this week in late night

Amanda Gorman Geeking Out Over James Corden Won Late Night This Week

TFW you meet James Corden and he says you’re going to be president. Photo: The Late Late Show with James Corden/YouTube

Wow. I can hardly believe I’m typing this, but after four of the most insane years in recorded history, we finally have a new president. Looks like we made it, folks. I have to imagine that this is what the silverware in Beauty and the Beast felt like when they were transformed from inanimate essential workers back into human essential workers (that movie is kind of problematic, low-key). To mark the momentous occasion, we had anthems, fireworks (both literal and musical), and a week in late night devoted to this historic moment. The hosts were extra political this week (except one), and as such we’ve got a special, inauguration-centric list this week. [Big Carrie Bradshaw voice] And just like that … the Trump administration came to an end. “Let’s Get Loud” and get to the top late-night moments of the week.

5. Bernie Sanders Talks Mittens and Memes With Seth Meyers on Late Night

I am once again asking you to consider the meme of Bernie at the inauguration. While the meme has absolutely been run into the ground due to society’s inability to let anything go, Bernie sitting in that chair was an undeniably perfect moment. The drip. The mood. The vibe. Simply immaculate. “I’m feeling great,” said Senator Sanders on Thursday’s episode of Late Night, sharing that he was moved to tears by Biden’s swearing in and Trump’s getting the fuck out. Sanders told Seth Meyers that he wasn’t aware that he was breaking the internet simply by sitting on a chair, bundled up like the sensible king that he is: “I was just sitting there trying to keep warm, trying to pay attention to what was going on.” We love an engaged audience member. Like the good little influencer that he is, Sanders gave a shout-out to the school teacher and “very, very nice person” from Essex Junction, Vermont, who made the mittens (which are not for sale, btw). As for what was in his manila envelope, well, that remains a mystery. “It’s top secret,” said Sanders, although I have a sneaking suspicion they were either highly classified political documents or, more likely, a bunch of old CVS receipts.

4. Hunter Schafer Yelped Mental Hospitals on The Tonight Show

I know, I know, I said this list was going to be inauguration-themed this week, but a rising starlet talking candidly about mental health on late-night television is political in its own way, and also, rules were made to be broken. Hunter Schafer dropped by The Tonight Show on Thursday and shared the story about how the upcoming special Euphoria episode starring her character, Jules, came to be. During quarantine, Schafer was in North Carolina struggling with her mental health and considering checking into the hospital. This led her to Google different mental-health facilities in North Carolina, but she found an unfortunate common denominator during her research. “All of them had terrible reviews on Google Maps,” she told a bemused Jimmy Fallon. Instead of checking into the hospital, she ended up writing an episode of Euphoria. Fallon, who quite conspicuously didn’t have any overtly political guests on his program this inauguration week, sat there nodding along and interjecting with affirmative statements. While it was definitely a little awkward at times, Schafer’s candor showed how universal mental-health issues are, especially in our post-pandemic world.

3. Chance the Rapper, Cynthia Erivo, and the Chicago Children’s Choir Sing on The Late Show

The Late Show pulled out all the stops for inauguration week, providing two highly involved big-budget production numbers to mark the end of Trump’s presidency. The first was a parody of “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast (hence the reference from intro), starring Laura Benanti as Melania wandering through Times Square greeting the villagers post-Trump. While it was kitschy and campy and Benanti’s high C remains in great shape, the musical moment that captured my eye and, if you can believe it, my stone-cold heart happened during Stephen Colbert’s live show the night of the inauguration. Producer Peter CottonTale, not to be confused with the famous bunny of the same name, assembled an ensemble that included Kofi Lost, Chance the Rapper, Cynthia Erivo, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras for a special performance of his song “Together.” The Chicago’s Children’s Choir gorgeously began the gospel-tinged song while decked out in black shirts that had questions like “Why was George Floyd arrested?” and “Why are some people asymptomatic?” on them. Then Cynthia Erivo — with her incredible voice and even more incredible manicure — and Youth Pastor Chance joined the song, and I couldn’t stop beaming. Watching all of this the night that the first Black and South Asian American woman was elected to higher office really did pack an emotional punch. No neolib, but I can’t listen to it without getting chills. Wow, I really am turning into my mother.

2. Stacey Abrams Bemoans Trump Moving to the South on The Daily Show

But I probably wouldn’t turn into a blubbering mess while listening to an inspiring children’s choir sing of a brighter tomorrow if Biden hadn’t won the election and Georgia hadn’t turned blue. And for that we have to thank Stacey Abrams, who dropped by The Daily Show on inauguration night. Last time Stacey Abrams appeared on the program was this past summer, post-George Floyd at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests with Donald Trump in the White House and a deadly pandemic raging across the country. America has since addressed one out of those three those issues, and Abrams told Trevor Noah she was optimistic about our nation’s future now that Biden is president: “We now have a president who can actually address the death toll that coronavirus is wreaking across the country and can make certain that communities that have been left out of just simply getting basics will suddenly, for the first time, have access to the support and resources they need.” Even when talking about the dire conditions that Trump’s negligence has left our country, Abrams was able to find some humor in the situation. “I am deeply, deeply grateful Donald Trump is out of the White House,” she told Noah, “but I’m a little annoyed he’s just south of where I live. But, you know, we’re America; he gets to live where he wants.” Move over, Amy Klobuchar — you’re not the only politician who’s ready for her Comedy Central stand-up set. Excited to see the tight five Abrams breaks out when she’s elected the next governor of Georgia.

1. Amanda Gorman Loving James Corden on The Late Late Show

While Bernie’s memes and Amy Klobuchar’s emceeing did make waves on the internet, everyone knows there was only one true star of Wednesday’s inauguration: Amanda Gorman. The 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate, who read her inspiring poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration, appeared on The Late Late Show on Thursday, leaving Americans across the country with one question: Now how in the hell did James Corden book this? While Corden is affable and funny and as charismatic as Klobuchar is wooden, he is not our most politically inclined late-night host, so it was somewhat surprising that he ended up booking the breakout star of the inauguration and not, say, Stephen Colbert or Seth Meyers. Within the first few seconds of the interview, Gorman, who continued her streak of serving up incredible lewks on The Late Show, answered our question. “I am amazing,” she told Corden, “I am ten times better because I am talking to you. You’re like my favorite human being ever created.” And there we have it. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given Gorman’s well-documented admiration of Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Venn diagram of people who love Hamilton and people who love “Carpool Karaoke” is a perfect circle.

Elsewhere in the interview, Gorman revealed that her phone has been “on fire” since the big event, and that her poem was bigger than herself. “It was a personal honor for me to be an inaugural poet, to be the youngest, but I think it was something beyond that, beyond myself,” she said. “A moment for the country, for the world to really move forward.” Gorman also was funny and down-to-earth, talking about how she asked her mom for a new phone after her big moment (“You have to capitalize on these days with your mother”) and how she didn’t want her mom to cry while they stood next to J.Lo. She also did a pretty solid Barack Obama impression at the end of the interview, confirming that she is, in fact, the real deal. To end, Corden asked Gorman if she’d one day like to be president, to which she responded “planning on it.” This gives me pause, only because I genuinely think Gorman is too cool and funny and smart for the job, but hey, if she wants the gig, then she should go for it.

More From This Series

See All
Amanda Gorman Loving James Corden Won Late Night This Week