For the last six years, late-night comedy had one prevailing theme: Donald Trump.
From the beginning of his run for president in 2015 until his second impeachment trial in February, former President Trump was a mainstay on the late-night scene. Hosts like Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert built their shows and humor around outraged reactions to Trump’s actions, policies and – especially – his tweets. Jimmy Fallon tousled candidate Trump’s hair on “The Tonight Show,” and much later offered up his own criticisms. Samantha Bee and John Oliver shouted their outrage in longform segments. “Saturday Night Live” saw ratings explode when Alec Baldwin was cast as Trump.
But three months into President Joe Biden’s first term, Trump no longer looms as large in the daily news or public consciousness. So with Trump largely off the public stage, now what for late-night comedy?
The answer depends on the late night show. The major hosts – Kimmel, Colbert, Meyers, James Corden and Fallon, and Fox News’ new conservative-leaning host Greg Gutfeld –aren’t giving up the ghost of Trump anytime soon.
Trump vs. Biden
Casual viewing of the major late-night shows in recent weeks guarantees a Trump joke or two.
Sometimes he comes up because he’s (briefly) in the news. Trevor Noah sent “Daily Show” correspondent Jordan Klepper into the “MAGAverse” for a special. On CBS’ “Late Late Show,” Corden – reacting to a report that Republican allies might want to install Trump as the Speaker of the House – cracked, “Yeah, because that’s what Trump’s good at: speaking.” Kimmel finds seemingly any excuse to mention Trump on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” from his ongoing feud with Trump backer and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell (a surreal war of words between Kimmel’s monologues and Lindell on his fledgling social media platform, Frank) to mocking Trump’s appearances on conservative networks like Newsmax.