US & Canada

Comedian Stephen Colbert testifies before US Congress

Stephen Colbert giving evidence
Image caption Stephen Colbert gave evidence in character

US satirist Stephen Colbert has appeared before a Congress committee discussing immigrant farm workers.

Colbert appeared in character as the conservative commentator he plays on his show on Comedy Central.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers asked Colbert to leave before his testimony even started.

But the comedian went on to speak about his recent experience working as a farm labourer in New York state, and he made a series of jokes throughout.

Colbert's appearance meant the committee meeting was unusually full, with numerous photographers present. Democratic subcommittee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren said she had not seen it so full since the impeachment hearings of former President Bill Clinton.

Colbert suggested one of the few ways to avoid the need for immigrant labour would be the invention of "vegetables that pick themselves".

Colbert described his ordeal of stooping to pick beans as "really, really hard".

"It turns out, and I did not know this, most soil is at ground level."

The comedian was appearing as an expert witness before the House Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee.

There had been criticism of his appearance.

"Maybe we should be spending less time watching Comedy Central and more time considering all the real jobs that are out there," said Republican Representative Steve King.

But some have noted that previous celebrity committee attendants have included the Sesame Street puppet, Elmo giving evidence on educational matters.

During his testimony, some committee members smiled while others remained stony-faced.

Colbert has focused on the United Farm Workers union's "Take Our Jobs" campaign on his nightly television show.

The campaign - which says the US is in denial about its food supply - invites US citizens to go to farms and replace the undocumented workers they employ.

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