Unapologetic, unbowed, unvarnished, and unwrapped, the gift that is Donald Trump to late night TV comedy gave in abundance after a national debate Monday night between two people but -- as far as late night TV comedy concerned -- was really mostly just about one of them. You know which one.
Three major shows went live Tuesday morning -- “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” -- with the full expectation that there would be enough moments to make fun of, and enough clips to ensure that once taken out of context, they would be even funnier.
Those expectations were well-founded, and it was to be Trump who would become the focus of their night -- his sniffing, his consumption of water, his rhetorical style, his noisy blustery declarations.
All fair game, though for a change (a welcome one) there wasn’t a single joke about the hair. Instead, the late night guys -- who essentially learned to master the art of clip trolling during the conventions, when they also aired live editions -- trolled for the one line, one look, one word, one shimmy that would offer an instant or inescapable one-line comeback. They actually had too much material.
Colbert on Trump’s reference to cyber-terror:
“He knows a lot about cybering. His advice is that we should be unplugging terrorism and plugging it back in, just to reboot the Middle East.”
Cut to Trump’s declaration that “my strongest asset may be by far is my temperament...”
Cut to Colbert: “Maybe we’ll never know if his temperament is his strongest asset because he won’t release his tax returns.”
And so it went ... and went.
Not all came from the debate itself. Meyers found some of his best material by cross-hatching Trump sound bites with screengrabs from MSNBC. One of those grabs from earlier in the day offered advice to each candidate -- obvious stuff like Hillary Clinton should “sell her presidency” or “be a Clinton who shines in smaller crowds” while Trump’s was advice on the MSNBC screen was “stop lying, show humility.”
Cut to Meyer’s during his “A Closer Look” segment: “Her advice was like the advice you’d give a secretary in 1950 -- ‘smile and let them see you’re a dynamite gal!’ His advice sounds like the advice you’d give a murderer at a parole hearing: “They need to hear you won’t kill again.”
Meyers asked, “why is he drinking so much [water]?”
Cut to Trump: “And I was endorsed by ICE.”
Meyers: (Beat). “OK.”
Each of the hosts quickly located that moment of the night that will be remembered perhaps above all. Following Trump’s long defense of his temperament [and other matters], the split screen showed a big, broad smile on the face of Clinton, who then said: “Whooo, OK!,” then shifted her shoulders.
Meyers delivered this:
“That’s how an aunt shimmies when she hears ‘Single Ladies’ at a wedding. ‘Ooh, I know this! I’m gonna do a dance move I call the Trumped Up Trickle Down.”
Meyers -- who made best use of the debates clips -- summed up the night’s entire debate, by isolating just three words that each candidate said:
Trump: “Howard Stern...”
Clinton: “Miss Piggy...”
Trump: “Rosie O’Donnell.”
Cut to Meyers, singing: “AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE!!!!”
Tuesday was an especially huge night for “The Daily Show” and Noah -- both still looking for that national profile that essentially evaporated when Jon Stewart left -- and the opportunity was not squandered. Noah began with a joke everyone else instantly jumped on, or “the first lie of the night” joke, when Clinton said, “Donald, it’s good to be with you...”
He also found an especially noisy clip of the candidates squabbling over just about everything (from taxes to security).
“Lester [Holt] at that point wasn’t even moderating anymore,” Noah said. “He was just eating popcorn with everyone else.”
Cut to a screen shot of Lester and a bag of popcorn.
Noah also went after Trump’s aside to Clinton’s declaration that “he never paid taxes,” during which her Republican rival said, “That makes me smart.”
Back to Noah, who said: “I’m sorry ... what?! Taxes are a responsibility, not something to evade, and he’s like ‘that makes me smart. I screwed over the American people for not paying my fair share. Vote for me. I found a way around the rules.’”
Noah: “You know who else found a way around the rules? O.J.”