Michelle Obama's Carpool Karaoke to Romney's Mean Tweets: 6 of Late Night's Best Political Plays

7:30 AM 8/12/2016

by Daniel Fienberg

A roller-coaster election cycle is a talk show host's best friend — even friendly guy Jimmy Fallon found a way into the red vs. blue game.


  • Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)

    Michael Moore Gets Doomy

    Janet Van Ham/HBO

    A big part of Bill Maher's brand is telling his audience information they don't want to hear, an edginess embodied by the recent live post-RNC episode (July 20) featuring Moore's mournful, instantly booed prophesy: "I'm sorry to have to be the buzzkill here so early on, but I think Trump is going to win."

  • Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)

    'Make Donald Drumpf Again'

    Eric Liebowitz/HBO

    For months, Oliver stayed out of the Trump mockery business, using his longer segments for topics more esoteric than the orange-skinned gorilla in the room, but his extended deconstruction (Feb. 28) of Trump's branding practices, from his steaks to his surname (changed by his ancestors from Drumpf) was worth the wait.

  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)

    'Slow Jam' With POTUS

    Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

    Politics isn't really Fallon's thing — witness his toothless Donald Trump impression — but instead of his competitors' edginess, he offers smooth, effortless cool. And slow-jamming the news with The Roots and President Obama on June 9 showcased what the late-night ratings king does best.

  • The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS)

    FLOTUS on 'Carpool Karaoke'


    The July 20 segment violated many of the viral franchise's rules — Michelle Obama has no original songs and Corden only was able to drive in a limited circle due to security — but it also was a tribute to the spirit that has made this first lady unique. A tacit response to Melania-gate without an iota of politicizing.

  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)

    Mitt Reads 'Mean Tweets'

    ABC/Randy Holmes

    Kimmel has overused the "Mean Tweets" format, but it remains the best friend of any celebrity eager to prove they can laugh at their own expense. Romney's Trump-trashing March 8 turn, while not as popular in the viral space as Obama's 2015 visit, was perhaps the loosest the 2012 presidential loser has ever looked.

  • Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Crackle)

    POTUS Answers the Phone

    Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

    Jerry Seinfeld has driven some of the biggest names in comedy to grab a cup of joe since his online show's premiere in 2012, but the seventh season's opener was the first time he had a "comedian president" in his passenger seat. In a recent Q&A with THR, Seinfeld recounted his conversation with Obama about the episode's opening joke: "When I call you, you answer the phone, 'White House,' I'll say, 'I'd like to speak with the president, please,' and then you say, 'Speaking.'"

    Read the full Q&A here.

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