Review: Was there humor in the chaos? How late-night TV handled the Trump-Biden debate

By Steve Johnson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

The late-night network hosts, watching what passed for a presidential debate Tuesday night, had to be regretting their decision to go live with their comedy shows afterward.

Debate viewers hoping for campaign enlightenment instead fantasized about creative ways to end the pain. The chaos on stage in Cleveland was so bad that the post-debate network pundits were more likely to make exasperated noises and use words like "disgrace" than provide actual analysis.

So how is a comedian supposed to find something funny in an event so irredeemably, disappointingly, frustratingly sad.

For one thing, you empathize with your audience.

"Sitting through that felt like getting a COVID test in both nostrils at once," said Jimmy Fallon, on NBC.

"I'd call it a nightmare," ABC's Jimmy Kimmel said, "but at least during a nightmare you get some sleep."


"I never thought I'd say this," Stephen Colbert of CBS said, "but I am so looking forward to the vice presidential debate."

Nobody picked up on Trump's odd and eminently mockable ongoing insistence that poor management of the forest floor is the leading cause of wildfires.

But they did all find another easy target in debate moderator Chris Wallace, who is on Fox News but not entirely of Fox News, and who controlled the rhetorical battle like a dude ranch guest on a runaway horse.

"Chris Wallace felt like a kindergarten teacher running a class on Zoom," said Fallon.


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