Opinion: Late night hosts up past their bedtime

Some of the most recent targets of Donald Trump’s wrath are late night talk show hosts. The wave of segments focused on Trump’s inaction concerning Puerto Rico and Las Vegas must have bothered him, as he took to Twitter on Saturday morning to write “Late Night host are dealing with the Democrats for their very ‘unfunny’ & repetitive material, always anti-Trump! Should we get Equal Time?” Unsurprisingly, late night talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel used this as another chance to riff on the president.

While it is easy to dismiss this as just another fit on Trump’s end, his words echo the feeling of many Republicans, especially since the past election cycle. The rise of Donald Trump has also signaled a resurgence in interest for political talk shows, such as those hosted by Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, John Oliver, Samantha Bee and, recently, Jimmy Kimmel. While all of these commit to their own ways of doing so, all use the continuing incompetency of the current administration to boost their own ratings.

In this way, the late night talk show hosts can be seen as an outlet for left-leaning people, voicing their frustrations at the current political landscape. A phrase I often hear brought up in relation to these programs is “if you’re not laughing, you’re crying.” By making light of the almost weekly occurrences, talk show hosts prevent despair from setting in the hearts of Democrats everywhere. In this case, though, laughing is not good for either the laugher or the laughed at.

First, it creates an environment of complacency around Donald Trump for those watching the shows. While hosts have claimed, in the past, their comedic shows are no substitute for actual news on the subjects, the fact of the matter is that they serve as so for many liberals. The problem with this is late night talk shows are based around the idea of politics being a spectacle and, in this vision, Donald Trump is the most extravagant of them all. When Donald Trump and politics are lowered to this status, it allows people to feel that it is all out of their hands. Rather than feeling inspired to work towards and support policy, many Democrats feel content to bemoan the fate of this country alongside their talking head idols.

For Republicans, these hosts represent the condescension and cruelty of the left. In making fun of the administration, not only do these late night hosts indirectly make fun of supporters of those in favor of the targets, but many will take shots at the entirety of the right for some cheap laughs. The weekly shows like John Oliver’s and Samantha Bee’s are often the worst on this front, bottling their rage for a whole week before letting it all out for the episode. This kind of vitriol only feeds into the view of Republicans and right-leaning people that the media and liberals carry no desire for bipartisan companionship and cooperation.

It is no surprise late night talk shows have taken over streaming websites like YouTube. Speaking from experience, bingeing them after particular Trump-related incidents, they are certainly fun to watch. At the end of the day, though, these programs are nothing more than repetitive fluff. The observations and jokes rarely differ in any meaningful way from one show to the next, so much so that I cannot help but confuse even the names of the shows. People are caught up in a loop enjoying these types of programs which only serves to deepen the chasm of disconnect between the political parties. So perhaps instead of joking about Donald Trump’s mannerisms and appearance for the thousandth time, late night talk show hosts should go to bed a bit earlier and encourage their audiences to just watch some real news, unfunny as it may be.


Peter Fenteany is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.fenteany@uconn.edu.