Some of the most interesting stuff on late night this week wasn’t particularly funny. In case you haven’t noticed, we live in shitty times, and goofin’ on the misery can only take us so far. When the CDC relaxed guidelines for vaccinated people this week, my timeline was choked with “The CDC has announced that the fully vaccinated are now allowed to ____” jokes (eat ass, be cast in Knives Out, etc.) to the point that I never saw what the CDC said we’re actually allowed to do. Surely there’s a middle space between irony poisoning and post-9/11 new sincerity, and that seems to be where late night is vibing currently.
Trevor Noah addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict and did his best to outline the power differential between the two “sides” of the “clash.” The piece barely tried for jokes, but that wasn’t the point. The point was he talked about something that has seemed completely off-limits in late-night comedy for decades. Conan O’Brien also brought a bit of sincere appeals to the audience to his interview with Lisa Kudrow on May 12. The two went to the Little Room at Largo, where they first met, to talk about finding their comedic voice. O’Brien and Kudrow met at an improv class that was taught in the Little Room, and they both expressed gratitude for finding someone to grow alongside with at that time. It was as earnest as a Conan segment can get. Still, the majority of late night was joke-focused this week.
5. Seth Meyers’s Mitt Romney Fanfic
Late night has been transfixed with the Liz Cheney ouster since it began last week. More moderate GOP reps (lmao) are getting pushed out by Always Trump people, and the whole thing is seriously weird. Rather than officially welcoming Liz Cheney to the resistance, Seth Meyers devoted some of his May 12 “A Closer Look” to Mitt Romney. Romney has been feuding with the pro-Trump faction of his party, especially in the way they enabled the Capitol riots. Meyers went on a li’l tangent where he imagined a world where Romney essentially stars in his own Mormon version of Taken. Does Romney beat up young toughs when he takes the bus, as Meyers posits? No. Would that world be more interesting than the one we’re currently trapped in? Perhaps.
4. One Minute of Ziwe and Fran
Ziwe Fumudoh’s new Showtime half-hour show does not yet have its own YouTube channel. What’s that about? Late-night comedy and variety live mostly online now, and any show that neglects its clip presence is hobbling itself. Earlier this week, I watched a TikTok where a Zoomer said someone’s TV show was so good, they wished it was on YouTube instead. YouTube has more prestige for the young’uns than the dinosaurs of network and cable. Ziwe’s interview with Fran Lebowitz was fun and fascinating, but not easily disseminable. It would be higher on this list if one could post the whole thing.
3. Full Frontal Asks: “Swords?”
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee dedicated its May 11 episode to pushing for gun control. The usual talking points were raised: Gun violence is an epidemic in America, there are more guns than people in the U.S. Normal shit. But then a left-field appeal was made: What about swords? How much better would life be if we all carried/fetishized swords the way the NRA does with guns today? The Mother’s Day memes would be infinitely danker.
2. Amber Ruffin Says “No ❤️️”
Amber Ruffin does a lot of songs on her show, which is a double-edged sword (thanks, Sam Bee). On the one hand, she sings beautifully and clearly has fun doing these routines. On the other hand, Peacock seems to mix her backing tracks out of a child’s Casio keyboard. Even the show’s intro song sounds muffled. It’s clearly a stylistic choice, but one that, in my opinion, does a disservice to Ruffin’s chops. May 7’s song about refusing to acknowledge certain upsetting news stories was funny, but hard to listen to on a technical level. Ruffin’s vocals were very live, and the backing track was very filtered. But on the plus side, there were lots of fun reaction shots in the “Have you ever smoked weed?” section earlier in the monologue.
1. Jordan Klepper Laughs at the Cyber Ninjas
As we discussed earlier, sometimes sincerity is the appropriate reaction to news. But you can also just laugh in some dummies’ faces — that works, too. Jordan Klepper went to Arizona to talk to the folks behind the re-re-re-recount of the presidential election, and he showed the proper disrespect for the occasion. Klepper laughed in the faces of an audit liaison and a volunteer, something they did not appreciate. But sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh. Like, for example, when ballots are being inspected for bamboo because something-something China. Klepper brought back a classic Daily Show laughing-at-rubes field piece. Welcome back, America.
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