this week in late night

Reggie Watts’s TED Talk Won Late Night This Week

Reggie Watts on The Late Late Show. Photo: The Late Late Show with James Corden/YouTube

As cliché a statement it is to make, the weirdest part of this week of potential nuclear annihilation and people tripping over their own dicks to highlight the “alien” nature of seeing a war-torn Europe was how not-weird it was. Things are very much chugging along. Nothing made this more apparent than the way that The Late Show and The Daily Show emphasized Ukrainian women’s efforts in the war around International Women’s Day. You don’t have to jazz up war coverage by making it more timely. It’s a war. When Full Frontal did it, it was at least on-brand for the show. Rather than grrrl-ifying the war in Ukraine, they were Ukraine-ifying their already explicitly feminist show.

In other late-night news, Desus & Mero came returned in a weekly format. Here’s hoping the decision to scale back operations was more from a “defense against fatigue” place and not a lack of faith on Showtime’s part. The show’s warm-up segment is always a welcome addition to the late-night headline game. Nobody comes at a story from Desus and Mero’s angle. Here were the other freshest takes on late night this week.

5. Conscripting Seth Meyers

Seth Meyers’s version of Late Night excels at highlighting its writers, both in sincere moments and goof-em-ups. Dina Gusovsky, who moved to the U.S. from Russia as a child, got to speak her piece on Late Night about the war in Ukraine. And do a silly goof-em-up. Not only did she get to say plainly that Russian and Ukrainian immigrants are united in their desire for peace, she briefly got to peer pressure Meyers into enlisting. Gusovsky briefly bullied her boss into maybe joining president Zelenskyy as a comedian on the frontlines, and for that we are all grateful.

4. Amber Ruffin Is Anti-Time Travel

When Amber Ruffin and Tarik Davis yell directly at the camera, that’s my shit. The viewing audience needs to be scolded for its nonsense, and that includes asking Black people about time travel with no thought to how — in Ruffin’s words — the past was “slightly worse than today.” At least when Doctor Who introduced its first Black companion, the reaction (or non-reaction) of Elizabethans was a minor plot point. Think it through, time-travel nerds!

3. Give Zoey Deutch a Talk Show

Zoey Deutch quizzed Jimmy Fallon on Yiddish phrases, and she commanded the show. Whether or not I think Fallon was given answers beforehand is irrelevant; she hosted like a boss. Deutch should be on the docket of people who take over Jimmy Kimmel Live! in the summer when he’s fishing or whatever; give the lady her own show. Incidentally, this was not the first time Deutch inserted explicitly Jewish content into late night. When The Politician promo coincided with Yom Kippur, she and Ben Platt sang their Yom Kippur jingle for James Corden. Go watch that.

2. Denzel Schools Desus & Mero

Half of this interview is just Denzel Washington talking about discontinued stops or trains in the New York City transit system. But hasn’t he earned that? Denzel got to be a real old head, complain about the price of a slice of pizza, and make hyperspecific references to how various boroughs used to be. But most of all, Denzel vibed. It was the most relaxed he’s ever been, and it should happen more often.

1. Reggie Watts and Bob Odenkirk in Their Element

Speaking of people vibing, The Late Late Show gave Reggie Watts and Bob Odenkirk (but especially Watts) a chance to go real alt on all our asses and do some PowerPoint comedy. James Corden, The Righteous Gemstones star Edi Patterson, Watts, and Odenkirk all had to give improvised TED Talks in this clip. Patterson and Corden did a serviceable late-night spot of giggling and good sportsmanship. But this presented Watts and Odenkirk a chance to get real Comedians of Comedy in the space. (Odenkirk’s presentation reminded me so strongly of his segment in Comedians of Comedy: Live at the El Rey.) But Watts was truly thriving. This sort of improvisational, dumb, Guy Fieri–inflected comedy is what he does whenever he’s not getting paid CBS money to band-lead. It was a joy to get a glimpse of Reggie in his full “Fields of Donegal” glory.

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Reggie Watts’s TED Talk Won Late Night This Week