this week in late night

John Oliver’s Duck-Stamp Con Won Late Night This Week

Photo: YouTube

If the return of flares didn’t already clue you in, the 2000s are back in a big way. And one of the most recent trend revivals in comedy comes courtesy of Apple TV+. Jon Stewart is gracing our screens again, this time in a biweekly format. The Problem With Jon Stewart debuted this week, and it is bringing to light a problem that late night has had since Stewart was on the air the first time: What the fuck is a late-night talk show?

In the pre–Daily Show days, or even the Kilborn era that we have all collectively agreed to memory-hole out of existence, late night meant chat shows. Famous people went on them to plug projects, they commented on the news of the day, and nobody took a pointed political POV. But when Stewart took over TDS, things changed. Political outlooks got sharpened in late night, which happened to coincide with the birth of 24-hour news channels. Late night became less about guests plugging stuff and more about providing a space for viewers to Engage With the Issues. Today, there are shows that are pure chat like WWHL. There are other shows that are strictly political commentary, and the fact that we haven’t come up with a new name/Emmy category for shows like Last Week Tonight and Full Frontal honestly makes no sense. Climate Night threw this divide into sharp focus, and the debut of The Problem With Jon Stewart only exacerbates the issue. She’s giving news magazine, not talk show. But here were the best moments of both this week.

5. Jon Stewart Takes the Colbert Questionert

The “Colbert Questionert” doesn’t come up that often, only pulled out for big-deal guests like Meryl Streep or Da Friggin’ Pope, should he decide to go on CBS. It feels very vestigial, like a version of the show Stephen Colbert thought he was going to do at the beginning of his tenure. Stewart is a perfect questionertee because he resists it at every turn. It’s unclear whether he can’t give a straight answer or won’t, but either way, it’s good TV.

4. Jon Stewart Gets Owned by Youths

Speaking of TV, you know what isn’t television? Like half the content produced for The Problem With Jon Stewart. The show will run every other week, but the podcast will be weekly. So even at the beginning, the show will be more new media than old. But you know what is old? Jon Stewart’s face. Stewart read aloud all the “I’m old” insults his much younger writing staff came up with, and it was great fun. Not sure if it’s humiliation-kink play, but still: a good YouTube clip.

3. Hagar Is Over All the Buildings That Look Like Dicks

A studio audience came back to The Late Late Show this week, and thankfully the vibes remain intact. We’re still cutting to crew, Ian Karmel still has a spot onstage-ish, and the band is still interrupting. Hagar Ben Ari felt led by the spirit to voice joy — joy that the Barack Obama Presidential Library doesn’t look like a big architectural dong. If all you’ve seen of The Late Late Show is the pretaped stuff like “Carpool Karaoke” or Mouse Hump, you are missing the best part of the show.

2. The Daily Show Discusses How to Trick the Media Into Caring About Black People

In the wake of the Gabby Petito search, Dulcé Sloan and Roy Wood Jr. discussed Missing White-Women Syndrome. They decided that the best way to ensure that people would actually look for one of their missing loved ones was to put them in as close proximity to whiteness as possible — something like getting taken after lacrosse practice or Christian yoga. If you are snatched while eating hummus, all the better. What made the bit land so well is that all of those things — lacrosse, yoga, hummus — were appropriated into the general purview of white nonsense. Getting kidnapped is also not a proportionately white activity, but it often feels that way.

1. John Oliver Spills the Duck-Stamp Tea

Something great about life is that, no matter how niche the interest or activity, there is always weird infighting drama to unpack. John Oliver devoted the coda of his episode to duck stamps, an annual hunting permit whose revenue goes to wetlands preservation. Apparently, the duck girlies are fighting. One guy is anti-Obama, another is making troll art, and a whole family of painters has been dominating the duck-stamp contest for years. Oliver pulled a classic Oliver and commissioned several brave works of duck art and is now auctioning them off for environmental charities. The hardest I laughed all week was looking at the painting of a duck hunting a hunter, who in turn is hunting another duck. If they won’t put it on the 2022 duck stamp, they should at least put it in the Louvre.

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John Oliver’s Duck-Stamp Con Won Late Night This Week