“And here we are again,” James Corden said last night at the top of the first episode of the Late Late Show following the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, over the weekend. It was the first thing Corden said during the episode, but not the first thing viewers heard him say. Before addressing the latest mass shootings in America on-air, Corden ran a montage of all the other times he’s had to do the same, all the other times he’s been forced to comment on what was once unspeakable but has now devolved into almost a commonplace part of American life.
James Corden reflects on the El Paso & Dayton tragedies. pic.twitter.com/0anCabnh1G
— The Late Late Show with James Corden (@latelateshow) August 6, 2019
There have been 1,601 mass shootings in this country since British expat Corden’s show began in March 2015, and in the montage he looks devastated during each one he addresses. But he also looks increasingly resigned to the task. He has adapted to the hell of routine tragedy, and the seeming impossibility of all that devastation and outrage leading to any kind of change. Like the rest of us, he appears bereft of any illusions that this time might be the last time.
This resignation raises the question What do you say after you admit there’s nothing left to say?
“Until we really confront this issue, and our politicians have the moral courage to face the gun epidemic,” Corden says later in his address to the audience, “the only thing that’s going to change is the location of the next mass shooting and the number of casualties.”
The other late-night hosts appear similarly worn down by the latest mass shootings, which took place in alarming proximity to one another. Here’s how they each handled the moment.
Meyers opens up by addressing not just the urgent need for gun control but also the white-supremacy motive in the case of the El Paso shooter. His tone is dead-serious and joke-free, but then he quickly segues into one of his signature “A Closer Look” segments to focus on how media and politicians have reacted to the mass shootings. Commenting on the trend of Republican politicians blaming these shootings on violent video games, Meyers says, “If video games are so influential, they should make one about Congress called ‘Fucking Do Something.'” Although the curse word here is bleeped out, it serves as a minor tribute to Beto O’Rourke and Tim Ryan’s expletive-laced commentaries since the shootings, which Meyers clearly admires. He compared their passionate reactions against the often volatile Trump’s hostage-style teleprompter reading, and the comparison does the president no favors. Elsewhere, Meyers smartly digs up footage of a post-Parkland Trump rightly mocking politicians admitting they are held in sway by the gun lobby . . . and then continuing not to do anything about it as people slowly stopped talking about Parkland. It’s a smart, if depressing, reminder that the American people have been as motivated to do something as they are right this moment, but government inaction has reliably failed.
Kimmel kicks off his show with a brief, mildly joking monologue that stops short of addressing the El Paso shooter’s stated anti-immigrant motive. However, he doesn’t pull his punches altogether.
“Again our leaders, in one party in particular, are offering not much more than thoughts and prayers,” he says.
The host goes on to take Senator Mitch McConnell to task for not allowing a vote on a bipartisan bill for universal background checks, and he hits back at Trump for somehow blaming his favorite, the media, for contributing to these shootings. Unlike the other hosts, he is the only one to point out the striking heartlessness of Trump, waiting just 14 minutes after his tweet about the shooting to shout out UFC fighter and big Trump supporter Colby Covington with best wishes for his fight that night. Yikes. Is it possible to die of too much compassion?
In a strong 10-minute segment, Colbert hearkens back to how the leaders of the Chernobyl power plant were derelict of their duty after the initial warning signs of the eventual meltdown. “Any acknowledgment of failure threatens their position of power, and their power is more important than saving lives,” Colbert says with a muted flourish to let viewers know he’s obviously not just talking about the leaders at Chernobyl. “America’s gun culture is melting down.”
Like his fellow hosts, Colbert also aims some of his ire at Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and his digs are the best of the night. On McConnell’s refusal to bring a background-check bill to the floor while also accepting $1.26 million in contributions from the gun lobby, Colbert notes, “You can’t put a price on human life, but it doesn’t stop Mitch from trying.”
He also looks at Trump’s pathetic post-shooting rhetoric about healing the division in this country, which to me is like if Wile E. Coyote gave a speech against chasing weird desert birds. After playing a clip of Trump’s teleprompter plea for unity, Colbert slips into a Trump impression, saying, “We should set aside partisan bickering over who fired up the white nationalists in our country and come together as one to sing ‘Send her back, oh Lord, send her back,'” a solid joke which is just about worth tolerating Colbert’s terrible Trump impression for.
Finally, there’s Fallon, who struggles to find a new way to talk about mass shootings or even a Corden-like attempt to comment on the stultifying repetition of these preventable disasters. However, to his credit, he does take a mild risk for such a center-inclined show and addresses the El Paso shooter’s white-supremacist motive. “And to anyone whose background has made them a target of prejudice or hate or violence,” he says, “or anyone who feels they might not be welcome in this country, know that you are welcome. We support you and we love you.” Well said, Jimmy.