this week in late night

How Late-Night Hosts Reacted to the Queen’s Death

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah/YouTube, The Late Late Show with James Corden/YouTube and Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube

Queen Elizabeth II died yesterday at the age of 96, a day after she met the newest prime minister of England and mere days after Jimmy Kimmel got back from vacation.

There’s a reason Jay Leno has so many IMDb credits, and it’s not his surprising late-in-life pivot to voice-over. Late-night monologues are still the shorthand for “This is so big that everyone knows about it” in movies. These are the moments when late-night comedy is, theoretically, still very much stuck in its temporality. For the most part, the “late night” of late night is in name only. These shows tape during the day and are consumed via YouTube whenever. But when news breaks, late night is there to give the take — y’know, after Twitter’s done with it. Here’s what the late-night hosts did with the news of Her Majesty’s passing.

Stephen Colbert: A title card.

Colbert had already taped when news broke of the queen’s death, so The Late Show started the monologue with a title card saying essentially, “So sorry just getting this text.” Presumably, Colbert will have more to say tonight. Or maybe he’ll keep talking about Trump without saying his name — who’s to say?

Jimmy Fallon: What I’ll remember most is the laughter.

Fallon ended his monologue with a somber moment at his desk, sharing his condolences with the U.K. and fond remembrances of his own. Apparently, Fallon’s pat answer to “Who’s your dream guest?” was always the queen, and he always admired her sense of humor. Fallon said the queen had jokes, and the Washington Post agrees. This is fascinating. Are y’all sure you weren’t actually talking to Kids in the Hall’s Scott Thompson?

James Corden: Is gutted.

Corden obviously had the most earnest and fawning things to say about the queen. It was obvious not just because he’s English but because he does these serious desk pieces a lot. He’s lamented mass shootings from the desk and spoken out against the Super League in soccer. Corden said the queen was never political, which is an interesting thing to say about someone whose last act on this earth was confirming a prime minister. He spoke of her as a constant source of comfort like Friends reruns or God.

Desus Nice: The disrespect will not be televised.

Oh, for Desus & Mero to still be on the air. I just wanted to have a little sidebar to show how a big chunk of Twitter was taking the news of the queen’s death. It was not the somber occasion Corden felt it should be. My timeline wasn’t somber remembrances; it wasn’t even tweets calling out rampant disrespect. It was just rampant disrespect and ironic retweets of brands making obligatory “Queen dead :(” posts. Desus may not have a late-night show anymore, but his finger is still on the pulse.

Jimmy Kimmel: A Friars Club roast.

Kimmel had the late-night-iest take on the queen’s death. Unlike about half the hosts, he made jokes. But they were softballs, the kind of jokes you’d hear on the Dean Martin years of the Friars Club roasts. Rather than take on Her Majesty, Kimmel used the queen as a launching pad for jokes about the Rock, Kris Jenner, and Donald Trump. The closest he got to talking about the queen herself was saying 96 is a pretty good run: “I feel like if you die anywhere on the FM radio dial, you did it. My goal is to make it a Hot 97 or even a Power 106. Who knows?”

Trevor Noah: Teach the controversy.

There was a real giving-a-shit gap in the reactions to the queen’s death. We had expressions of unmitigated mourning like Corden’s, but we also had Irish TikTok. The only late-night host to even acknowledge that gap was Noah, who adopted an Indian accent to say, “Bye, bitch!” to illustrate the least respectful end of the reaction spectrum. Late night is supposed to give the viewer a sense of shared reality, a feeling that you are experiencing this life with people across the country and with the host themself. And by actually noting that not everyone was stoked on the monarchy, Noah did that best.

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How Late-Night Hosts Reacted to the Queen’s Death