The best non-political moments in late-night TV 2016
The presidential campaign loomed over everything this year, and late-night TV hosts spent just as much time analyzing and discussing it as anyone else. But considering most of them had to pump out new shows on a regular basis, they obviously couldn’t spend ALL their time talking about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here are some of our favorite non-political moments from late-night TV in 2016.
Below are some of our favorite non-political moments from late-night TV in 2016, from John Oliver and James Corden, to Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert.
James Corden assembles a theatre-themed Carpool Karaoke
2016 was the year of Carpool Karaoke (which attracted everyone from Michelle Obama to Britney Spears). 2016 was the year of James Corden (he hosted the Tony Awards and became a national star). 2016 was the year of Lin-Manuel Miranda (who won many of those Tony Awards). All three came together in one glorious segment that transferred Carpool Karaoke to New York City and assembled a cadre of Broadway stars to belt out “One Day More” from Les Miserables.
James Corden vs. Jimmy Kimmel
Late-night hosts occasionally guest on each other’s programs, but rarely is it as explosive as the September team-up between James Corden and Jimmy Kimmel. Ahead of Kimmel’s hosting duties at the Emmys that Sunday, Kimmel stopped by for one of Corden’s grossest games: Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts, where contestants have to choose between answering pointed questions or eating such delectable items as “bull penis” and “fish smoothie.” Kimmel immediately demonstrated that he wasn’t a regular guest by eating some pig blood curd before Corden had even asked a question. The two hosts spent the rest of the game firing explosive questions like, “Of all the current late-night hosts, who is your least favorite?” and “Name two of the cameramen in this room” at each other. Both hosts mostly chose to eat disgusting food rather than give problematic answers, but the whole thing was still amazing to watch. Tension practically crackled off the screen.
Stephen Colbert finally loses at Tolkien trivia
Stephen Colbert has a bit of a reputation as a Lord of the Rings fan. Ahead of Peter Jackson’s final movie, Colbert actually dressed up for EW’s cover as iconic Tolkien characters Bilbo, Legolas, and Gandalf. It seemed like Colbert was an unbeatable master of Tolkien trivia – until this May, when Ryan Gosling finally stumped him. Appearing on The Late Show to promote his new movie The Nice Guys, Gosling asked a question so archaic (“the archway appears on what page?”) that even Colbert couldn’t answer it. Gosling celebrated by strutting across the stage and taking a well-deserved high-five from costar Russell Crowe.
John Oliver stands up for journalism
John Oliver’s work on Last Week Tonight is hard to pin down. It’s not really stand-up, and unlike other late-night hosts, he doesn’t interview guests. Sometimes Oliver’s work investigating topics like infrastructure and encryption is described as “journalism.” In August, Oliver finally clarified that he wasn’t a journalist, that his show mostly relied on the work of local newspaper reporters, and highlighted the struggles many of those reporters are facing across the country as their industry crumbles.
Samantha Bee interviews Syrian refugees
Although Samantha Bee is peerless at spitting fiery denunciations of politicians and public figures on Full Frontal, she’s also carried over the reporting skills she honed in her days as a Daily Show correspondent. In her second episode, Bee set out for the Jordan/Syria border to talk to actual Syrian refugees. Amidst so much hand-wringing about how best to respond to the refugee crisis, Bee went out and actually got answers from “the people we’re incoherently yelling about.”
Jimmy Fallon meets his favorite Gilmore Girls characters
Jimmy Fallon celebrated the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls like so many others: By watching the original series for the first time. When Fallon first brought up his Gilmore Girls binge, he created a viral hashtag, #GilmoreGirlsTop4. His personal top four were Taylor (Michael Winters), Luke (Scott Patterson), Kirk (Sean Gunn), and Paris (Liza Weil). The saga didn’t end there, though. The latter three actually appeared on The Tonight Show ahead of the Netflix revival, and when Alexis Bledel later made her appearance, Fallon got her top four as well.
James Corden and Martin Short make Inappropriate Musicals
Inappropriate Musicals is a recurring skit on The Late Late Show, but it may have reached its ultimate purpose back in March, when Martin Short came by to participate. Together, Short and Corden transformed the bear fight from The Revenant into a romantic duet and the “are you not entertained?” sequence from Gladiator into a hilarious old-fashioned showstopper. They even got an assist from Will Arnett on that last one.
Seth Meyers and John Oliver mock Coldplay and the Super Bowl
The other great late-night crossover of this year came when John Oliver stopped by Late Night With Seth Meyers to give a British perspective on the Super Bowl – appropriate, since British band Coldplay had just headlined the halftime show. Oliver’s evisceration of frontman Chris Martin for inserting himself into the Beyoncé/Bruno Mars performance was particularly hilarious: “He was trying to take the power position, but when you’re between Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, you just sound like a guy in the backseat going, ‘me too. We’re having fun as an equivalent three’… No one’s gonna remember they played! It’s just gonna be, ‘oh yeah, that time Beyoncé did two Super Bowls. She was great.”
Samantha Bee commiserates with female world leaders
As one of the only current female late-night hosts, Samantha Bee knows something about being the only woman in the room. This gave her a look of understanding when she interviewed Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic about the unique challenges facing female world leaders. Bachelet, for example, noted the double standard that if she showed emotion she’d be “hysterical,” while an emotional male leader would be “sensitive.” Grabar-Kitarovic, for her part, talked about being Photoshopped and generally treated like “an object.” Bee has a talent for finding unique interviews and perspectives, but this sequence was one of her best all year.