Late Night Lately: Hosts Grapple With Trump's COVID-19 Diagnosis, VP Debate

8:00 AM 10/10/2020


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

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Courtesy of Comedy Central; CBS; NBC

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: First, the hosts took on the news-packed weekend with President Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis, dubbing the situation "The Infest Wing." They also had plenty to follow up on with Wednesday's debate with Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris. Elsewhere, Mindy Kaling shared surprising news with Stephen Colbert and James Corden shared a parody song he created in honor of Trump's coronavirus experience.

— Compiled by Jennifer Konerman

  • Hosts Blast Trump's Response to COVID Diagnosis and Dub Weekend "Infest Wing"

    Following Donald Trump's return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, James Corden and Trevor Noah delivered scorching blow-by-blows of the president's handling of his own COVID-19 diagnosis over the past three days.

    The hosts' biggest critiques and jokes tended to center on the president's numerous photo-ops, the sketchy public statements made by his team of doctors and the still-growing list of Republican senators and administration officials who have tested positive for COVID-19.

    While some hosts recapped the weekend’s events starting with the president’s most recent tweets, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah opted to kick his own rundown off with the event that presumably began it all. Noah noted how Trump “flouted” safety guidelines during the Rose Garden party in support of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, ultimately resulting in a hot zone of COVID-19 diagnoses.

    Noah chalked up the president’s handling of his own diagnosis to his handling of it for the country. "Turns out while you spent the last seven months hugging your grandma through a giant condom, Trump and his friends are having no-mask cocktail receptions indoors, where the guest of honor is COVID-19,” Noah said. "And now, at least 30 people in Trump's circle have tested positive for COVID-19.”

    Noah then went on to contextualize just how large that cluster of confirmations is by comparing it to other countries' confirmed cases. “There's been more infections at the White House over the last day than in New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia combined,” Noah explained. “The White House Rose Garden is like the wet market of America right now.”

    Stephen Colbert dubbed the Rose Garden event and all that followed as “The Infest Wing,” before diving straight into the latest news around Trump’s departure from Walter Reed. Pointing to Trump’s tweet about refusing to let the virus “dominate” you, Colbert called the president a “tool” before declaring that they should just change the Surgeon General’s warning to, “Don't let cancer dominate your lungs; smoking is cool because my lung transplant was successful.”

    “You're saying the people who lost their lives, they either didn't have enough moxie, or they didn't live in a big white house that has 20 full-time medical staff and get a chopper to a suite at Walter Reed, where they received a combination of cutting-edge treatments that literally no one else on the planet has received,” Colbert said. 

    The host also directly took on the responses of Trump’s medical team, whose statements to the media were often conflicting and misleading about the president’s treatment. After the president’s physician Commander Sean Conley at one point declined on live TV to answer a reporter about “the specifics of his care,” Colbert demanded to know why Conley was even out there.

    “I don’t get to say, 'I’m not going to get into the specifics of my jokes tonight,'” Colbert explained. “And I don’t endanger the nation by doing my job poorly.”

    James Corden also focused on Conley’s behavior, questioning the doctor’s excuse for failing to give reporters straight or possibly even truthful answers during his briefings. Responding to Conley’s statement that he wanted to reflect the “upbeat” attitude of Trump’s team and was trying not to give “any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction,” Corden declared no one should trust him.

    “I don't understand. Is the doctor worried that coronavirus is listening to this briefing?” Corden asked. "Nobody should trust that man as a physician.”

    Corden then touched on two of the more heavily criticized publicity stunts by the Trump team over the weekend, including his photo ops inside the hospital room. The late night host shared how Twitter users had caught that a piece of paper Trump was signing to show he was still “hard at work” actually had nothing on it.

    “People were mocking this online, which made Trump furious at his staffers,” Corden said. “He was like, ‘You guys told me these were military contracts written in invisible ink!’”

    Jimmy Fallon's cold open delivered a much shorter recap of the president’s past three days, with the host describing much of it as chaos. "What is happening?" Fallon asked. "Trump even turned a hospital stay into chaos. The Joker caused less trouble when he visited Gotham General."

    Fallon was also one of the only hosts to touch on the response of Trump’s family to his hospitalization. Reading a statement provided by Donald Trump Jr., Fallon pointed out that even Trump's son believed his father was acting “crazy.”

    “You know things have gone off the rails when Don Jr. becomes the voice of reason,” Fallon said. “In response, President Trump was like, ‘I’m not acting crazy, and here’s 15 all-caps tweets to prove it.'”

    Seth Meyers, however, delivered the most biting summation of Trump's three-day-long COVID-19 saga while tackling the president's announcement over Twitter that he'd be leaving the hospital and that Americans shouldn't let the virus "dominate your life."

    "Of course you can say get better from COVID. You have the best taxpayer-funded health care in the world," Meyers said. "It’s easy to say, 'Don’t be afraid to jump out of this plane,' when you’re the only one with a parachute."

    After calling Trump and Republicans "brazen" in their lack of empathy, Meyers ended his "Closer Look" segment by recounting the past seven months of the president's pandemic response. The late night host pointed specifically to the ways that Trump had "denied reality," from claiming the virus would magically disappear to exposing himself and "lots of other people," all so his allies could swiftly confirm a conservative super majority on the Supreme Court "to help them steal the election and destroy Obamacare."

    "Remember, he might get better from COVID, but he will never get better as a person," Meyers concluded.

  • Stephen Colbert, Pete Buttigieg Discuss VP Debate's "Remarkable" Fly Moment

    Following Wednesday night's vice presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, Stephen Colbert went live on The Late Show, in which the fly that landed on Pence's head during the debate took much of the focus of his monologue. Colbert called the moment "one of the most remarkable moments of the evening" and the official Twitter account for the show took joy in posting, "The fly spent 2 MINUTES on Mike Pence. It changed its voter registration to Mike Pence's head."

    Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, appeared virtually as a guest on the show, explaining that was seated too far away from the stage to see the fly in person.

    The host asked Buttigieg what was it like to be in the room, to which he emphasized that everyone was "masked up, rigorous and serious about social distancing." He went on to say it was very intense because so much was at stake.

    "After what happened last week, we were looking forward to what the candidates actually had to say," said Buttigieg. The two went on to talk about how Buttigieg prepped Harris for the debate.

    Colbert quipped, "Who played the fly in the mock debates?" Buttigieg replied, "That was the only thing we didn’t think about…"

    Speaking about Pence, Buttigieg called him "pretty predictable." He made sure Harris was prepared for all "the attacks and versions of reality" that Pence was anticipated to put forward. "He’s pretty comfortable telling a total lie," said Buttigieg. 

    Further into the interview, Colbert noted that a lot of answers were disconcerting, but as disconcerting was what he didn’t answer, such as what’s going to happen to preexisting medical issues or the peaceful transfer of power. Buttigieg commented that many issues were "absolute basics" that Pence should be able to have some answers for. "Between them they’ve led the worse response to this pandemic in any country in the developed world," said the former mayor, of Trump and Pence. 

  • John Oliver Addresses Trump's "Utterly Inevitable" COVID-19 Diagnosis

    It was a busy week in news from the White House. So busy that John Oliver couldn't even properly address it all on Sunday's Last Week Tonight.

    The host started his show by noting he barely had time to admonish President Donald Trump for failing to condemn white supremacists during Tuesday's presidential debate or to address the revelations about his taxes because he had to go directly to the fact that Trump and his wife, Melania, had tested positive for COVID-19.

    "It was news that was felt shocking and utterly inevitable," said Oliver.

    Oliver noted that his show was taped Saturday — therefore, a day before Trump left the hospital where he was being treated — so he admitted he was likely behind on any news that happened within the past 24 hours. But, he said, "What I do know is that, so far, the White House has handled this terribly."

    He said the news was revealed only after reporters discovered that Trump aide Hope Hicks had tested positive. Hicks had traveled with Trump to the debate, "prompting the obvious question of, when the president learned he'd been exposed, and what he'd done about it?" Oliver said. "And the answers there weren't great."

    Oliver also noted how many actions taken by Trump and his team over the past week look "absolutely appalling" in hindsight in light of the COVID-19 diagnosis — including his family's decision not to wear masks at the debate and their failure to let Biden's camp know that they may have been exposed to the fact that the New Jersey fundraiser featured a buffet. (Biden has tested negative.)

    However, the "worst" decision Trump and his team made was to hold an event where he announced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. Footage from the event shows that attendees were not wearing masks or social distancing.

    "Much like the slew of utterly horrifying Supreme Court rulings over the next few decades, it seems we may look back on Saturday's White House event and say, 'All of this began there,'" Oliver said. "And there is something utterly infuriating about watching them hugging each other when many in this country haven't seen their families for months or have died alone in a hospital. And it's not just that they're putting themselves at risk, more importantly, it's that they're risking infecting others. The thing about a highly contagious virus is your recklessness could end up killing someone you never meet."

    Oliver showed a clip of a Trump supporter not wearing a mask and saying he wasn't going to give in to "fear-mongering." But Oliver noted that fear is "not a bad thing" in that it's what keeps us from walking into traffic or taking other dangerous actions.

    "This week more than ever, proves that in the midst of a pandemic, when you act without caution, you cannot expect a virus to 'stand back and stand by,'" Oliver concluded, using the same words Trump quoted to a neo-fascist group — who promptly embraced the phrase — during Tuesday's debate.

  • Mindy Kaling Reveals She Gave Birth to Baby Boy

    In surprising news, Mindy Kaling has revealed she welcomed her second child, a baby boy, last month. During a virtual appearance on Thursday's Late Show, host Stephen Colbert teased that the 41-year-old The Office star had "good news" to share. "I got something I rarely get these days, which is good news, so if you wouldn't mind sharing with our audience I think they'd be thrilled to find out something extraordinary that nobody knows up until this moment," Colbert said.

    "I'm telling it for the first time now, it feels so strange. But I gave birth to a baby boy on Sept. 3. This is news to a lot of people. It's true!" Kaling said. "His name is Spencer. I forgot the most important part of it," she joked.

    The actor-writer-producer said that she was able to keep her second pregnancy largely secret because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

    Kaling's daughter Katherine Swati was born in December 2017.

  • James Corden Derides Donald Trump's COVID-19 Response in Musical Parody "Baby, I'm Immune"

    Just a day after delivering a cold open that blasted Donald Trump's response to his COVID-19 diagnosis during a stay at Walter Reed Medical Center, James Corden called out the president for his comments and behavior following his return to the White House Monday night in a biting musical parody.

    Sung to the tune of Paul McCartney's "Baby I'm Amazed," Corden sat behind a piano during Tuesday night's show as he ran through a list of quips and jabs about Trump and his pandemic response in a song titled, "Baby, I'm Immune." The two-minute segment kicked off with a clip of the president talking about his experience at Walter Reed and thanking the hospital staff for his care before declaring that he'd learned "so much about coronavirus" during his stay.

    "And I know there's a risk, there's a danger, but that's okay. And now I'm better, and maybe I'm immune, I don't know," Trump said before Corden launched into singing, "Maybe I'm immune cause today I'm feeling so alive, just don't be afraid of the way I'm breathing."

    "Maybe you're immune to the lies my doctors tell you," Corden at one point croons.