Late Night Lately: Closing Out the Year With Obama, Biden and Taylor Swift

8:00 AM 12/19/2020

by THR staff

The Hollywood Reporter's Late Night Lately rounds up the best sketches and guests.

Taylor Swift on Jimmy Kimmel Live Barack Obama on Daily Show Joe Biden on The Late Show
Courtesy of ABC;Comedy Central; CBS

The Hollywood Reporter's Late Night Lately is a one-stop shop for all of the most memorable moments of late night TV, coming to you each Saturday morning to ease you into your weekend.

So pour your coffee, set your DVR for the week and sit back. Below are a few of the week's best, funniest and strangest late night moments that you can't afford to miss.

This week: The hosts responded to Tom Cruise's on-set rant about COVID-19 precautions. Trevor Noah spoke with Barack Obama while Stephen Colbert discussed the recent controversial op-ed about Dr. Jill Biden with the President-elect and future first lady. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift opened up about her surprise album and Craig Robinson shared his recent Office fan requests.

— Compiled by Jennifer Konerman

  • The Bidens Address that Op-Ed About Future First Lady's Doctorate

    While joining Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Thursday, the soon-to-be first couple Joe and Dr. Jill Biden discussed the election and the controversial op-ed about the future first lady's doctorate.

    "You're about to be the most powerful person in the world," Colbert was quick to mention to President-Elect Joe Biden. "What is President Biden going to put into the world?"

    "In the world at large, we got to say America's back... I think the nation's looking for us to be united," Biden said. "Politics have become so dirty and vicious. I think people are looking for us to come together."

    When Dr. Jill Biden joined her husband she responded to that controversial Wall Street Journal column from essayist Joseph Epstein suggesting she should drop the "Dr." before her name. "Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter," Epstein wrote. "Any chance you might drop the 'Dr.' before your name?" Dr. Biden received a doctoral degree in 2007 from the University of Delaware and attained a master's degree from West Chester University and Villanova University.

    "That was such a surprise," she told Colbert. "It was really the tone of it. He called me 'kiddo.'"

    "It caught me by surprise as well. I really did not see that coming," Colbert added.

    She went on to explain that she's proud to have a doctorate because she "worked so hard for it," so it was shocking to read the piece dismissing her achievements. "I was just overwhelmed by how gracious people were."

    As for the president-elect's reaction to the op-ed? Biden quipped: "I've been suppressing my Irishness for a long time."


  • Taylor Swift Addresses Rumors of Potential New Album

    After surprising fans with another new album just last week, Taylor Swift made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday, where she addressed the rumors that she's set to release a tenth album soon.

    Rumors of a tenth album began soon after the release of Evermore after fans spotted the word "Woodvale" camouflaged in the background of artwork for Swift's Folklore album, with the photo immediately going viral online. After Swift described Evermore as a "sister record" to Folklore, it was speculated that "Woodvale" could serve as a potential "brother" to the two albums.

    During her Monday interview with Kimmel, Swift admitted she is aware of the "Woodvale" Easter egg and told Kimmel it was an accident.

    "Okay, well, this takes a bit of explanation. So I tend to be sort of annoyingly secret agent-y about dropping clues and hints and Easter eggs," Smith told Kimmel. "It's very annoying but it's fun for fans and it's fun for me because they like to pick up on things... and then, sometimes I take it too far and I make a mistake."

    Swift explained that when she was making Folklore, which released in July, she "was too afraid to even unveil the title of the album to even my closest teammates and management" and so came up with a code name that had the same number of letters as Folklore, which was "Woodvale." She mocked up the name on album covers to see how it would look, she added, before deciding she didn't want to have an album title on the album cover. "And we forgot to take the fake code name off of one of them," she added.

    "This album is like the third season of Lost," Kimmel joked. "People are finding clues where there aren't them."

    Evermore had the code name "November," Swift added, "but we remembered to take it off all the mockups of the album covers, so we learned our lesson."


  • Obama Responds to Criticism Over "Snappy Slogans" Remark

    Barack Obama responded to criticism of his remark that political candidates risk losing support when they turn to "snappy slogans" like "defund the police" during an appearance on The Daily Show with host Trevor Noah on Tuesday.

    The former president qualified that he made the comment, uttered during an appearance on the Snapchat show Good Luck America in early December, amid a book tour where he praised 2020's social activism: "Nothing made me more optimistic in the past year than the activism in the wake of George Floyd's murder," he told Noah on Tuesday, saying that activists had "shifted the conversation in ways that I would not even imagine a couple of years ago." He added that, unlike some Democrats, he didn't believe the "defund the police" slogan had anything to do with the Democrats' 2020 election results in Congress.

    Instead, he said that he was concerned that the ideas behind "defund the police" weren't getting adequately translated not just to "white folks" but also to "Michelle [Obama]'s mom." He said he wasn't advocating for obscuring the truth with language, or providing an easily digestible form of the idea: "The issue to me is not making [listeners feel] comfortable, it's can we be precise in our language enough" to persuade people who may be persuadable.

