Sondland impeachment hearing trumps Democratic debate on late-night TV

Gordon Sondland
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified in the House impeachment inquiry Wednesday.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

The fifth Democratic debate took place Wednesday night and for once, anyone watching late-night TV afterward would hardly know it.

Instead, a political spectacle that usually serves as late-night gold was largely overshadowed by the bombshell impeachment hearing featuring Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who sold out several White House officials — especially the president — during his testimony.

“What a special night it is,” Jimmy Fallon said at the start of his “Tonight Show” monologue. “Our entire audience is made up of people Ambassador Gordon Sondland implicated in the Ukraine scandal.”


Perhaps even buzzier than the ambassador passionately attacking the president was the look on the ambassador’s face while doing it. Almost all of the comedians seized on a photo of Sondland grinning directly into the camera, which went viral after the hearing.

“I can tell exactly what he’s thinking there,” Fallon said, adding a thought bubble above the witness’ mug. “‘Swish swish, bish.’”

“He smelt it and dealt it,” Seth Meyers quipped on “Late Night.”


Sondland’s wasn’t the only face that gained overnight fame. Like the internet, hosts also took notice of Rep. Devin Nunes’ sour expression during a break in Sondland’s attempted takedown.

“Man, look at his face,” Meyers said. “He looks like he just walked in on his parents having sex — with someone else’s parents. There’s only two explanations for that face. Either he just heard lengthy testimony detailing a criminal scheme so shocking it could bring down the presidency of Donald Trump, or he sharted and he’s trying to remember how far away his backup pants are.”

“That’s the same face Trump made the day Don Jr. was born,” the eponymous host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” joked, taking one of his signature swipes at Trump in the process. “It’s a very sad face.”

And of course, no impeachment hearing set would have been complete without addressing yet another viral moment: Trump’s “No quid pro quo” notepad.

In response to Sondland’s fervent claims that there was a quid pro quo between the presidents of the U.S. and Ukraine, Trump took to the White House lawn to defend himself — marker notes in hand — repeatedly shouting, “I want nothing” and “I want no quid pro quo.”

“Usually when Trump screams, ‘I want nothing,’ it’s when the White House orders salad for lunch,” Kimmel quipped.

“First of all, that’s the worst audition for a school play I’ve ever seen,” Meyers said of the president’s rant.


Meanwhile, Trevor Noah actually turned the widely circulated clip into an audition tape on “The Daily Show,” editing the footage to make it seem as though Trump was simply an aspiring actor testing out different methods of delivering the same lines.

Despite the overwhelming amount of spotlight the hearing soaked up, some material about the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate did make it to air — particularly when it came to where the event was located.

Nearly every comic opened his debate remarks with commentary on the night’s venue, Tyler Perry Studios — the birthplace of super-producer Perry’s wildly popular “Madea” franchise.

“We are live because the Democrats held a debate at Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios tonight, which explains why half the candidates were played by Madea,” Stephen Colbert quipped on “The Late Show,” referring to Perry’s tradition of portraying multiple characters in a single “Madea” movie.

Kimmel took a similar tack, joking: “If you were to take Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and mash them all together, you would get Madea.”

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