this week in late night

Amber Ruffin’s Innovations in Song Parody Won Late Night This Week

Amber Ruffin. Photo: YouTube

It was one of those weeks where jokes take a back seat on late night. The Derek Chauvin verdict was a moment of relief, not celebration. And many hosts took this week to spend extra time on weighty matters. Samantha Bee released a short doc on Reality Winner, The Daily Show had special content on the Capitol riots and an episode dedicated to being Black in America, and James Corden made an impassioned plea against the European Super League in soccer. It was a week of big swings. That’s not to say it was all earnest speeches about injustice and elitism in sports — Lilly Singh did a Mask parody in 2021, which is audacious to the point of insanity. Somebody stop her. Here are the best big swings of the week.

5. Lilly Singh Hosts a Game Show for Cops

This April 20 sketch really works because the actor playing the cop just commits. All the police officer has to do is call a hate crime a hate crime, and he just can’t do it. But when he wins the consolation prize of a promotion, his victory celebration is phenomenal. Just shouting, “I told you, mom!” over and over again. It’s mental. I don’t know whether that line was written or ad-libbed, but it brings a Freudian edge to the proceedings that really works.

4. Mike Drucker’s Child Self Is Disappointed

Full Frontal celebrated 4/20 by dedicating an episode to the argument for legalizing marijuana. But I want to single out one joke in the episode, which claimed that writer Mike Drucker once got so high he took a shower in the dark and had a conversation with his child self. Bee said Drucker’s child self was really disappointed. In what? Drucker, the state of the world, at how high he was? It creates a little play inside the mind, a harrowing theater of cruelty à la Antonin Artaud. Like all the best jokes do.

3. Tooning Out the News Makes Pelosi’s Kente Cloth Come Alive

Tooning Out the News highlighted the truly wack shit Nancy Pelosi said after the Chauvin verdict. Trying to be helpful (?), she claimed George Floyd “sacrificed his life for justice.” On April 21, Tooning Out imagined a world where Pelosi’s kente cloth (from her last misguided gesture tackling racism) intervened before she did more damage to her reputation. It’s important that somebody, even a talking piece of fabric, point outs that being murdered is not a choice Floyd made to further the cause of justice, and that the narratives around Black civil-rights martyrdom are dumb and gross.

2. Steve Higgins Orders McDonald’s

Steve Higgins is criminally underused on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Luckily, during these small studio-audience episodes, the boys (Jimmy and Steve) have been bantering more. Higgins has inserted himself into the narrative more, and I’m lovin’ it. Speaking of loving things, the April 19 BTS McDonald’s news got the Tonight Show staff thinking about what their celebrity meal would be. At first, I thought it was spon. That is, until Higgins explained that his order is mostly apple slices and a Baja Blast he steals from a neighboring Taco Bell.

1. Amber Ruffin Teaches Us About Ghost Guns

Amber Ruffin said a few weeks ago that her show has been getting weirder and weirder without an audience to tell her to stop. This trend may have reached its apotheosis with her April 16 full-length song “Ghost Guns,” which both parodies the Ghostbusters theme song and explains what ghost guns are. It goes on for so long! Ruffin beats the joke to death, turns the joke into a ghost, then busts that ghost. And bustin’ that ghost? Made me feel good.

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Amber Ruffin’s Ghost Guns Song Won Late Night This Week