To cleanse the palate, I feel like all late-night “comedy” in the Trump era has been building to this moment.
So much so that I’m mad at myself for not predicting in yesterday’s post about the Bad Headline that some member of the late-night Resistance would inevitably lunge at it.
Normally the late-night crew at least has a meaningful news peg for its Trump jokes. If something happens in Russiagate and the president starts ranting about it, well, that’s legit news even if they’ve already done 8,000 bits about Trump and Russiagate in the past 18 months. But the Bad Headline isn’t real news. It’s an obsession of a small, insular, particular niche, the very-online class of media-savvy liberal slacktivists that thinks it’s Making A Difference by tweeting all day. Imagine how parochial your politics would need to be to warrant throwing a collective tantrum, replete with threats of canceled subscriptions, because the adamantly anti-Trump New York Times sounded a bit too neutral about his condemnation of the latest mass shootings — not in a story, even, but in a five-word headline. “Progressive Professional Class Sh*ts Self Over Times Banner” sounds like a pitch for an extremely broad right-wing satire of Woke Twitter. Imagine what a team of professional comedy writers could do with the idea.
What they could do with it, it turns out, is nothing. Because late-night TV in 2019 is staffed by, and exists only to serve, the same narrow very-online class of liberal slacktivists that it would normally be goofing on here for its myopic cultural priorities. In fact, Colbert and Kimmel and Sam Bee and John Oliver and Meyers have been boring in on that message for so long that maybe it’s sensible at this point for them to cater exclusively to the priorities and sensibilities of that class. If they’ve chased everyone else away such that only Resistance news junkies are left, then logically they should write their jokes — or “jokes,” since this is really political commentary adorned with a few one-liners — for Resistance news junkies.
But maybe Meyers had no choice? He’s not the Times, but there are certain expectations that come now with being a left-wing host on late-night television. Being funny is fine, although not strictly necessary. What’s essential is to Resist. If call-out culture has determined that today’s way of Resisting is to pile on the country’s most famous liberal newspaper for being not quite liberal enough, then that’s what tonight’s monologue is about. Period.