This year, more than any other, the late-night shows are poised to squeeze the upcoming political conventions for every laugh they can get.
Look for the Republican convention to get a more thorough working-over than the Democrats.
The reasons for this are two-fold: Our entertainment media tend to be dismissive of Republicans and their points of view. Thus, when comedians take up the subject of politics, they find it easier to mine the Republican realm for jokes, barbs and sarcastic comments than the Democrats.
Generally speaking, their audiences are on the same page with them. So when they skewer the Republicans, the late-night comedians are preaching to a very receptive choir and they know it. Cue “Applause” sign.
The other reason is the Republican headliner, Donald Trump. News flash: He’s funnier than Hillary Clinton. This really has less to do with partisan politics and biases than the personalities of the two presumptive nominees.
From his bombast to his hair, Trump has long been a foil for late-night comics. And now that’s he’s center stage every minute of every day vying for the highest office in the land, the nation’s comedians are on him like flies on honey.
Why is he inherently funnier than Hillary? That’s difficult to explain. If nothing else, she tends to avoid situations in which she might look or sound foolish. As a result, there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of footage that can be manipulated later on a late-night show to be used as a centerpiece for comedy bits.
Meanwhile, for the last few weeks, some of the late-night shows have been announcing plans to “cover” the conventions. Late-night comedians have long made the conventions part of their nightly monologues, and that will continue during the next two weeks. The Republicans meet next week (July 18-21) in Cleveland. The Democrats meet in Philadelphia the week after that (July 25-28).
The “coverage” announcements that TV-beat journalists have been receiving the last few weeks are not unlike the ones we get from the broadcast networks and news channels announcing their own coverage plans.
In the late-night convention wars, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” has been making the most noise about its plans. Instead of taping shows at its normal time early in the evening, the “Colbert” show will air live in its regular 11:35 p.m. time period on CBS through both conventions in order to “react” to them.
Colbert will be at his desk in the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. The show will have “on-site teams in Cleveland and Philadelphia who will deliver pieces directly from the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention for the show each night,” according to a press release. Colbert intends to act as anchorman apparently.
Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” with Trevor Noah is boasting that it will be the only late-night show originating from the two convention cities. But it’s not as if the show is broadcasting from the center of the action inside the convention arenas. Instead, it has booked a theater in each city to produce shows focused on the conventions.
Even HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” is getting into the act with live specials July 20 and 21 (during the Republican convention) and July 27 and 28 (the last two nights of the Democratic convention). The four, half-hour specials will also be live-streamed on the “Real Time” YouTube channel – making them available free to non-HBO subscribers. And they’ll be available on Maher’s Facebook page the day after they air on HBO, the company announced this week.
NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” has announced its own plans to produce live shows on convention nights, starting at 12:35 a.m. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” has announced no plans for special coverage, perhaps because neither presumptive nominee would agree to come on the show and take a pie in the face.