Critics of Fox News’ Glenn Beck might be stunned that he can speak for more than an hour without spouting even one juicy conspiracy theory.
“I think we’re gonna make it,” said Beck in his own State of the Union address, beamed into movie theaters nationwide Saturday night. Beck shared his newfound optimism during a telecast of “The Bold and Fresh Tour” over the weekend. The show, which Beck co-headlined with his Fox News colleague Bill O’Reilly, let two of the country’s most polarizing pundits analyze President Barack Obama’s SOTU speech and the continued fallout from Scott Brown’s election shocker in Massachusetts.
O’Reilly may still be the news channel’s ratings czar, but the crowd squeezed into South Florida’s Sun Dome (where the show was performed live Friday night) clearly favored Beck’s red-meat theatrics. The show proved as partisan as expected, with both Beck and O’Reilly hammering the likes of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Barney Frank. But while Beck had no compunction about taunting President Barack Obama, O’Reilly took a softer approach with the commander-in-chief. That might work on the small screen, but audiences were hoping O’Reilly would take the gloves off.
Beck’s portion of the show featured his trademark blend of political chatter and shameless mugging. And no tears were shed in the process.
On the State of the Union address: “Lemme start with something nice … gimme a minute,” he deadpanned. “He’s just one of the most humble men I’ve ever seen.”
“How does anybody take this guy seriously?” he asked to sustained applause, shifting gears — awkwardly at times — from humor to more sober fare.
Beck also slammed MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for his recent comment following Obama’s SOTU speech: “I forgot he was black for an hour.” Beck dug in for the satirical kill, offering up several scenarios in which a person might say such a line. Each time, it sounded worse — a comic approach as sharp as anything on The Daily Show.
Beck also played to his populist roots, decrying those who insist our national leaders have elite colleges on their resumes. “Harvard and Yale is what got us here. Whaddaya say we try a community college?” he asked, referencing part of Gov. Sarah Palin’s maligned educational history.
Beck is the quicker wit of the two, although O’Reilly often gave us as good as he got.
“How many Christmas garments are there?” O’Reilly teased when it came time for his solo segment, a riff on Beck’s popular broadcast of The Christmas Sweater. “He writes a book an hour.”
Dedicating his Tampa performance to professor Sami Al-Arian, whom he famously exposed for his terrorist ties on The O’Reilly Factor, the “no spin” maestro delivered an expanded version of his Talking Points Memo.
Pacing relentlessly back and forth, O’Reilly critiqued the president for his inability to define his signature piece of legislation — Obamacare: “After his 14th speech, I said to colleagues, ‘do you know what he’s talking about?’” he said.
O’Reilly rehashed the ObamaCare debate to set up his feelings for Obama circa 2010, but much of the material was, by now, musty by political standards. He peppered the routine with funny anecdotes, but as a big screen entertainer he couldn’t match his tag team partner’s bombast. That wasn’t an accident, since O’Reilly’s news persona is more even-keeled than Beck’s daily radio and TV shows. And O’Reilly’s reasoned approach had a better chance of making a convert or two.
A 20-minute intermission broke up the program, forcing audiences to stare at a countdown clock or spend a small fortune at the concession counter. Couldn’t they have cobbled together a clip reel of the hosts’ more entertaining moments to kill the time?
The final segment brought Beck and O’Reilly to the stage together, the pair throwing questions at each other in mostly good-natured fashion. Each boasts a facile mind, able to find the funny in political fare and each other.
It’s hard to tell if the Fox News stars are merely competitive, or a little aggravated by the other’s success. A few low blows landed during the show — Beck made a swipe or two at his tour partner’s age, and the fact that he fared better in a recent poll measuring the country’s favorite TV personalities. O‘Reilly struck back later: “I can’t tell the difference between your monologues and your gold commercials,” he said, a reference to some heat Beck drew for pitching Goldline International.
For $25 a ticket, theatergoers got an extended Fox News program without commercials and with a higher laugh quotient than usual. Fair and balanced? Not even close. An engaging two hours with Fox News’ all-star duo? No doubt.