As President Trump trolled liberals (and conservatives) on Monday by publicly siding with Vladimir Putin rather than, you know, his own country, a faint sound could be heard in the distance. It was the sound of late-night TV writers scrambling to revise the monologues they’d begun preparing earlier in the day.
In the Trump era, there is typically enough chaotic ground to cover in a news day that each talk show host can find his or her own rich vein to mine. Sometimes, of course, Trump does something so flabbergastingly despicable that all the hosts go all in on the same story, and Monday was one of those days. So you know what that means: a lot of Russian nesting-doll jokes and a smidgeon of homophobia. Let’s have a look at how each late-night show took on the news.
Late Show with Stephen Colbert
With a bit of a haunted look in his eye, Colbert kicked off a rare two-part monologue thusly:
“Before we get into whether our president is the Siberian Candidate, I’d like take a moment right now to remind you of something Lincoln said: ‘America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.’ And: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ They were his two most famous tweets. So, with that in mind, I’m thinking that maybe in the interest of unity, the most patriotic thing we can do right now is not pointing out the alarming behavior of our president, but instead just shut up and take it until he’s gone. Does anybody feel like taking it?”
To which the crowd energetically yelled back, “No!”
The host went on to play a sprawling supercut of pundits denouncing the Trump-Putin summit, including some from Fox News, which ordinarily comprises his largest cheerleading section. (No worries, things got back to normal on Fox by the time Trump appeared on Hannity for a triumphant interview during prime time.)
Colbert eventually threw some water on Putin’s denials of Russia having had any interest in Trump prior to him running for president by pointing out that in his own experience in Russia, Colbert was definitely followed and maybe bugged. “And I’m just a comedian!” All the more reason to believe the fabled pee tape may be real, even though it probably doesn’t matter.
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
While Kimmel’s take on the summit had its moments–calling Putin Trump’s “KGBFF” was pretty clever–it suffered from the same lazy homophobia that caused many on Twitter to drag the New York Times’ Trump Bites project on Monday. Kimmel described Trump’s recent overseas adventures as “insulting his allies and rubbing his nipples against our enemies.” As if one pointlessly homophobic moment wasn’t enough, Kimmel later said, “Reportedly, Trump wanted to meet with Putin alone because he didn’t want his advisors to see him naked.”
Yes, Trump admires authoritarian strongmen like Vladimir Putin in a way that is disturbing for many reasons. But any imagined resemblance between Trump’s belabored fawning over Putin and a homosexual attraction is not automatically funny. Jokes whose punchlines entirely consist of the concept of two men kissing or having sex really should have ceased being funny a long time ago. Someone should inform Kimmel. Whoops! Someone already did, just three months ago.
Late Night with Seth Meyers
“However low your expectations were, Trump managed to go much lower,” Meyers says at the top of his segment on the Helsinki summit. Before getting there, though, Meyers spends several minutes on the rest of Trump’s embarrassing overseas trip.
Meyers’s comments on Trump’s servile nature around Putin serve as a sharp counterpoint to Kimmel’s: “Can you imagine what their private meeting was like? I’m worried he let Putin annex one of the 50 states. ‘Here is an electoral map, pick one of the blue ones.’ Seriously, Trump gushes over Putin like a flustered 12-year-old who just met Mickey at Disneyland.”
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
“‘The most embarrassing performance by an American president,'” Noah says, quoting former U.S. ambassador to Russia, William J. Burns. “Do you know how hard it is to achieve that? George H.W. Bush once threw up on the Japanese minister and Trump is now on top.”
Noah adds context to the summit by mentioning how nobody in the media seemed to know the point of Trump and Putin’s summit when it was announced last month. And how that seemed to have changed once those 12 fresh Mueller indictments rolled in last Friday.”So now, the formerly purposeless meeting between Trump and Putin had a meaning: It was time for Trump to put his foot down. And he did . . . right on America’s dick.” Yep, pretty much.
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Finally, we have Jimmy Fallon, who managed to inject a soupçon of homophobia into his breezy, virality-seeking approach to covering news. Before getting into the details of the press conference that launched a million head-desk thuds around the world, Fallon introduces a video Trump supposedly released to show how excited he was about his solo meeting with Vladimir Putin. The video pastes together words Trump has said at various podiums so that he appears to be singing the love song, “I Think We’re Alone Now.” You know, like when someone did that with Obama and “Never Gonna Give You Up” a thousand years ago? Jimmy Fallon appears to be the President Trump of late-night talk shows.