this week in late night

Which Late-Night Host Tortured Celebrities Best This Week?

Sarah Paulson and Billy Eichner on Watch What Happens Live. Photo: Bravo

This week, James Corden berated linebackers while they tried to dance. It was allegedly in the spirit of giving these men some shine. “I actually sympathize,” said Corden, “because my show airs at 12:37 a.m. Literally no one knows we’re here.” It was a surprising admission that the late-night audience is getting smaller and smaller, and that these shows are now mostly consumed as YouTube clips when something political happens or when someone famous debases themselves in a new and creative way. There was no shortage of celebrity debasement this week, but who made stars sacrifice the most? Today we rank these publicity stunts by how much was asked of the star.

Honorable mentions go to Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon. Meyers doesn’t usually have guests do silly things; he saves that space for his writers. The most embarrassing thing a celebrity did on Late Night With Seth Meyers this week was endorse Kirsten Gillibrand. And Fallon doesn’t shy away from embroiling stars in shenanigans, but when it comes to dignity, he’s usually the one to take the hit. When Robert Irwin brought a camel to Fallon’s 1,000th episode of The Tonight Show, it was Fallon who got slobbered on. Conversely, Jimmy Kimmel is equal parts well-connected and sadistic, so he had multiple entries for contention. When you get Nathan Fillion to leave a sensual voice-mail for a studio audience member’s mother and it doesn’t even rank as the wildest thing to happen to a star that week, you’re either doing something right or something very, very wrong.

7. Samantha Bee Made Furloughed Workers Sing for Their Supper

This barely counts, as federal workers are not celebrities. But furloughed federal workers? There’s a lot of buzz around them! Full Frontal correspondent Allana Harkin used these workers’ need for anonymity to create the TV-show parody no one saw coming. Which vital government services are going unmet? You’ll have to guess based on painfully obvious riddles (just like the real show)!

6. Tom Hanks Pretended to Be in Awe of an Egg for Conan

It makes sense that Tom Hanks was Conan O’Brien’s first guest on his newly streamlined show. Hanx came up with the name “Team Coco.” But he almost got bumped by the Very Famous Egg. Poor Conan was still on hiatus last week when everyone else made their egg jokes, so I’m glad he got a chance here. And Hanks is always down for a goof. This is a man who tweets a picture of every lost glove he sees.

5. Jimmy Kimmel Sculpted His Mount Rushmore

This sketch from Kimmel’s “Halftime Tribute to Trump” just inches out Nathan Fillion’s “u up?” voice-mail partially due to sheer volume. Four stars — Anthony Atamanuik, Fred Armisen, Bobby Moynihan, and Jeff Ross — join Kimmel in a papier-mâché Mount Rushmore. They are, in my opinion, miscast. Not letting Moynihan play Teddy Roosevelt is almost as shocking as not letting Atamanuik gesture as Trump. Kimmel and Armisen should switch as well. Washington is the leader of the mountain, Kimmel is the leader of the sketch. And Armisen’s voice is a better match for Lincoln’s famously reedy tenor.

4. Stephen Colbert Made AOC Do Spon for His Ice Cream

Colbert likes to offer his guests treats. It’s a running joke on The Late Show that he will have a favorite booze hidden under his desk. But ice cream? Won’t that get melty? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on social media that she recently had ice cream for dinner after a long day in Congress. When pressed, Ocasio-Cortez admitted the brand was Ben & Jerry’s Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream. (A fine flavor, but honestly nothing will ever compare to Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack. The chocolate-covered potato chips presaged the salty-sweet combo that now dominates desert culture. But I digress.) AOC looked casual af and very on-brand as she stabbed at the carton with her spoon. But you can’t actually talk policy when you’re chowing down on ice cream.

3. James Corden Made Will Arnett Vomit

The Late Late Show took the cast of The Lego Movie 2 to space camp. Because parts of The Lego Movie 2 are in space, I guess? Everyone does extremely brand-affirming goofs in this segment: Elizabeth Banks shows off some space knowledge, notoriously conservative Chris Pratt says notoriously liberal Chris Evans doesn’t even rank on the Hollywood Chris List, and Will Arnett pretends to vomit. Never kid a kidder, and never assume the star of The Brothers Solomon won’t go for a gross-out laugh.

2. Busy Philipps Made Terry Crews Milk a Goat

Female nipples are banned on Tumblr, but female goat nipples can freely lactate on E! This clip really speaks for itself. Terry Crews is so happy milking a goat. I’m so happy watching Terry Crews be happy milking a goat. Nobody gets kicked, and the camera operator gets that goat boob close-up we’ve all been waiting for. Rarely have I seen something dumber grace my TV screen.

1. Andy Cohen Made Sarah Paulson and Billy Eichner Name Names

This seems like a pretty standard WWHL party game, but in reality it was the cruelest stunt I’ve seen pulled in my days of late-night coverage. Making two of Ryan Murphy’s kids say Meryl Streep is a better leading than Jessica Lange? Choosing between Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters? The game was called “When Co-Stars Align,” but it should have been called “Gay Torture,” because each question was like a bamboo skewer under a fingernail. There is no greater sadist than Andy Cohen, and we should all live in fear of his capricious whims.

Which Late-Night Host Tortured Celebrities Best This Week?