City waits to see if Colbert continues Canton-bashing trend

Brenda Rothert

Fans of Stephen Colbert in Canton are watching to see if the city will be next in line for a bashing by the comedian.

Colbert has been making fun of Cantons around the country in an ongoing bit on his Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report."

It started when he called a Georgia town "the crappy Canton." He then called Canton, Kan., a "(expletive) hole" and referred to Canton, S.D., as "North Dakota's dirty ashtray." A Texas town called Canton drew Colbert's ire as an "incorporated outhouse."

So far Cantons in Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio haven't been mentioned. Officials from some of the Cantons that have been mentioned were offended by the insults. A Canton, Texas, councilman joked that he would "mash his nose" if he saw Colbert.

But Canton, Ill., Mayor Kevin Meade said he'd welcome the spotlight of Colbert.

"You've got to be able to take this for what it's worth, and that's a comedy routine," he said. "We would welcome him in Canton - anytime."

Spoon River College President Dr. Robert Ritschel agreed.

"I don't think it would hurt to be mentioned on a show as popular as that one," he said. "What would be worse - with all those other Cantons out there - is if he excluded us."

The largest community in Fulton County, Canton is home to about 15,000 people. It is known as "The City of Friendship," and the school mascot is the "Little Giant." Outlying areas are rural and many sites in the county are considered prime hunting ground.

"Canton's colors are purple, gold and camouflage," said Alderman Eric Schenck.

A group of 17-year-old boys shopping at the local Farm King store Tuesday afternoon said they watch "The Colbert Report," and they think Canton, Ill., would be a good target for the host.

"The only thing anybody around here wants to do is 'go out and shoot me a deer,' " said Jake Kuenzl. "I mean, look, there's corn over there, corn over there and corn over there," he said, pointing in all directions.

At Farm King, full camouflage outfits can be bought in sizes as small as 2T. It's a city where just about anything - including a couch - can be had in the camo pattern.

Expansion of the local McDonald's drive-thru is front-page news locally, and teens looking for something to do on the weekend cruise the square.

Restaurateur Heidi Leese, who owns the Palm Cafe with her husband, Gary, said Canton, Ga., has nothing on Canton, Ill., when it comes to being "crappy."

"We took Chicago's (solid waste)," she said. Leese was talking about solid waste being trucked from Chicago and dumped on thousands of acres of Fulton County land in recent years by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, a move that angered some local residents.

Gary Leese, who first told Meade about "The Colbert Report" bit, said he hopes Cantonites will embrace the attention Colbert could bring.

Comedy Central spokeswoman Renata Luczak said "The Colbert Report" is on vacation this week, but will return next week with new episodes.

Schenck said he hopes Colbert will ride the Canton wave to central Illinois, and suggested that it could still grow more.

"I think there should be a national contest to see who has the best Canton," he said.

Colbert has already been to the area. In 2006, he was the commencement speaker at Knox College in Galesburg. The next year, he tried to burn his honorary doctorate of arts degree from the school when an honorary doctorate was awarded to former President Bill Clinton, calling Clinton a "coat-tail rider."

But Knox had sent Colbert a fireproof degree, which wouldn't burn.

For now, Cantonites will have to wait to see if their city makes Colbert's hit list.

Brenda Rothert can be reached at (309) 686-3041 orstate@pjstar.com.