  2. Listen, I love Colbert and always have. I think the flip from the Canton GA to Kansas is funny. But it’s really only slightly funny. The only thing that makes it brilliant is the Andy Kaufman-esque instigation. But who’s he instigating? 800 people who no one will really listen to?

    Seriously, take on a major city or something. Attacking small towns with no PR is kinda lame. What’s next, Rome Texas?

    Still, I think it’s kinda disingenuous to stick the camera in front of the face of people who’ve never watched Colbert and then say, “he called you x” when they have no idea it was satire to begin with. Kinda cheap actually.

  3. Colbert attacking a small town is about as funny as pushing a retarded boy into traffic.

    Not cool. He should apologize.

  4. I thought Colbert was hysterical. If I was driving through Kansas I would certainly stop by Canton just to check it out. Canton, get a grip, and a sense of humor. The extra tax dollars you receive because of increased tourism should help spruce up your town!

  5. I live in Kansas.
    I must admit, it sucks athe.
    And the Colbert Report is one of my favorite shows.

    When I saw Kansas appear on screen, I laughed my head off and had to watch it a second time to get all the insults.
    It’s great; Kansas needs ads.
    (Well, really, Western Kansas sucks the most. They’ve learned to adapt their digestive systems to eat dust, dirt, and sand.)

  6. Congrats to John Foster for the most over-the-top analogy thus far! Your utter lack of a sense of humor is an inspiration to us all. I can only hope that some day, with years of therapy and perhaps strong pharmaceuticals, I can be as humorless and thin-skinned as you! Woot!

    I live in a small town most folks haven’t heard of too. And as a thought exercise, I imagined that whole sketch from Colbert but substituting the name of my town for Canton. Know what? It was still funny! And I’m pretty certain most folks around here would think so too…

  7. Canton residents should be embarrassed for seemingly not getting the joke at all. That does more harm to them than any of the satire Colbert unleashed. Steve Martin had an infamous “rift” with the city of Terre Haute, Indiana in the late 70’s/early 80’s in which he called it the “armpit of America.” It was, and anybody from Indiana could testify to that, so if they had somehow embraced the comedic jousting and played up their own senses of humor, it could’ve led to the rest of the country having a different perspective on small town people. No such luck. Small town folks can be decent folks, but often they can’t see the forest for the trees.

    John Foster’s comment is awesome because he actually writes about “pushing a retarded boy into traffic” without a bit of irony. The mere use of that that concept alone is enough to feed Colbert’s satirical appetite for a month. Those with dull wits should not trade barbs with professional satirists, it’s like chum to the sharks… you’ll get devoured quickly and without mercy.

  8. Colbert is not funny. Saying something that is lame in a serious voice is all he does. Anyone can do it. It takes no brains, no talent. Which is a good thing since Colbert doesn’t have either. (I’m from Seattle, not Kansas, btw)

  9. Colbert isn’t slamming the small town, his character is. Some of you, and apparently all of Canton, KS, don’t realize that he plays a character on TV. It’s not his real personality. The show is a purposely over the top parody of “news” programs like The O’Reiily factor.

  10. I’ve seen the CNN video of Canton, KS residents annoyed by the clip. It didn’t seem like any of them had ever heard of Stpehen Colbert. You know how easy it is to get people annoyed by showing them a video of someone they’ve never heard of insulting their town? Were they even told that their town was randomly picked on the map because the residents of Canton, GA had already complained?

    Sure, it made Canton, KS residents look humorless, but I’m guessing if they’d seen the whole run-up that they would get the joke. Any town that has a “Hot” water tower has a sense of humor.

    I think CNN was doing some creative editing to set Colbert up for his next joke. (which I’m looking forward to seeing)

  11. I am from McPherson, Kansas (neighbor to Canton) and now live in the DC area. I did not see the original but saw his appology tonight. I thought it was great press for Canton. I especially loved the props for Maxwell. I used to fish and camp @ Maxwell with my dad growing up. I recommend taking the kids to see the buffalo. The last two times I have been there the buffalo have been next to the road. It was a big thrill for the kids from the east coast. I love Steven Colbert. I think it will be good for the town of Canton.

  12. Hey I live in Louisburg, Kansas and I have some relatives out near Canton! I love the Colbert Report! I thought his Canton bit was hilarious! The thing that people forget is that he used the whole skit about Canton, Kansas to show how the mayor from Canton, Georgia overreacted! He’s so funny! 🙂

  13. “Saying something lame in a serious voice is all he does.” Exactly. He makes fun of his character. I like the style. But I feel bad for some of the Canton residents who have no sense of humour.

    And one of them saw the episode and thought it wasn’t funny. It’s sad that some people can’t laugh and will die sooner. (Laughter increases life expectancy.)

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