Late-Night Hosts Take ‘Guilty Pleasure’ in Trump Verdict

With each of the major late-night hosts back on the air Monday night after all but one missed their chance last week to bask in the biggest legal news since Jay Leno unleashed “The Dancing Itos” during the OJ trial, the only thing missing was a song all of them could sing in unison. Maybe:

“Can You Feel the Gloat Tonight?”

In the wake of the criminal conviction of Donald Trump, there was indeed a whole lot of gloating going on. And why not? The late-night quintet of Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel, Fallon, and Meyers (which might work as the name of a “lawfare” law firm) has been roasting Trump for years, often with something less than unabashed glee because he seemed to always dance just out of reach of any official comeuppance.

Here was comeuppance in abundance—34 counts worth of felonies. Each of the hosts took advantage, some more than others. Jimmy Kimmel didn’t overload his Monday night monologue because he was the one who got in his solo licks last Thursday, the night of the verdict.

And Jimmy Fallon maintained his mostly arms-length approach to Trump-skewering: he told a batch of jokes at the top of his monologue, but mainly stayed away from going in for a full bite out of Trump’s hide. Joke example: “They were going to put Trump in an orange jumpsuit but it felt redundant.”

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But Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers all served some portion of Trump’s jugular on a silver platter, starting with inducing their studio audiences into what seemed like heartfelt celebratory ovations at the news of Trump’s spanking in court. The audience that attends these major late-night shows is now reliably, and thoroughly, Trump-toxified.

Stephen Colbert certainly had no qualms about aggressive jugular-chewing. His label for last night’s episode so perfectly punned on the news and the reaction to it that it seemed like it might have been stored up for years in anticipation of some legal downfall for the favorite late-night nemesis:

“Guilty Pleasure.”

Colbert began by declaring his love for his job, which involves delivering nightly jokes about developments in the news. Sometimes, he acknowledged, he was compelled to do that even when he did not “feel great” about what that news was.

But with this story, no problem. He did a little James Brown riff: “I feel good!”

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Citing a story that because Trump’s sentencing is scheduled to take place just days before the Republican National Convention some in the GOP were feeling it necessary to contemplate what they might do if their nominee was actually in jail for his acceptance speech, Colbert suggested a promo: “RNC live from Cell Block B!”

Laura Benanti also revived her pretty extraordinary Melania impression in a rare sketch bit.

Colbert was one of many shows which got laughs just by citing Trump’s Fox News interview over the weekend when the former president declared that he himself never used the phrase “Lock Her Up” in 2020 regarding Hillary Clinton. Colbert’s politically savvy audience certainly knew how inanely bogus that was.

The clips Colbert used were basically used everywhere else in a predictable reaction to that bit of utterly preposterous BS. 

Kimmel didn’t throw that obvious left hook, though he did say he couldn’t blame Trump for taking a trip to a UFC fight Saturday night because he probably should “cross state lines while he still can.”

Seth Meyers had a singular and personal take on the “Lock Her Up” nonsense. He mused about how overtly ridiculous the comment was because it was so easy to go find the many clips where Trump said those words about Hillary. So a faux-flummoxed Seth wanted to know: “What’s the play here?”

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Surely Trump knew Seth’s show—and all the others—could easily find the clips, and so maybe he was baiting Seth into playing the clips? Or maybe Trump just concluded that it didn’t matter because no one who really believed that nonsense would be watching Seth’s show?

“So maybe it’s the same trap the media constantly falls into,” Meyers said, “where the flood of lies and contradictions and mistruths is so unending that you throw up your hands and say, ‘What does any of this matter?’”

Ah, but he concluded that yes it does matter because “sometimes you gotta be like a New York jury that knows BS when it sees it.”

That sounded like passion more than comedy, which is exactly where Jon Stewart went with his reaction to the whole sequence of news involving the Trump conviction, especially the ludicrous, apocalyptic predictions by Republicans of the entire collapse of the American city on a hill because their hero had been found guilty by a jury of 12 fellow citizens. 

Stewart, in an extended rant/sermon probably more reminiscent of the classic Jon of multi-Emmy fame than anything else he’s done since his return to the “The Daily Show,” roasted the Right for blowing up the American judicial system, saying: “This is why we need courts. Whatever flaws the American criminal justice system has—and they are legion, especially against billionaire former presidents—it appears to be the last place in America where you can’t just say whatever the f*** you want, regardless of reality.”

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Stewart, in another callback to prior days,  later redirected his critique to include media—TV networks specifically—which don’t acknowledge the reality in the news either. “What the courts do really well is look backwards and reconstruct the realities of what happened,” he said. While media is obsessed with “speculating about the future.’ Hence the obsession with horserace stories about polls.

It was a night where blows, light and heavy, dominated the late-night arena. And they were all about the gloat. Somewhere Trump’s lawyer, whose label of Michael Cohen as the GLOAT (for greatest liar of all time) got dunked on for sounding lame, may have taken note of the linguistic irony—if he happened to be up late working on that appeal.

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