Late Night Lately: Reactions After the First Presidential Debate

8:00 AM 10/3/2020

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.

Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel
Courtesy of Comedy Central; CBS; ABC

Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel

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 went all in after the first presidential debate, calling it a "mad whirlwind" and a "nightmare." John Oliver returned from break to discuss the Supreme Court, several hosts responded to the New York Times investigation into President Trump's taxes and Colin Jost and Michael Che previewed the weekend's Saturday Night Live season opener With Chris Rock.

— Compiled by Jennifer Konerman

  • Hosts on "Mad Whirlwind" of First Trump-Biden Debate

    After the first 2020 presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, hosts Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel all responded to the 90-minute face-off, and they all seemed frustrated and exhausted by what had transpired.

    "I come to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, an empty vessel, a man with a mind wiped clean," Colbert said near the beginning of his monologue. "I have stood in the swirling chaos of creation. I have seen Shiva dancing the destruction, wielding his trident carving great gouts out of the universe. The sky at once both red and blue and black until all that remained was a starless void and the hollow husk once known as Chris Wallace.”

    The Late Show host continued, "We have emerged from the mad whirlwind where we gazed upon the forbidden countenance of God himself, and he said unto us, ‘Jesus, stop interrupting him, you giant baby!’”

    Indeed the commercial-free proceedings were characterized largely by Trump's repeated interruptions, badgering and vicious verbal attacks, as moderator Chris Wallace tried in vain to keep Trump from talking over his opponent, and Biden early in the debate asked Trump to "shut up."

    "You know it was a rough debate when the guy who told the president to 'shut up' was seen as the classy candidate," Fallon quipped.

    The event was quickly characterized by news anchors and pundits as a "shit show" and a "disgrace," with CNN's Jake Tapper calling it "a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck."

    Noah repeatedly wondered aloud, "What was that?" while the Tonight Show host said the same as he remarked at the "stress" and "kink" he was feeling in his body. Kimmel said, "I’d call it a nightmare, but at least during a nightmare you get some sleep.”

    Fallon, meanwhile, likened the experience of watching the debate to "getting a COVID test in both nostrils at once.”

    He added, echoing the thoughts of pundits who argued that the American people were the losers of that debate, "Seriously, did anyone take anything away from tonight? Was that helpful to any American? The only person who enjoyed that was Vladimir Putin while he was stroking a cat.”

    The debate was so "brutal," according to Trevor Noah, that it left both the Daily Show host and Fallon longing for ads. "I have never, and I mean never, wanted to see a commercial break more badly in my life. I cannot do 90 straight minutes of this shit ever again. It was brutal. There’s got to be a commercial break every five minutes. And during those commercial breaks, every ad should be for antidepressants or some drug that has side effects that makes you forget the last four years.”

    Noah also thanked moderator Chris Wallace for a "valiant effort" against extreme odds. He advised, "Moderators, you need to figure out how to handle Trump at a debate because this is not good for the nation. It doesn't work to just say, 'Mr. President, please. Mr. President, please. Please, Mr. President, please.' "

    “Have you ever asked a toddler please? ‘Please put down the matches. Please put down ...’ Your house will be burned down around you. That’s why Melania slaps the hand!” Noah said.

    So Noah proposed some more extreme ways to keep things in check going forward, including using a spray bottle ("I promise you, Trump will be quiet because his hair turns into a gremlin if it gets wet.”), offering the president $100 every time he lets Biden finish a sentence ("Money is a great incentive for him, and now that we’ve seen the tax returns, we know that he needs it.") and live fact-checking.

    Trump's incessant interruptions also made it hard to evaluate the candidates' policy differences, said Noah: "What is my takeaway? I don't actually know. I mean, I don't know how Biden did, because Trump did more interrupting than Kanye West in a room full of Taylor Swifts."

    "And as for Trump's performance, two things: One, now we finally know what it would be like if he read his Twitter feed out loud, and two, I can't believe how hard his brain malfunctioned when they asked him to denounce white supremacists," Noah said.

  • John Oliver Rips Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett

    John Oliver kicked off his main segment of Sunday's Last Week Tonight by addressing the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18 and President Trump's pick to replace her on the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.

    "Trump is about to replace a liberal icon with an extremely conservative justice who's been called the 'female Antonin Scalia,'" Oliver said of the 48-year-old Barrett.

    "If, and almost certainly when, Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court, the impact could be dire," Oliver said. "In recent years, key cases have been decided by just one vote, from upholding the Affordable Care Act to preserving DACA to striking down an incredibly restrictive abortion law [in Louisiana]. Should those issues come before the court again, they could now easily go the other way."

    Oliver then noted that one Republican senator had declared to supporters in 2016 that he was going to block a justice confirmation if Hillary Clinton had become president. However, he said that Republicans now were showing their "blatant hypocrisy" by not keeping up that same "precedent" they'd set four years ago.

  • Hosts React to Trump's Tax Avoidance, Write-Offs: "It's So Brazen"

    Late night hosts seized upon The New York Times' bombshell report on President Donald Trump's long-undisclosed tax returns during their shows Monday.

    The report, which was published Sunday, showed that in 2015 and 2016 Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes, and no income taxes at all for 10 years. The Times also reported that Trump is in debt to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, with $300 million coming due within the next four years. Trump has repeatedly fought to keep his tax returns out of the public, but the Times says it has procured nearly two decades of them and continues to publish stories on findings.

