Simon Schama on Colbert, Stewart And His New Vogue Column


New Yorker and Vogue contributor Simon Schama spoke to The Independent on the occasion of fetching an honorary degree at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. The celebrated author of Rembrandt’s Eyes is a big fan of former South Carolina Presidential primary hopeful, Stephen Colbert, whom he finds ”an absolute scream…the nearest you get to Sacha [Baron Cohen] when he was Ali G. He and Stewart are the saving grace. But what they don’t do is the Hogarthian, nail-your-tongue-to-the-floor savagery that somehow survives in British television.”

Other subjects discussed:

— Schama’s new Vogue food column. ”The first one was on ice cream. It’s not bullshit. Any idiot can do restaurant reviews but this is serious, a bit of culture, a bit of autobiography and recipes, recipes! I don’t want to do restaurant reviews, I’d much rather do recipes and be scared of people saying ‘Neuurr, too much egg!’, he says. ‘They’re big essays, 3,000 words. I’ve just delivered one on stews. Finally Schama has a real job.”

–Schama is working on a four part documentary ”American History: The Future,” which will be broadcast in the US on the History Channel and in Britain on BBC2 in the weeks preceding the 2008 Presidential election. ”Part of the problem is that the American political process is so much in the hands of spin doctors and scandal-mongers and you never get a substantive debate. Wouldn’t it be great if you could hit the pause button and give television viewers something like the mirror of time?”

–Schama eschews British criticisms of American hyper-religiosity, contrasting the present period with The Reformation. ”We in our secular elegance think it’s ridiculous that the Americans still feel as intensely as they do about Christianity. What we need to think is that the period we are living in now is not necessarily typical of British life. The Cromwell Interregnum was a period of almost unhinged religious passion. The same is true of the Reformation and the evangelical movement without which the slave trade would not have been abolished in the early 19th century. Britain has been as ferociously a Christian nation as America is now.”

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