Late Night Finds a New Foil in Kristi Noem

Here’s a political reality that seems impossible to be unaware of—although recent evidence suggests otherwise:

If you are pulling out all the stops to rise to the top of the Veep sweepstakes in your party, and you decide that the most impressive thing on your resume is your penchant for gunning down puppies, you are not only likely to destroy your chances with millions of dog-owners, you are also signing up to be the human outline at the late-night firing range.

That thoroughly perforated figure you may have come across on TV late last night was the effigy of Kristi Noem, Governor of South Dakota, outspoken advocate of gun rights, and (apparently) pet cemeteries.

The story broke over the weekend: The governor, whose ardent pursuit of the second spot on the Republican ticket to Donald Trump has been widely publicized, recounts in her upcoming memoir a happy catalogue of personal animal slaughter—a goat and three horses were also victims of her killing frenzy. The howls of outrage were likely only matched by the cries of joy inside late-night writers’ rooms.

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The missteps of politicians are always fodder for late-night monologues. But bribes, affairs, illegitimate kids and staging coups to overthrow the government pale in terms of joke potential next to blowing the brains out of puppies (and goats and horses.) Especially when the puppy is named “Cricket.”

When they woke up Monday morning, late-night staff writers didn’t have to search any further than the keyword “Noem” and they were off and running.

The results:

Stephen Colbert opened his CBS show with a subtitle for the night, “In the Doghouse” and an animated report that featured a dog family sprayed with gunfire, linked “Kristi” with “Ka-Bluey.”

Jimmy Kimmel on ABC wondered in his monologue why no one on Noem’s staff told her it was “maybe not a great idea to share the story about shooting a whole petting zoo at your house.”

Jimmy Fallon on NBC showed the cover of Noem’s book, called “No Going Back,” and followed with what could be the title of her next book: “Then I Ate It.”

Seth Meyers, an hour later on NBC, linked the puppy hit job with a previous Noem scandal, one which had her publicly promoting the cosmetic dental work that she had to go to Texas to get done, and which got her, as she put it “a smile I can be proud of.” To which Meyers added, as a photo of Noem’s gleaming smile flashed on the screen, “last thing that dog saw.”

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Late-night comics have not had much success denting Trump’s lockerroom-coated hide. But they have been effective in the past in defining candidates new on the scene right into oblivion, as the husk of what was once vice president Dan Quayle can attest.

With Trump they fire cannons of what seem like lethal jokes at him from point-blank range, and his voters react with shrugs—at best. Maybe because they have long since factored in Trump’s ugly personality and misshapen character and simply don’t care.

That separates them from Trump himself, who cares so much about late night he wastes energy and words on assailing hosts like Kimmel, and most recently Colin Jost and Bill Maher as unfunny failures whom nobody watches anymore (except him, apparently.)

If he was watching last night, he got an earful (and eyeful) about what would now surely be at the top of public impression of what this would-be running mate would bring to the ticket: a psycho-killer vibe.

Colbert went almost all in, devoting the entire top of his opening monologue, seven or eight minutes’ worth, to jokes about Noem’s unreserved endorsement of snuffing out puppies.

“I know it sounds terrible,” Colbert said. “But it’s much worse.”

He concluded the Noem portion of the monologue by pulling out a dog spray and addressing the Governor like a dog who ought to be kept away from human interaction.

Kimmel ended his Noem jokes with a shot of heads of deer and other legally hunted animals on a wood-paneled wall, with one other head that stood out from the others: a wire-haired pointer.

“And that is the end of Kristi Noem,” Jimmy declared. “Even Trump won’t pick a puppy killer, right?”

Uh, stay tuned.

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