• Dave Erickson

Isn't Late-Night Comedy Supposed to be Funny?

In the "Sore Loser Because My Candidate Lost and I'm Famous So I'm Smarter Than You and I'm An Expert On Everything Political" era in which Hollywood now resides, late-night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel found it prudent, again, to use his show as a platform for a partisan political tirade.

On Tuesday night, in a scathing monologue, the host excoriated Republican senator Bill Cassidy and the new GOP repeal and replace Obamacare bill introduced by Cassidy and Senator Lindsey Graham. It's the second time since May Kimmel has lectured us on Obamacare from the bully pulpit of his talk show stage.

One can debate the merits of Kimmel's argument until the ghost of Steve Allen appears on the side of the El Capitan Theatre, but I've neither the time nor the inclination to address an out-of-touch millionaire with no grasp of how the world works for regular folk.

The issue for me? Isn't late-night comedy supposed to be funny?

These days, late-night comedy isn't really comedy. Lighthearted entertainment isn’t the goal: eviscerating President Trump is. Late-night television is an aural onslaught of leftist-Establishment hosts pushing their political views onto America. But shouting into an echo chamber serves to do nothing more than feed the already oversized egos of hosts who believe themselves intellectual elites. To the Trump haters who watch these buffoons, they’re hilarious. To the rest of us, they’re unwatchable.

Johnny Carson will always be the undisputed king of late-night television. For thirty years, he held court over the crown jewel of NBC: The Tonight Show. Though extraordinarily well read, intelligent, and well aware of the issues of the day, Carson never went on-air and tried to be anything other than what he was—a late-night talk show host and comedian. He wasn’t a pundit. Carson told jokes. He didn’t opine, for good reason, explaining to the New Yorker in 1978, “That would hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am.”

Carson wasn’t so shortsighted as to alienate half the country by beating viewers over the head with his political views—or verbally ravaging a president for whom those viewers may have voted.

Late night now is a cacophony of bombast. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is no more than a nightly skewering of President Trump by a smug host. Colbert has sixty minutes of valuable airtime and all he and his high-priced writers can come up with are demeaning jokes about the president. It’s not clever. It’s lazy. Maureen Callahan at the New York Post put it best: “Stephen Colbert used to parody a blowhard— now he is one.”

To be fair, Colbert isn’t just a blowhard, he’s a very talented man wasting his talent dishing filthy hyperbole grounded in an unhealthy obsession with destroying the president. He demonstrated that by presiding over the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. It was a nonstop verbal ravaging of President Trump. it was also the lowest-rated Emmy broadcast of all-time.

Stephen Colbert—you, sir, are no Johnny Carson.

Had a host criticized Barack Obama at one of these awards shows, a mob armed with torches and pitchforks would be gathered in front of the network’s headquarters, and they wouldn’t stop until the host was either fired or lynched. But as we know, disrespectful diatribe directed at the president is acceptable when you’re a leftist mouthpiece—especially when you have the support of equally tone-deaf sycophants.

In the entertainment bastions of West Coast thinking, it’s considered sport to bad-mouth our president in boorish fashion. The mindset of these shows is, to paraphrase the late Rowdy Roddy Piper, “We came to demean the president and chew gum, and we’re all out of gum.”

HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is, for all intents and purposes, host John Oliver screaming for half an hour about how bad he thinks our president is.

Dude, no one is making you stay here. Feel free to jump on the red-eye back to your native England. Certainly, Prime Minister May generates an ample supply of fodder for your unhinged ruminations.

Last Week Tonight won the Emmy this year for Outstanding Variety Talk Series. What does that tell you about where Hollywood is these days?

Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah is no better. The host of The Daily Show routinely mocks conservatives, their policies, and of course, President Trump. What’s particularly charming about Noah’s incessant whining is he’s from South Africa, a country where the economy is falling apart thanks to years of socialist policy. Trevor, you can complain all you want about this capitalist country in which you earn millions of dollars, but we’d prefer if you just said, “Thanks.”

Viewers of Late Night with Seth Meyers don’t need to think very hard about which side of the political fence their host stands.

But poor Jimmy Fallon at The Tonight Show. Like Johnny Carson before him—who set the benchmark for how a host is to conduct their show—Fallon is deliberately apolitical and he’s been relentless criticized as a result.

The zenith of the criticism was also its genesis: when Donald Trump was a guest on The Tonight Show a couple of months before the 2016 election. Fallon’s interview was void of heavy-handed questioning or “gotcha” moments. It also included Fallon doing what everyone in America has wanted to do since the ’80s—he playfully tousled Trump’s hair.

The segment was lighthearted, good fun, and entertaining—everything a late-night comedy show is supposed to be. But a vicious leftist-Establishment, hell-bent on the destruction of Donald Trump, wouldn’t have it. They rebuked Fallon for weeks.

But of all today’s late-night hosts, Fallon is the only one who gets it—the one who understands it isn’t smart to alienate half your audience by pushing partisan politics (or alliteration). As he told The New York Times, “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh. People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.”


Johnny Carson set a standard for late-night hosts, and thankfully, today, one measures up. As for the rest of them, step off the soap boxes and make me laugh.

'Cause, at the end of the day, isn't late-night comedy supposed to be funny?

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