This week’s best late-night clips were successful because either guest or host leaned into whatever their thing is. For example, Judy Greer’s thing is “quirky,” however you define that. She slings a lot of presliced deli meat with quirky. The late-night moments that fell flat worked against themselves. Neither Stephen Colbert nor Jimmy Fallon could land their fish-tube material, because the fish tube is a thing of Twitter. The fish tube has become a cypher: It can be a metaphor for religious ecstasy, for business acumen. It is not merely a tube that sends fish somewhere. But let’s focus on what did work on late night this week.
5. Samantha Bee Eats BBQ for Reproductive Justice
Full Frontal has yoinked a TV-show format to make their content sexier before. Earlier in this episode, Bee parodied Unsolved Mysteries to try and figure out why Jerry Falwell Jr. backed Trump in the 2016 primary. And she appropriated car-based comedy to talk about our crumbling democracy. This piece continues the series, using Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to discuss the expansion of the abortion-access debate to encompass more kinds of reproductive justice. Nothing says “right to a doula” like BBQ spaghetti, right?
4. James Corden and Josh Gad Cavort for Attention
Sometimes a particularly desperate comedy bit really works for me. Maybe it’s because Krusty the Clown is my favorite Simpsons character, but a thirsty TV celeb warms my heart like cocoa on Christmas morning. On The Late Late Show this week, James Corden and Josh Gad put their reputations as attention seekers together to insert themselves into the movies of the summer. Gad had a fun take on Brad Pitt, and I’m not ashamed to let him have that!
3. Judy Greer Says What We’re All Thinking (That The Lion King Is Too Sad)
We’re double dipping into The Late Late Show this week, but how can you argue with Judy Greer? She’s always a delight, and she is right. Mufasa dying is too traumatic for youngsters. We as a generation are broken, and that’s probably mostly due to climate change, but it’s a little because of The Lion King. Don’t adapt Hamlet for kids!
2. John Oliver Plays “Fuck, Marry, Kill” With Horses
On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discussed the surreal president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. Oliver leaned into the absurd comedy of living under an appearance-obsessed autocrat, which is good strat in 2019 America. Berdimuhamedow loves horses — like, a lot. Oliver boldly went into the mind of a horse-fucker and determined which horse is the most fuckable, a piece of service journalism we didn’t know we needed.
1. Jacqueline Novak Explores the Space
Jacqueline Novak is an absolute beast of a comedian, and her first talk-show moment lets the rest of America see what comedy nerds already know. Novak started her chat sesh on Late Night discussing how she’d incorporate chair work into her appearance, then figured out how to talk about her blowjob-themed show in such a way as to not get Seth Meyers fined. Plus, her eye makeup and hair were absurdly good. She made a bit out of choosing the wrong shoes for shiny-floor TV! You can’t do better.
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