    “Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” a spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in response to the Times investigation.

    Trevor Noah balked at Trump's years reportedly spent not paying taxes. "Hold on, hold on, the president of the country almost never pays taxes? And when he only pays $750? That sh— pisses me off. Because Trump is always out there like 'We're building back our military.' We? No motherf—er, we're building back our military. You didn't pay for sh—" he said.

    Of Trump's reported debt that will come due in the next few years, Noah joked that if the president wins a second term, "There's a good chance Trump is going to pay off his debt by selling American treasures. 'How much will you guys give me for the Grand Canyon? It's a priceless testament to nature's majesty. I'll let you have it for $400.'"

    The Late Show seized upon the documents' revelation that Trump wrote off $70,000 worth of haircuts on his taxes to air a fake commercial for a barber shop called "Shady Cuts." "Are you tired of getting haircuts that don't line your pockets with tens of thousands of dollars? Then come on in to Shady Cuts, where we'll lower your ears and your federal taxes," the show's fake advertisement said.

    Like Noah, Colbert jokingly expressed concern that Trump would sell off American icons, should he be reelected for another four years: "If he gets reelected, Air Force One is going to end up on Pawn Stars," he said.

    Colbert also noted that Americans who are in significant amounts of debt usually cannot land security clearances because of their vulnerability to those seeking leverage. "You can't trust anyone with that kind of conflict of interest. You wouldn't want to go into liver surgery and find out your surgeon owes a bunch of money to Hannibal Lecter," Colbert said.

    During Late Night With Seth Meyers' daily "Closer Look" segment, Meyers railed against the times when Trump reportedly did pay taxes: "$750? I paid more than that in Blockbuster late fees. I'm serious, in 1993 I took out a copy of The Prince of Tides that I loaned to my stoner friend who sold it in a yard sale, and when Blockbuster shut down, I owed them $750. So I hope you enjoyed Nolte and Babs, Scootch, I hope you enjoyed 'em."

    He added, "Jesus, dude, we are paying your room and board, you can't even make it an even grand? On top of everything else, it's so brazen."

    Of Trump's reported battle with the IRS over a nearly $73 million tax refund that he received, Meyers joked, "So now we know why Trump's so desperate to stay in the White House. He needs the free housing, he needs a place to crash. He's your deadbeat friend who refused to get a job because he's still working on his idea for an app about which Chipotle locations have the hottest cashiers."

  • Jim Parsons Reveals COVID-19 Experience That "Defied the Descriptions"

    Jim Parsons revealed that he and his partner, Todd Spiewak, contracted the novel coronavirus in the middle of March, telling The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon that the experience "defied the descriptions."

    During an appearance to discuss his Netflix film The Boys in the Band, Parsons shared that he and his husband believed they had colds until they began to experience more specific COVID-19 symptoms. "Todd and I both had it early on. It was like … middle of March," Parsons explained. "We didn't know what it was. We thought we had colds. And then it seemed less likely, and then finally we lost our sense of smell and taste."

    The Hollywood actor said that the two had "utterly" lost both senses. "It defied the descriptions for me. I didn't realize how completely taste and smell could be gone," Parsons said.

    While Parsons might not be built for quarantine, the Emmy-winning actor said his Big Bang Theory character Sheldon would be thriving right now. The Big Bang Theory actor defined his character as taking a general "don't touch me, don't sneeze on me" approach, before referencing how Sheldon once attached a video screen to a remote-controlled robot and had it attend gatherings while he stayed inside his room.

    "He was built for this. This is the moment he was waiting for," Parsons declared.

  • Colin Jost and Michael Che Went to Chris Rock's House to Convince Him to Host 'SNL'

    Saturday Night Live head writers Michael Che and Colin Jost told Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon that they had to convince Chris Rock to host the Oct. 3 show and that they still don't know how the NBC sketch series' live return will turn out.

    "We literally went to Chris Rock's house to tell him to do SNL and it felt like that scene in The Godfather. Remember when Tom Hagen goes to tell the guy to put the dude in the movie?" Che joked, alluding to the movie's famous scene featuring a severed horse head in a bed. "I've never seen The Godfather but someone told me it was similar."

    "That's what it felt like," Che continued. "Like, how could you not? You got to do it, man, it's New York City. We're back in 30 Rock. You got to come home, and we got to make people, you know, feel good again."

    Fallon asked the comedians and writers about what changes they've seen the show make in order to film the first live show since spring. Jost said that the most they'd had was a table read. "We haven't really been in yet and seen what it is, right?"

    As for the table read itself, Che likened the experience to listening to a podcast, while Jost described it a bit more chaotically. "We have 20 cast members in our show right now, and we have to be six feet apart, so 20 times six is probably like 1,000," Jost joked. "So you're in a table read and you're hearing voices and you're like, 'Who is this?' It's a great time for crew to just yell stuff because people would be like, 'I guess they're just in the cast.'"

    As for how the writing-duo plans to do "Weekend Update," Jost joked that "It's a maximum capacity of one at the desk." Che, who said several times in the interview that he was excited for the in-studio return, told Fallon he was all for Jost taking over the "Update" desk "as long as I get paid the same."