this week in late night

Jimmy Kimmel’s Tribute to Bob Saget Won Late Night This Week

Photo: Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube

It was a big week for late night! One host had to return to his COVID-19 bunker (because he had COVID), and another had to take a week off entirely. Jimmy Kimmel got a new announcer, and Jimmy Fallon got a new hat. On his big press push for Peacemaker, John Cena allegedly lost his Peacemaker helmet to Fallon in a bet. Though anyone familiar with Cena’s old profession’s tradition of kayfabe may question whether Fallon will actually be allowed to keep a costume that is, according to Cena, property of Warner Bros.

James Corden was off all week because he had tested positive for COVID on January 6. The week before, Seth Meyers had tested positive and had to cancel shows. He returned this week but in yet another isolation set. Luckily (?), a fan made another Sea Captain painting for Meyers, so his quar companion has been popping in for regular tête-à-têtes — along with his new wife, a painting of Rihanna.

It’s interesting that both hosts decided to cancel shows rather than find last-minute guests hosts. Corden previously utilized guest hosts such as Alicia Keys and Harry Styles, but presumably he had more time to book them. Fallon also tested positive for COVID, but it was over the winter break. And this Saturday’s SNL musical guest, Roddy Ricch, had to drop out “due to recent COVID exposure” on his team. One wonders whether another full-blown at-home era is dawning for late night. Case numbers in New York and Los Angeles are popping off. Do we really need audiences right now? Flattening the curve feels very retro, but maybe it’s time to bring it back. Like the indie-sleaze revival.

On a lighter note, Jimmy Kimmel Live! got a new announcer. Lou Wilson replaced longtime announcer Dickie Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Barrett’s retirement (presumably to help usher in a fourth wave of ska) made room for Wilson, who was part of the writers’ room. The news was welcomed in a space not usually known for late-night chat: D&D stans. Wilson’s work with Dropout’s Dimension 20 has made him a fan favorite, and it was interesting to see one of the more recent big forms of broadcast entertainment (actual-play D&D streaming) get hyped on one of the oldest. But you didn’t come here for the industry goss; you came for the most impactful stuff on late night this week. Here it is.

5. Keanu Reeves takes the Colbert Questionnert.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Keanu Reeves does poorly when asked a definite question. Stephen Colbert explained that the Questionert (his survey for only the most notable of notables) was in part inspired by Reeves. Colbert once asked him what he thinks happens when we die, to which Reeves responded that all he knows is that those who love us will miss us. From there came the Questionert that has been administered to everyone from Obama to J.Law. Reeves got flop sweat after question one: “What is the best sandwich?” The known sweetie immediately started worrying whether it was okay to pick his best sandwich rather than one that works for everyone. It only got more prevaricating from there.

4. Seth Meyers doesn’t care.

“Go ahead, groan. I can’t hear you.” So spake Seth Meyers very early in Monday’s “A Closer Look.” Meyers was talking about a terrible joke name for a horse-pudding flavor (horse pudding being the closest thing to ivermectin at his local bodega), Choclatariat. The joke pudding has had a different terrible-joke flavor every night this week, and one must commend Meyers’s commitment to a bit that, even without a studio audience, he knows won’t land. Doing stupid jokes for no one because it’s showtime and you have to say something is the backbone of late-night comedy, as is a mild contempt for your audience. Or if not contempt, at least disinterest in whether your stupid jokes for no one land.

3. Some quality time with Lewis Black.

Lewis Black came on The Tonight Show to plug his Grammy-nominated album Thank You for Risking Your Life. As he explained to Fallon, the album got its title because it was the last show he performed before lockdown. He said he and Kathleen Madigan knew the writing was on the wall because they were tracking COVID before it popped off. It was nice to just spend some time with Lewis Black while he was really Lewis Blacking it up — mad he’s related to Marc Maron, dismissive of Zoom comedy shows, and surprised his career didn’t wind up being “teaching drama in some sad little southern school.”

2. Tig Notaro explains bleeping.

Tig Notaro is the GOAT of leaning into discomfort. When she said “asshole” while talking to Colbert and realized she’d get bleeped, the urge to double and triple down on it was irresistible. Notaro said “ass” and “hole” in as many permutations as there are stars in the night sky, and she got Colbert to inadvertently make a gesture of anal pleasuring to boot. If you want to see Colbert lose it, watch this clip.

1. Jimmy Kimmel weeps for Bob Saget.

Comedy was awash with grief when news of Bob Saget’s death broke Sunday. On late night, that grief was most pronounced on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Kimmel spoke sweetly about his friend and the care he showed Kimmel during his son’s health issues. He read an email Saget wrote him and could barely get the words out. When Kimmel gets earnest, it’s always welcome. Arguing for better health care for Americans may be his biggest contribution to culture. When Kimmel chokes up, I choke up. And I truly appreciate his lack of shame about crying when things are really fucking sad.

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Jimmy Kimmel’s Tribute to Bob Saget Won Late Night This Week