Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show both went live on Tuesday night in order to react to the president’s State of the Union speech. Jimmy Kimmel’s coup, of a sort, was booking adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who has in the past claimed to have had an affair with Donald Trump. Colbert came out, as he usually does, with verbal guns blazing. He did what amounted to an annotated replay of the speech, with comic footnotes. After a clip of Trump talking about the hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico (“We are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.”), Colbert observed, “That will be a touching message for the people of Puerto Rico once they have electricity to turn on their TV’s.” Unlike the wild, improvised, often angry postelection live show Colbert did after Trump’s election, this live show stuck to the Late Show formula, which reminded us how low-boil-despairing Colbert and his audience remain.
On The Daily Show, Trevor Noah delivered such lines as, Trump “reached across the aisle — and not just to grope someone,” and commented that the stony silence to the speech from the Black Congressional Caucus in the room was “like reverse-Showtime at the Apollo.” As usual, Noah was occasionally clever without any sort of overarching framework to his political comedy.
Not trying to be coherent at all, yet landing some of the strongest humor-punches was Jimmy Kimmel. He prefaced the Stormy Daniels interview with a clip from that morning’s The View, with guest S.E. Cupp. (You don’t know S.E. Cupp? You mean you don’t watch her daily conservative talk show on HLN? Congratulations, you’re an American.) Cupp whined that Kimmel booking Daniels was unfair to Republicans because “Monica Lewinsky was also caught having an affair with a president. Who’s booking Monica Lewinsky?” Kimmel then played clips from three times he has interviewed Monica Lewinsky. “Put that in your S.E. Cupp and smoke it,” he said.
The Stormy interview wasn’t all that much. She’s sticking by the nondisclosure agreement she signed in allegedly being paid to remain silent on the subject of Trump. But she didn’t deny the salacious details in the In Touch interview Daniels granted in 2011. Kimmel asked if she found it odd that Trump, during his campaign, brought out a group of women who’ve accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to try and psyche out Hillary before a debate. “Odd, no — dirty, yes,” said Daniels with a puncturing terseness.
Kimmel also did a fascinating segment in which he brought out a Latino couple who came to this country illegally many years ago, to engage in a discussion with six people who said they were strongly against illegal immigration. The segment had few laughs, and mostly just proved that the most extreme opinions emanated from the most aggressively pro-Trump supporters. “I want to start deporting ‘Dreamers’ even before MS-13,” said a man with a long white beard and a red Make America Great Again baseball cap on. (He was referencing the MS-13 Latino gang that Trump equated with all illegal immigrants in his speech.) No one gave their full names, but this guy — “Bad Santa” was Kimmel’s nickname for him — was unashamed to sit in front of this man, woman, and their infant daughter and say, “They should throw them out.” In a way, Kimmel was being as manipulative as Trump was in his speech, bringing out civilians as living illustrations of various triumphs of Trump’s first year. But it was effective in showing the stark contrast between Republicans who disagree about our immigration laws, and MAGA zealots without a shred of politeness.
I have to say that the night’s best Good Old-Fashioned Talk Show Joke goes to Conan O’Brien, who said, “Trump said he now supports a plan for young immigrants to become citizens. When asked why, Trump said, ‘Because I may have to look for a new wife soon.’” Johnny Carson would have told one like that.
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on CBS. The Daily Show airs weeknights at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central. Jimmy Kimmel Live airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on ABC. Conan airs weeknights at 11 p.m. on TBS.
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