    He added, "Part of this is also everyone has different roles to play: an activist, a movement leader is going to provide a prophetic voice and speak certain truths that somebody who is going to be elected into office will not be able to say."

    Earlier in the conversation, Obama and Noah talked about frustrations that young people feel with structural problems in the U.S. The former president encouraged younger generations not to take an all-or-nothing approach. He added that "a certain impatience, a certain anger" is warranted in confronting injustice: "I welcome them feeling frustrated and impatient because that's how I got started, and then they'll get their own knocks on the head and things won't work out the way they want... it's that constant striving and wanting things to be better" that create change, he said.

    The pair also touched on lighter topics during the nearly hour-long interview. Noah jokingly asked whether Obama was going to be more careful about who he "roasted" given that two people he had spoken critically of — President Trump and Kanye West — both subsequently ran for president. "Well, I should roast people I admire more. I'll start roasting you, man. Who knows? although you weren't born here, but look, I was able to get away with it apparently," he said, referring to the baseless Obama birther conspiracy theory.

    What was it like to transition to private life in 2017 after spending two terms as president, Noah further asked? "The truth is that I did not have those kinds of withdrawals" that others have when they leave public life, he said. "Michelle and I, that's something we share. We feel good about the work we did. We don't feel anxiety about not being the center of attention."

  • Hosts React to Tom Cruise's COVID-19 Set Rant

    The recent angry, curse-filled rant by Tom Cruise may have made international headlines eliciting conflicting opinions about his behavior, but late-night talk show hosts in the U.S. took it easy on the actor, mostly agreeing with his, albeit intense, message.

    Audio leaked this week of the star ripping his Mission: Impossible 7 crew for apparently not following proper COVID-19 safety procedures; with some members of the set allegedly not standing more than six feet apart. "I don’t ever want to see it again, ever! And if you don’t do it you’re fired! If I see you do it again you’re fucking gone!" Cruise yells among other F-bombs and threats of termination in the audio. Cruise has yet to address the secretly taped rant.

    Jimmy Fallon went particularly easy on Cruise, joking more about how he should have been running the nation's response to pandemic from the start. "If Tom Cruise was working in the White House, we could have had the vaccine back in April," Fallon quipped. "For the nine months, that's pretty much how Dr. [Anthony] Fauci has felt on the inside. What's amazing is when Tom delivered that rant, he was hanging off a 163-story building."

    Trevor Noah wholeheartedly agreed with Cruise, but joked about the intense delivery. "Now, some people are saying that this is a bad look for Tom Cruise, but I disagree. Yeah, he's mad, but it's for a good cause. It's like getting recorded screaming, 'You guys are in big trouble if we don't get these toys to the Children's Hospital! I want to see happy kids or you'll never work in this town again!' You're angry, but for the right reason. This should teach people just how real this corona shit is because remember, Tom Cruise is not scared of anything. So the fact that he is worried about COVID is a reminder that no one is immune from this virus."

    James Corden mostly agreed with the star's point and said it got him "fired up" about the issue.  "I was like, 'Yes, great!' He starts talking about how people are going to lose their job if this film shuts down. Tom Cruise is the tough, but fair stepdad we all need right now. You know we are living in strange times when the most dangerous stunt on the set of Mission: Impossible is when a crew member gave someone a high-five."

    Stephen Colbert went a different direction with the topic, addressing the situation by dubbing Cruise's angry, curse-filled rant over the Santa Claus character in the 1964 claymation classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The way in which it is done makes it appear as though Santa is ripping into his elves for not being safe while preparing his sleigh for Christmas.

  • Craig Robinson Says Fans are Begging Him to Keep 'The Office' From Leaving Netflix

    In an effort to keep NBC’s The Office on Netflix, fans are reaching out to Craig Robinson, who played Darryl Philbin, for help. On Tuesday, Robinson appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers, where he spoke about the show's transition to NBCUniversal's Peacock. Robinson revealed that every couple of weeks, fans have reached out via Instagram to ask him to stop the transition.

    “I want to answer back, but I kind of like them thinking I have that power,” Robinson joked.

    “I don’t have anything to do with that,” he continued. “Peacock is getting it.”

    Although The Office premiered its final episodes over seven years ago, the workplace mockumentary is still beloved by fans, both old and new.

    “It was a dream come true,” Robinson said of his experience on the show. “I love deadpan humor.”

    “I saw the English version [of The Office] on a plane one time,” he explained. “Don’t know how I came across it. Loved it, didn’t see it. Then, I saw a picture of David Brent (Ricky Gervais) on the side of a 7-Eleven. I was like ‘Oh!,’ and I figured out how to watch it. And then fell in love with the show… It was serendipitous for my life.”