Somehow it’s already time for presidential debates again. The Democratic Primary debates started last night in Miami, and there are so many people running that it’s been split in two, with two different line-ups of candidates going at it. Last night featured Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, shouty New York man Bill DeBlasio, and even some others. Tonight pits Bernie Sanders against Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and more. Sure, the modern network debate is vacuous political theater that’s only good for laughs and better-than-usual TV ratings, but hey, we’re a pop culture site: we’ve definitely covered worse stuff than this.
Speaking of which: those late night shows did what those late night shows do all over these debates. A live Colbert analyzed them in a dapper, slightly square monologue that mostly just makes you miss The Colbert Report, and also mocked ‘em in a Pokémon parody that tries a little too hard. Trevor Noah also went live with material that was occasionally funny but seemed just a little too glib and surface-level, making everybody miss Jon Stewart again. Seth Meyers came off the best with his regular “A Closer Look” feature, mixing context and decent analysis with some good jokes, in effect channeling the Daily Show of yore; he also doubled down with a perfectly acceptable monologue. Samantha Bee’s show was taped before the debates, and so Full Frontal’s main contribution is a fine pretape that tears apart how the media treats debates like WrestleMania, while also dipping a little too much into citizen-shaming “Jaywalking” territory. And finally Jimmy Fallon sang a song and started his monologue by talking about how excited he is about airing live after the debate.
Anybody familiar with these shows could’ve written those descriptions months ago and gotten it all completely right.
They might not have defied our expectations, or contributed much of value to the overburdened political comedy scene, but at least these shows gave our aging citizens something to doze off too last night, and the rest of us something to zip through on YouTube instead of actually doing our jobs today. You can check out all the relevant clips below, grouped in order of program. And remember: there’s another debate tonight, so get ready for even more of this stuff in just a few hours.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Late Night with Seth Meyers
A Closer Look:
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon
Fallon Sings Advice to the Candidates: