‘What the hell was that?’: Late-night TV hosts go live after first debate


Late-night TV hosts were all of us after watching the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert all hosted their shows live after the president and former vice president faced off Tuesday night in Cleveland, Ohio — reacting in a daze to everything from moderator Chris Wallace’s failure to keep Trump in line to Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists.

“What the hell was that?” Fallon said at the top of “The Tonight Show.” “Did anyone take anything away from tonight? Was that helpful to any American? The only person who enjoyed that was Vladimir Putin while he was stroking a cat. ... Sitting through that debate felt like getting a COVID test in both nostrils at once.”


“I never thought I’d say this, but I am so looking forward to the vice presidential debate,” Colbert said on “The Late Show.” “I mean, for Pete’s sake, children watched that. I’m glad I’ve already had my children because I think just watching that sterilized me.”

Throughout the night, the president frequently ignored the two-minute-answer rule and interrupted Biden during his time to speak — an approach Noah imitated on “The Daily Show” by simply screaming incoherently for several seconds.

“Trump would not shut up,” Noah said. “Right now, he’s still in his bedroom complaining about how ‘Crooked Hillary’ rigged the election that he won. ... Trump did more interrupting than Kanye West in a room full of Taylor Swifts.”

And then there was Wallace, whom Fallon compared to “a kindergarten teacher running a class on Zoom” after he consistently struggled to keep each segment on track amid all the cross-talk between the candidates.

Trump hopes Tuesday night’s debate will revive his flagging campaign, but new revelations about his taxes and voter discontent over the virus will make it tough.

Sept. 29, 2020


“After the debate was over, Wallace said he wants to moderate something a little more civil, like a ‘Real Housewives’ reunion or a back-alley knife fight,” Fallon joked. “The only interruptions were Trump cutting off Biden and Chris Wallace every eight seconds. ... It was the first time Americans ever watched something on TV and wished there were commercials. I need a break! ... Give me a gecko. Give me something!”

“Trump treated Chris Wallace like he was Eric [Trump] asking for more allowance money,” Kimmel quipped on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” “You know things are getting heated when the moderator [says], ‘Please! Please, gentlemen! Let’s return to the topic of race.’”

One of the most discussed moments of the night occurred when Wallace asked the president to condemn white supremacists, and Trump instead told a far-right hate group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by” before launching into a rant about “antifa and the left.”

“As for Trump’s performance — one: Now we finally know what it would be like if he read his Twitter feed out loud,” Noah said, “And two: I can’t believe how hard his brain malfunctioned when they asked him to denounce white supremacists.”

“‘I don’t support white supremacists — I just command them like a dog,’” Colbert said. “‘That’s why I’ve got this shiny dog whistle. Proud Boys, stand back! Sit! Who’s a proud boy? You’re a proud boy!’”

(Warning: The following video includes profanity.)