Enough with Melania. What about Samantha instead? Or Colin and Michael? That would be: Samantha Bee, who launched the first of several special editions of “Full Frontal” Wednesday, and that would also be Colin Jost and Michael Che, the anchor team from “Saturday Night Live,” which brought a Republican National Convention “Weekend Update” to the Quicken Loans Arena, via MSNBC, Wednesday -- the first of several in fact.
We’ve entered that period of the convention comedy coverage that is either a “lull” or “hangover.” The Melania Trump speech plagiarism episode delivered one of the great comedy gifts in convention history Monday and -- spent after a day of working every conceivable angle -- the late night shows moved on Wednesday to other matters, for the most part.
Ted Cruz’s nonendorsement arrived late in the evening, so -- except for the live edition of “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” -- that of course went unnoticed. (But Colbert did score: Following a clip of the speech’s reaction, he then went to a clip of the Red Wedding from “Game of Thrones,” then announced: “From now, this’ll be known as the Red Convention.”)
That leaves us with the cleanup crews -- “Full Frontal” and “Weekend Update.” “Update was live, TBS’s “Full Frontal” entirely pretaped and there the comparisons end.
Bee’s “A Very Special Full Frontal Special” was a winner -- a road show, en route to Cleveland (on Herman Cain’s old campaign bus no less), with stops in between in Pennsylvania, in places like Altoona and Beaver County, where real people and real Trump supporters explained their hopes and dreams of a Hillary-free future. The idea, Bee explained, was to “accidentally discover America and the concerned, excited and largely baffled people who live in it.”
This edition was a page from the past -- her past, when she did the same kind of interviews for “The Daily Show” over many years, and therefore knows exactly how much rope to give an interview subject, then let them proceed to do with it what they will.
Bee actually found a voter who hadn’t decided whom to vote for -- then hugs her, saying: “I’ll never let you go.’ Seeking balance amid the extremes, the bus (or “Full Frontal” crew) make a detour to Vermont, when they found a an unrepentant Bernie Sanders supporter, who had toted a large glass ball around the world, seeking to fill it with love -- except love for Hillary Clinton. In Pennsylvania, Bee discovers a land full of Trump supporters, but learns nothing from them, admitting as much:
“So we’ve come to Cleveland finally. I don’t know if I learning anything about Pennsylvania. But I did figure out one thing: If Herman Cain spent an entire campaign on this bus, no way he didn’t murder a staff member.”
Conversely, “Update” was awful -- a long painful scratch across an old record, full of spitballs that were off the mark, or badly out of date. Of Chris Christie’s Monday speech, stuff like this: “He “sounds like a cop warning kids about stranger danger” (Che), or Christie “actually plagiarized part of his speech (too) -- from the Salem witch trial.” (Jost)
It got worse then got better (briefly) in an amusing pretaped bit by Che, who wandered around the convention looking for minorities via “Pokemon Go” -- or in this instance “Trumpemon Go.”
Then it got bad all over again, and weird -- which is usually good, but not in this instance. Veteran MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews interviewed both Jost and Che, while expertly affecting someone seriously disoriented after a long day working a convention. Matthews laughed at the riot gear worn by cops surrounding the Quicken Loans Arena; he asked Jost why Chris Christie is funny -- “because he’s fat?”; wondered about Trump’s appeal, then explained to Staten Island native Jost, in one of many nonsensical non sequiturs, “I’ll bet Staten Island goes big for Trump;” finally asking both Jost and Che, “what hotel are you staying at?”
To that, Jost managed this: “What are you trying to do? Get us killed or laid?”
“Weekend Update” returns Thursday. Consider that a warning.