this week in late night

Prop Comic Michael Keaton Won Late Night This Week

Michael Keaton on The Tonight Show. Photo: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

I wonder if Jon Stewart is mad his new show didn’t get off the ground in time for the pullout of Afghanistan. It was a big week for the news in late night. Many nights were given over to commentary from war correspondents and the like. Nobody interviewed Barbara Lee, although Seth Meyers shouted her out while decrying 24-hour news shows’ reliance on war-hawk guests like John Bolton.

Other than Afghanistan, much of the headline space this week was taken up by the Delta variant. COVID-19 has somehow become simultaneously depressing and old hat on these shows — a terror we’re bored with, like getting fed up in a recurring nightmare. Maybe that’s why unhinged guests took the spotlight this week. Most of what worked best was either a guest popping off, or a segment-breaking format. Let’s talk about it.

5. Desus & Mero & Turturro

John Turturro is the guy — the guy who can bridge Michael Bay’s Transformers movies and the Coen Bros.’ jaundiced love letter to Hollywood, Barton Fink. This time it’s Turturro who’s showing you the life of the mind, as the director of Broadway’s rendition of Belly (1998). As a DMX vehicle, it pales compared to Cradle 2 the Grave. But as Hype Williams’s Heat, it whips ass. In this very special behind-the-scenes look, we see Turturro’s directing style, how to sell a gunshot, and why it’s so important to let Turturro say the word “belly” as much as he wants. He can’t do it! Always coming out “belay,” like the mountain-climbing term. It’s incredible.

4. Seth Meyers Trips Balls

It’s been a minute since Late Night did its “At This Point in the Broadcast” segment, but it’s always a good time. Meyers pretends to go off on a rant, and his audio gets cut. A narrator explains the content NBC appears to have found too objectionable to air, and we see Meyers and company basically lip-sync to it. It always devolves into something surreal, but this time it was a literal drug trip. “I think that stuff’s finally kicking in” jokes are kind of tired. The segment lost me when everything started getting echo-y and fractal. But when the narrator very earnestly came to the very high realization that he loved his mom, it won me back.

3. Amber Ruffin Finally Gets an Audience

The Amber Ruffin Show finally has an audience! The show started in the COVID vacuum and got very weird because there was no live feedback about whether anything was “too much.” Well, it turns out, nothing is too much for the Ruffin audience. In a format-breaking bit similar to the previous entry on this list, we heard the random inner thoughts of Ruffin, announcer Tarik Davis, and cue-card guy Wally. Wally is the secret sauce of The Amber Ruffin Show, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and SNL. More Wally bits, please.

2. Meg Stalter Is the Prettiest Girl in the World

Meg Stalter made the most of her network late-night debut. She entered in a gorgeous gown by the very famous designer Maraschino Cherry and explained that she had just been crowned Prettiest Girl in the World backstage. What timing! Guest host Maren Morris occasionally seemed genuinely mad that Stalter was doing bits instead of being a good and docile guest. But should we expect any less from the walking ball of chaos that is Stalter?

1. Michael Keaton Won’t Sit Down

Michael Keaton’s bravura performance on The Tonight Show was really hobbled by a commercial break. Jimmy Fallon didn’t get to any of the stuff Keaton was there to promote until after the break, because Keaton was more interested in dancing. Or talking about flashlights. Or handing Fallon wadded-up tissues. Then he ignored discussion of Batman in favor of embodying a guy who has a “fuckin’ sawzall,” and promised to saw Fallon’s desk in half the next time he’s on the show. Fallon was better able to roll with Keaton’s bits than Maren Morris was with Stalter. Which makes sense, since this is his day job and all. Keaton was all energy, popping off the couch to do a bit approximately every 45 seconds, and The Tonight Show did a good job accommodating the vibe.

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Prop Comic Michael Keaton Won Late Night This Week