Late Night Lately: Coronavirus Conspiracies and the New "Normal"

8:00 AM 7/25/2020

by THR staff

The Hollywood Reporter's Late Night Lately rounds up the best sketches and guests with a look at what's to come next week.

Late Night Lately July 25 graphic - H 2020
Courtesy of Warner Media; CBS; Rich Polk/Getty Images

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: John Cena, Catherine O'Hara, Billy Porter and Paul Rudd helped John Oliver to help fight coronavirus conspiracy theories. Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump told Stephen Colbert about her memoir about her uncle and his "pathologies." Ava DuVernay spoke of the late Georgia congressman John Lewis , who she met while creating the film Selma, and Don Cheadle stressed that the country can't afford to go back to "normal" after weeks of anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

— Compiled by Jennifer Konerman 

  • John Oliver Enlists Stars to Help Quash Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories

    John Oliver collected a stable of stars to help stamp out novel coronavirus conspiracy theories. 

    The Last Week Tonight host on Sunday addressed the rampant online misinformation about the pandemic, some dangerous because it is slickly packaged and therefore could seem more legitimate. 

    Oliver singled out President Donald Trump as one of the most egregious when it came to spreading conspiracy theories. While talking about Trump and his misinformation, Oliver played a clip of radio host and Trump supporter Rush Limbaugh, who noted that Trump never says he believes the conspiracy he is sharing, he just sends them out to the masses, which was likened to pouring gasoline on a fire. 

    Rather than take a hostile position in confronting family and friends who may believe conspiracy theories about coronavirus, Oliver asked a number of celebrities to do short videos that can be played in order to better get the actual news of the situation across. 

    One of those helping is the longtime Jeopardy! host, whose message is best played for grandparents, Oliver noted. "Yeah, we got Alex Trebek to make a 90-second video gently urging anyone who watches it to be careful with what they encounter and share online. So you can show your grandparents that and then talk to them about it," Oliver said. 

    John Cena was enlisted for the cousin who likes wrestling and Fast and Furious movies. The star noted both he and Oliver are the exact same age, which may be hard to believe, but he checked it out and made sure from an official source. He encouraged others to look to official sources for their information. 

    Additional celebrities included Catherine O'Hara, Billy Porter and Paul Rudd, who quipped he thought he was dead once because he was saw "#RIPPaulRudd" was trending on Twitter. All encourage rational thinking in short videos found on the website titled "The True True Truth." 

  • Mary Trump Says POTUS Demonstrates "Sociopathic Tendencies"

    Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump stopped by The Late Show to speak about writing about her uncle. In her memoir Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, Mary Trump details a myriad of damaging claims against Trump and his family such as alleging the president was abused by his father, used anti-Semitic slurs and was the epitome of a narcissist. While discussing some of the claims she wrote in the book, Colbert questioned whether she believes Trump has the same "sociopathic tendencies" as his father.

    "Donald has so many pathologies and they're so complex," she explained, adding that it's "difficult to tease out exactly what's going on without testing." 

    However, Mary went on to say that it's evident Trump is "comfortable doing heartless things." "Clearly he doesn't seem to be interested in empathy. So I think it's safe to say, sure, he demonstrates sociopathic tendencies," she said. "That's something that should give every person in this country pause." 

    Mary continued to suggest that should Trump have to function in the "real world on his own," he wouldn't be able to. "A crucial reason that he's gotten as far as he has is because he's continually protected by, what I consider, institutions." 

    She described Trump as someone who has always had his "needs taken care of" and someone who has "never been held accountable," therefore has always been "protected from failures." 

    After being elected President of the United States, Colbert explained that Trump entered "an enormous institution built around the office in order to keep dignity" around the person holding office. As he possesses power, Colbert added that the circumstances only "feeds into that sense of narcissism" and "the protection" of Trump's behavior. 

    Colbert then questioned Mary on whether Trump's position of power had a "chilling" effect on her knowing his behavior could be enforced. "It was one of the worst nights of my life," she explained of his being elected. Though Trump has become a recognized name in entertainment, business and now politics, Mary discussed how she still just calls him "Donald" and considers him her uncle. 

    "It's still very difficult for me to wrap my head around it. It's awful honestly," she told Colbert after the late-night host asked whether it's odd for her to have "personal and intimate connection" with a man who is now a "transformative, political figure."

