Opinion

Make Late Night Great Again

|
Posted: Feb 15, 2019 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
Make Late Night Great Again

After more than two years of anti-Trump late night “comedy,” pro-Trump viewers may soon be able to turn on TV at 11:30 and laugh again. 

Comedy Central is adding actor, comedian, and “Saturday Night Live” alum David Spade to their nightly line-up airing immediately after “The Daily Show” later this year. 

But that’s not the best news.  

For those who’ve felt like a late-night comedy lover without a home, Spade and his team have mercifully declared no intention of swimming with the current crop of left-wing comedians, writers, and hosts.  Instead, their focus will be on skewering the pop culture fare that made Spade a household name two decades earlier.

The addition of Spade to the landscape of late night was particularly refreshing given the current programming decisions on other networks in the 11: 30-time slot. Near the same time, Spade announced his return, an iconic brand name in comedy and variety programming continued with a distinctly different strategy. 

“Late Show with Stephen Colbert” proudly trumpeted their upcoming guest booking of disgraced former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.  The appearance will come just two days after parent network news magazine “60 Minutes” airs their exclusive with McCabe.  

If that sounds like a strange programming decision, congratulations!  You still have an appetite for entertainment and you still value comedy.

How many Americans know Andrew McCabe or even understand the controversy surrounding him?  Don’t misunderstand the question as dismissing the critical importance of his role in the never-ending scandal enveloping our Department of Justice and president.  

Simply, is he who broad swaths of Americans want to watch before heading to bed after a long day and awaiting an early morning alarm?

It’s true Stephen Colbert is currently enjoying top-dog status in the late-night TV fight.  It’s likely the McCabe interview will be a rating success, relatively speaking. But who’s the audience?  

They’re Democrats, liberals, leftists, and aspiring socialists who get their daily fix of “isn’t Trump the worst” punch lines and clapping seal audiences delivering affirmation Trump is, in fact, the worst.

But please, let’s stop calling this comedy or even entertainment.  Let’s call Stephen Colbert’s Late Show what it is. Partisan porn for the American left.   

Maybe there’s an element of old-man-on-the-porch-fist-shaking when discussing the disappearance of broad-based appeal in late-night comedy.  That doesn’t mean the absence of it is any less disappointing for those who’d love to be invited to the party. 

What now passes for comedy or variety programming appears to be little more than Sunday morning roundtable shows with a live studio audience and a band.  The hosts make no secret of their disdain for President Trump, the entirety of the GOP, and frankly, every American who cast a vote for them.

It’s a distant memory now, but that’s not the way Colbert first positioned himself when he inherited “Late Show” from David Letterman in September of 2015.

Barack Obama was still President.  Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” was at the top of the ratings heap.  Jimmy Kimmel had moved into second place.  Languishing in a distant third was the new kid Colbert. 

His new network home CBS, entertainment critics, and even Colbert himself seemed convinced he was capable of being a host with broader appeal than just the slavishly loyal lefties who adored his long run as host of the cable news parody “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central.   

He wasn’t.  A year later he admitted to the New York Times he felt best suited to “just be himself and do what he’s always done.”  In other words, he raised the white flag on entertaining the masses and returned to the path of least resistance - pure, unvarnished partisanship.

The candidacy and ultimate election of Donald Trump created just the right conditions for the frothing opposition to find comfort in Colbert.  His ratings soared and have stayed strong ever since in the era of Trump. 

Meanwhile, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel has followed suit. More heavy-handed, partisan sketches and monologues coupled with occasional tear-soaked political diatribes and the same clapping seal audience that could easily be mistaken for a crowd at a DNC rally.

Jimmy Fallon never seemed to recover his reputation with the new left-leaning late-night crowd after hosting Donald Trump in the fall of 2016.  A friendly interview, a tussling of Trump’s signature coiffed hair, and Fallon’s fate was sealed as a vile Trump-lover forever.  No amount of apologizing – and he’s tried – will ever absolve him of the unforgivable sin of not hating Trump enough.  

Enter David Spade and his new home at Comedy Central.  Ironically, in the very timeslot that launched Stephen Colbert’s career in late night.  

Could Spade’s signature snark coupled with a general contempt for show business norms and political pressure mean the return of a real comedy show we can all laugh at together?

Let’s hope so.  We could all use some laughs.