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Stephen Colbert and a starry cast of guests responded to President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address live from the Ed Sullivan Theater on Tuesday night, a few hours after the speech.
Joined by CBS This Morning hosts Norah O’Donnell, John Dickerson, Gayle King and Bianna Golodryga, as well as BlacKkKlansman director and Trump critic Spike Lee, Colbert and his guests debated whether Trump had offered an “olive branch” to Republicans and fact-checked some claims in the speech.
But first, Colbert made a few cracks in his monologue about the hour-and-a-half long address: “Tonight Trump gave his State of the Union address and we are live, if you can call what we just watched living.” He added, “This speech was like watching paint dry.” Colbert’s monologue also took some cracks at the significant guests that Democrats brought to the speech (“Not to be outdone, Sen. Corey Booker brought a hero from his hometown, Newark, a flaming parked car”) and the naming of Rick Perry as the evening’s designated survivor (he played a short video of Perry saying, “Oops”).
Primarily, however, Colbert’s monologue reserved its jokes for the president. Of the president’s assertion that the U.S. had the “hottest” economy in the world, Colbert joked, impersonating Trump, “It is so hot, if it wasn’t my economy, perhaps I’d be dating it.” When he tackled Trump’s line “If there is to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Colbert pantomimed him, saying, “‘You can’t have legislation and investigation.’ Who ever heard of law and order?”
When the CBS This Morning hosts joined the show, they told Colbert how they thought Trump fared. King broke the ice, saying, “I actually thought it was pretty tame. There were a couple moments where you went, huh? But there were a couple moments when I thought he attempted to extend the olive branch,” to audible disagreement. King explained that she was referring to “when he shouted out the women,” or pointed out how many women were in Congress in 2019. At that point during the speech, female Democratic representatives in the House stood up and applauded.
O’Donnell said, instead, he was “trying to take credit for” the historic numbers of women in Congress. Dickerson then joked that, when it came to the women in the House, he was in part responsible for Democrats taking the House majority.
“But you had Democrats standing up, how much does that happen?” Golodryga joked.
When asked what the hosts learned from the speech, King joked, “I did learn that if it wasn’t for him, we would be at war with North Korea.”
Dickerson then put the speech in perspective, noting that “State of the Unions quickly evaporate based on the context of what happens outside,” like the Mueller investigation or another government shutdown.
Later in the conversation, Golodryga agreed: “I predict much of what we heard tonight will be forgotten next week,” she said,
Colbert’s final guest, Lee, admitted that he had only watched “some” of the address. “My thing is deed, not words,” he explained.
The director did have a critique to make of Trump’s speech incorporating Holocaust survivors and a survivor of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. “But something happened in Charlottesville, and that man [Trump] had the chance to denounce the alt-right, the Klan, neo-Nazis. there’s a disconnect,” Lee said. “I don’t understand how you say we should come all together when you demonize people.”
The special was the 19th time that The Late Show has aired lived.
On Monday night’s show, Colbert poked fun at the theme for this year’s address, “Choosing Greatness.” “When it comes to the State of the Union, just like prom, there’s a special theme,” Colbert joked. “This year’s theme is Choosing Greatness. Yes, we get a choice. The other choices are Selecting Mediocrity, Settling for Racist, or Fish. I will take the fish please.”
Colbert also did an impersonation of Trump that mocked his theme for the night, “unity.” “‘Yes, unity is so important. I want to unify everyone,’” Colbert said. “’From the heroes who want to keep our borders safe to Nancy Pelosi who wants to see the caravan murder you with a knife made of drugs. Group hug, everybody? Kumbaya, my lord. Sounds like an Arab name.’”
In addition to Colbert, The Late Late Show host Seth Meyers and Daily Show host Trevor Noah emceed live responses to the State of the Union on Tuesday night. The Late Show‘s live special aired at 11:35 p.m. ET/8:35 pm PT.
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