After an opening musical bit from James Corden, CBS brought out Stephen Colbert in the middle of its upfront presentation Wednesday.
Unlike Jimmy Kimmel, who took jabs at Fox, NBC and CBS during his ABC Upfronts roast on Tuesday, the Late Show host steered clear of knocking rival networks. True to form, he instead used the platform for a politically themed stand-up set that saw him mock Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush and, of course, Donald Trump.
“I went almost a minute without mentioning him,” Colbert said of the Republican presumptive nominee, adding: “I think I just doubled CNN’s record.” He also spent a good portion of his monologue catering to the advertisers who filled Carnegie Hall.
“I’m excited to spend tonight with you celebrating my first nine months as the host of the Late Show,” he said to the room. “Nine months means that a baby conceived during a commercial break on my very first show could be born by now. You noticed that hasn’t happened, and you know why? Because your commercials are better than sex.”
Below, The Hollywood Reporter has rounded up Colbert’s 10 best jokes.
1. “It’s an honor for me to be on the Tiffany Network. CBS is home to Criminal Minds, Scorpions and TV’s No. 1 drama, NCIS. And that is why when people think of murder and dead hookers, they think CBS.”
2. “CBS is also the home of great reality shows like Big Brother, Survivor and, thanks to the coverage of Donald Trump, The Amazing Racist. I went almost a minute without mentioning him. I think I just doubled CNN’s record.”
3. “Honestly, it’s been incredible to host the Late Show during the election. It’s an honor. 2016 has been a very big year for comedy, and if Trump wins, 2017 will be an even bigger year for tragedy.”
4. “A new poll that came out yesterday says that 87 percent of Republicans are supporting Donald Trump. The other 13 percent are currently standing on bridges, looking vacantly into the distance. Eighty-seven percent is pretty amazing. He is slowly unifying the Republican party. All it took was no other options. Then, a few more weeks to make sure there are really no other options? Have we checked?”
5. “But Trump is not the only big story on TV. I know that CBS is sponsoring this evening, and I know I’m not supposed to talk about The Walking Dead, but he is still running against Hillary Clinton. From your reaction, I guess not many of you are ‘Feeling the Bern.’ Who is ‘Feeling the Bern’ here? Anyone? Anyone selling a pharmaceutical that would soothe the ‘bern’?”
6. “On the Late Show, we don’t just talk about candidates like Trump, Bernie and Hillary — I talk to them. On my very first episode, I interviewed Jeb Bush for 12 minutes. That’s right, I had him on for half of his entire campaign.”
7. “I also talked to Joe Biden, Paul Ryan, Elizabeth Warren — it’s a regular who’s who of who you wish was running for president.”
8. “One of the things I like most about hosting the Late Show is that anything can happen on any given night. For instance, just recently Helen Mirren came on the show and before she sat down, she kissed me passionately. But as much as I enjoyed that, I want to assure you advertisers there is nothing I would rather kiss than your asses.”
9. “I love working with all of our sponsors, and I mean that from the depths of my soul — a soul that does not yet have a sponsor. But if the price is right, it could be the Bud Light Lime Stephen Colbert: The Eternal Soul. Please, enjoy my soul responsibility.”
10. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a theater full of 18- to 35-year-olds with disposable income waiting for me over on Broadway. Thank you.”