this week in late night

This Week’s Late-Night Spon-con, Ranked

Ads! Ads! Ads! Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by YouTube

Earlier this week it was announced that The Late Show, The Late Late Show, and The Daily Show would all come together for a common cause. The last time this happened, it was to address climate change. This time? To announce Google’s “Year in Search” video. Some may see this heavy-handed product placement as crass. And, yeah, I guess it is. But it’s also commonplace. Have you heard even one podcast? The spon is unending. It’s also nothing new. Apparently, we’re going back to the days where every show had one sponsor, and they had to yammer on about it for like five minutes each episode. It’s slightly cringe to see Stephen Colbert uncritically regurgitate Google’s talking points, but it beats Fred Flintstone smoking Winstons. Wait, no, that rules.

Google wasn’t the only brand to get some special consideration this week in late night. And thanks to certain FCC rules, YouTube has to disclose when a segment is sponsored by a brand. We’ve collected the best and worst of this week’s spon-con to see which late-night host has a fallback career as a carnival barker.

7. Stephen Colbert’s Google Intro

Joyless. You’re getting free money and have to write less — where’s the downside, Colbert? The CBS host had the least fun with the Google search terms, and had the most faux-earnest eye when talking about how 2021 was about “healing.” What’s more, I don’t care for the manufactured consent of his audience. Do they want more show, if that show is just an ad? We’ll never know, because y’all won’t let them speak.

6. The Daily Show Does Google Too

See, this gave us a Vin Diesel impression. It also felt like Trevor Noah tweaked the notion that 2021 was “important” in any way.

5. Guillermo Uses Groupon

Jimmy Kimmel Live! tends to throw all its spon-con to Guillermo. This is a pretty standard sponsored sketch from the show, except that it ends with a dog playing guitar in sunglasses. That rocks. The dog has no idea what’s going on.

4. James Corden’s Google Poem

For The Late Late Show’s obligatory Google moment, Corden used his recurring “breakdown” format. It made the spon feel less alien to the show than most. Of course, whether you think that’s a good thing probably depends on whether you read Adbusters back in the day. The segment is also an excuse for Mr. Musical Theater to show off his patter-song abilities, which might be an even more divisive topic.

3. Stephen Colbert’s DoorDash Haul

Colbert’s feeble entry for Google is thrown in sharp contrast to his work for DoorDash. The spon was wrapped around a segment that feels very normal Late Show, making some pithy jokes about weird self-care products. Also, I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about drinking whiskey out of a pumpkin-shaped tureen.

2. Jimmy Kimmel Got Google Money Too

Just when you thought the Google video drops were over, Kimmel got in the mix. The ABC host utilized the unique search-history options best, making jokes about the Great Resignation more than about himself. It also was, as Brian Cox said of Seth Meyers’s Kendall Roy impression, “incredibly brief.” Well done.

1. Jimmy Fallon Says “What the Frunk?”

This was good, you guys. We got an intro song that never ends (a fun sketch format if I ever saw one), some face time for Brad Evans, and a QR code at the end. Did any of the other spon-con moments have such an easy-to-accomplish plea to the audience for engagement? They did not. I would watch more “Head Swap” sketches, which is a big accomplishment for a sponsored sketch. However, a truck with a trunk in the front is a sin.

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This Week’s Late-Night Spon-con, Ranked