    "I have a better handle of it now. But I'd say for the first two years, every day of my life there would be this moment where I'd remember and just be horrified all over again," she explained. 

  • Ava DuVernay Shares John Lewis' Inspiring Message to Her

    Ava DuVernay said that the words of late Georgia congressman John Lewis keep her going. Lewis, who was the last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, died on July 17 at the age of 80.

    On Thursday, the filmmaker appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and reflected on memories of her time with the civil rights icon during the creation of her 2014 Oscar winner Selma. The director said that Lewis, told her two words. "He said, "Ava, do everything.' He was like Yoda," DuVernay joked with Colbert. "That's one of the gifts that he left for me."

    She said that while his remarks initially perplexed her, she's found different ways to interpret the words of wisdom. "On some days 'do everything' means one thing, on another day it means something else," she said. "It's kept me going and I'm going to miss him."

    The host and his guest went on to talk about the surge in streaming views for DuVernay's documentary 13th as people have sought to educate themselves amid the movement for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd's death, and about the special federal forces being deployed against protestors in Portland and other cities, as she and Colbert wondered why they're not seeing much media coverage of the conflict that DuVernay called "jaw-dropping."

    "The thing that's been jarring for me is kind of the lack of press coverage, as this is the number one story," DuVernay said as she thanked Colbert for asking about it. "I know we're in the middle of a pandemic and there's a lot happening. ... American citizens are being taken in unmarked vans by people, who knows who they are, dressed in military attire with military-grade weapons."

    "This is not even a Republican-Democrat issue, this is what our country has supposedly gone into other countries to fight against," she said. 

  • Don Cheadle: Why Returning to Normal Would Be a "Step Back"

    Don Cheadle said that after weeks of anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests amid the COVID-19 pandemic, America can't afford to return its pre-coronavirus state. "I think a return to what is normal is actually a step back," the actor shared on Monday's Conan. "It won't be just a return, it'll be a complete reset to something that I don't think we can afford to do as a community."

    Cheadle shared his thoughts about returning to normal after he and Conan O'Brien began speaking about the hundreds of daily Black Lives Matter protests that continue to occur nationwide following the killing of George Floyd in May. From the first marches in early June to those currently transpiring in cities including Los Angeles and Portland, protesters have called for defunding police departments and accountability from law-enforcement officials.

    Cheadle, who has had his own negative experiences with police officers, shared that conversations about police brutality and the Black community's relationship with law enforcement are familiar for his family. The COVID-19 pandemic, he said, along with high-profile, racially charged incidents prior to Floyd's killing, created "this sort of boiling point." 

    Cheadle also talked about the role stars like himself and O'Brien have in amplifying other people's voices as conversations about diversity and inclusion continue. "I think a lot of times what [progress] requires is for us to kind of step out of the way and use that power we have as producers, as people behind the cameras as well as in front of the camera to push it on that end and make sure the non-centered voices get centered, make sure that the people who are not seen get to the front," he said.

    "A lot of times, our best work is done when we step out of the way," he said. "We get the attention and then we shift the light, shift the focus."

  • Joy Reid Explains How Shift From Obama to Trump Affected Support for Black Lives Matter

    MSNBC anchor Joy Reid talked about the rise in support for the Black Lives Matter movement from non-Black people, following the murder of George Floyd in May, in an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers.

    Reid, who has been covering the Black Lives Matter movement since Trayvon Martin’s killing in 2012, told Meyers on Wednesday's Late Night that the difference in leadership has led to the uptick of support. “You had empathy in the White House, that desire to embrace the movement and bring them to the White House, to talk to them,” Reid said of the Obama administration. “Now you have the flip side of that, it’s completely upside down. You have a president who’s completely unsympathetic and hostile to Black Lives Matter.”

    The ReidOut host added that when protests against police brutality and racism occurred in 2012, “white America really rejected this movement,” despite the President Obama's support. Now, with a leader who seems against the goals and demands of the social justice movement, Reid said the public is on the side of the Black community. “That is a huge change, and it’s an important change,” she added. Reid went on praise protestors in Portland who have been attacked by law-enforcement officials while standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

    “It’s not just a Black people concern, this is the public realizing if they’re coming for Black lives, they’re eventually coming for yours. They’re eventually coming for your security and peace,” she said. “All of us have to be in this together.”