Free from the quick turnaround required by the live comedy shows that aired on election night, the late-night hosts regrouped Wednesday to offer their thoughts on Donald Trump’s presidential victory.
Seth Meyers, who quickly became one of the best sources for political comedy during the long campaign, came back strong with a thoughtful, emotional tone.
He reflected on embracing his 8-month-old son while putting him to bed Tuesday night and speculated he might wake up to the first female president. Then, after the results came in, Meyers first woke his baby with panicked escape plans but then recalibrated, telling his son that for the first time in history, “our president would be a steak salesman.”
Meyers then shared the excitement that someone’s daughter was out there who would still one day be the first female president. “Maybe you’re a woman who’s currently a senator, maybe you’re still in college. Hopefully you’re not a toddler, but who knows?” he added with a rueful grin.
After further encouraging the future first female president (“Wherever you are, go get it”), he struck a more conciliatory tone while speaking directly to Trump voters in an effort to empathize with what drove their vote. “I sincerely hope that he addresses your concerns,” he said. “I sincerely hope that if you felt forgotten, he won’t forget you now.”
Meyers also acknowledged how his disappointment with the election results could only pale in comparison to how LGBTQ, African American and immigrant communities must feel. “Hopefully the Trump administration and Trump supporters will be compassionate to them,” Meyers said, his voice catching. “Because they need your compassion.”
His monologue continued its hopeful tack, comparing Trump’s embrace of racist rhetoric on the campaign trail as perhaps akin to the out-of-character efforts one makes while in the early stages of dating, like agreeing to go apple picking. “Let me make it clear that I am in no way trying to say that racism is as bad as apple picking,” Meyers concluded, grinning as the metaphor reached its breaking point.
Finally, Meyers congratulated the president-elect and concluded with a promise that sounded like vigilance. “We here at ‘Late Night’ will be watching you,” he said.
With a special Wednesday night episode on TBS, Samantha Bee opened with a hazy dream sequence that featured giddy cameos from CNN’s Van Jones as well as her fellow “Daily Show” alumni Larry Wilmore, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. After the inevitable rude awakening, Bee, in her monologue, quickly refuted an idea that a Trump victory would be good for late-night hosts, that the jokes would basically write themselves. “No, no, no, shut up. Jokes don’t write themselves,” she vigorously argued. “Jews write jokes, and they’re scared … .”
Bee initially echoed much of the anger and frustration that came from the left Tuesday night, calling the results “the democratic equivalent of installing an above-ground pool.” (“Even if we’re lucky and it doesn’t seep into our foundation, the neighbors will never look at us the same way again.”)
But in offering an election post-mortem, Bee focused on voter turnout. (Warning: The above video uses explicit language.)
First she deflected the idea that low black voter turnout was at fault (“How many times do we expect black people to build our country for us?”), and placed the results squarely at the feet of white men and women. She quickly shut down the idea of any white people distancing themselves from the results, regardless of how they voted. “If Muslims have to take responsibility for every member of their community, so do we,” she said.
After insisting her audience confront the reality of the circumstances behind the election, Bee also struck a more encouraging note. “We still have millions of Nasty Women who aren’t going away,” she said. “And as long as women over 25 are still allowed on television, I’ll still be here cheering them on.
“Let’s get off the floor and get busy. Especially you, white women,” Bee added. “We’ve got some karma to work off.”
A day removed from what was a relatively bleak election night special, Stephen Colbert was back on firmer ground on a live edition of “The Late Show.” “This is what it feels like when America is made great again,” Colbert said, acknowledging a grim mood on the streets of New York. “I was hoping it would feel better.”
Colbert was the only late-night host to show footage of Wednesday night’s election protests. “Don’t stop speaking up,” Colbert encouraged, adding, though, that the lack of acceptance from the other side for eight years of the Obama administration was not a good look.
“Like it or not — for the record, not — we have to accept that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States,” Colbert said to a hail of groans. “I just want to keep saying it until I can say it without throwing up in my mouth a little bit,” he explained.
After comparing his post-election feelings to something akin to a dream state, Colbert’s monologue showed more teeth than the raw-nerved response on Tuesday night. He looked to Trump’s post-victory remarks about Hillary Clinton for advice to parents explaining election results to their kids (“Just follow his lead and lie”) and drew close to the camera to marvel at Clinton’s dignified concession speech. “How are you already accepting this?” he asked incredulously. “Did you pay extra for a Fast Pass through the five stages of grief?”
Colbert also offered encouragement, and dismissed the idea of finding solace by relocating to Canada — something that apparently was being vigorously explored Tuesday night as the country’s immigration information website crashed. “I can understand why Canada looks so attractive. You’ve got free healthcare and a prime minister who looks like the prince from ‘Tangled,’ Colbert said.
“You don’t get to flee to another country when things get rough here,” he said. “Being an American citizen is like family: You’re in it whether you like it or not.”
On ABC, Jimmy Kimmel may have had the election response that best reflected many people’s feelings. “I had the weirdest, weirdest dream last night,” he said. “Remember that guy who used to host ‘The Apprentice?’ I dreamed we elected him president.”
Later, a visibly despondent Robert De Niro admitted to Kimmel he no longer could carry out his wish to punch then-candidate Donald Trump in the face. “I can’t do that now. He’s the president. And I have to respect that position, though I, we all know ... anyway,” he said, his voice trailing off. “I just have to see what he’s going to do.”
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