Their cup ranneth over, their wildest dreams came true. It was the perfect storm of comedy — all of it found — and the Niagara of material. The gift that gave and gave some more. The monologue that wrote itself. The easiest punchlines in history. The winner of winners. The night to remember.
Any more to say about late night TV’s reaction to the first solo Donald Trump news conference? You could see the joy in the hosts’ eyes from the opening seconds, read their thoughts before they expressed them. Did that really happen? Did we get this lucky? Really?
Yes, Trump lit up late night — the biggest night for the genre without question since the election. “Saturday Night Live” is in a repeat this weekend, and you almost wonder if Lorne Michaels will order up a special commemorative edition instead.
Trump hasn’t been just good for late night — he has been awesome for late night. Ratings have surged, and the spoils have gone to those who deliver Trump material by the truckload. Ratings for them are huge. They’re about to get huuuger.
On NBC, Jimmy Fallon went straight to the sketch of Trump at the lectern. On CBS, Stephen Colbert went straight to this word: “Wow.” Later on NBC, Seth Meyers took out a shredder to shred the monologue he had planned until the news conference happened.
“Goodbye dead jokes,” he deadpanned.
On ABC, Jimmy Kimmel seemed to capture it best with this line: “The only time I can remember there was this much [crazy material] was when Charlie Sheen was on that winning streak of his.”
Nothing Thursday night did NOT work, which is almost unheard of. The jokes, the comebacks, the double takes, the Fallon bit as Trump, delivering denunciations, while taking sips from a glass of water using a tiny fake plastic hand.
The president’s contradictions were served on late night comedy’s silver platter, then re-served. There was so much material the late night guys didn’t even much duplicate each other. An hour and seventeen minute news conference will allow that.
An example: When Trump said “The leaks are real, the news is fake,” Kimmel offered the analogy that this is like saying, the “toupe is real but the hair is fake.”
Kimmel wondered whether Americans are now officially on information overload, unable to tell the difference between real news and fake news, and tested this by asking people on the street about a recent White House fiasco, and whether this would help “Rick defeat Negan” on “The Walking Dead.”
One guy said, sure. No problem.
Each host fished for a line or two to set up a joke. It was like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. When Trump said, for example, that “drugs are as cheap as candy,” Meyers flashed a picture of a 100 Grand bar on the screen. “I think I know what’s happening here,” said Meyers. “Donald, that’s not the price, that’s the name.”
Late night’s most reliable late night basher, Colbert, took 11 minutes to deconstruct the presser, or demolish it.
Trump: “I inherited a mess.”
Colbert: “No, you inherited a fortune, we inherited a mess.”
Colbert asked, how to characterize the news conference? He went to a clip of Jake Tapper on CNN, who called it “unhinged.” Colbert said that was fake news anyway. How about Fox? The cutaway then went to Jim Carrey’s classic “ALRIGHTY THEN!!!”
Then, to the real clip, of Fox News anchor Melissa Francis’ reaction: “Alrighty then . . .”
By the way, Francis went on to call the news conference “perhaps the most extraordinary sustained attack on the press by a president ever.”
And by the way, Thursday night was perhaps the most extraordinary sustained attack by late night on a president ever. It was certainly one of the funniest.