This week's best in late-night: John Oliver, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee on police brutality
When the pandemic hit the United States earlier this year, forcing all the late-night television shows to broadcast remotely from their homes, the hosts talked quite a bit about a “new normal,” meaning we were all adapting to new formats, new technology, new hairdos. Heck, Entertainment Weekly’s own show on Quibi, Last Night’s Late Night, featured the phrase more than a few times.
The “new normal” has come to late night once again following the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the worldwide protests that followed. Last week, we saw each of the shows take a step back from comedy, and instead welcome a series of open, honest, and many times heartbreaking conversations about racism in this country.
The protests continue. The fight for justice continues. This week late-night television has also continued their new “new normal” — using its platform to highlight powerful voices in the Black Lives Matter movement,
Last Week Tonight kicked off the week on Sunday with a powerful show dedicated entirely to police brutality in America. John Oliver, too, threw out his cheeky segments and humor to shed light on the grave injustice black Americans face when encountering officers, while also diving deep into defunding the police, a policy that is gaining traction in the reform conversation.
Oliver actually appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Monday, and revealed that his staff poured all their resources into producing the episode in just one week. Traditionally, the Last Week Tonight crew will research for weeks, sometimes even months, before diving into a topic.
While most of Oliver’s conversation with Fallon remained on the serious topic of police, the host also managed to provide one of the first true laugh-out-loud moments since late-night took a somber turn. Oliver shared the hilarious gift he gave his son, a Golden Girl’s Chia Pet shaped like one of its stars, Estelle Getty. When the host revealed the troubling results of planting the seeds, while simultaneously creating an America metaphor, I doubled over in laughter!
Shortly after the protests broke out, Trevor Noah released a truly thought provoking and inspirational social media video. When The Daily Show returned from a pre-planned hiatus this week, Noah continued the conversation by changing show formats. He led a panel discussion on racism featuring prominent members of the Black Lives Matter movement, including its co-founder Patrisse Cullors.
TBS’s Full Frontal also returned from break with Samantha Bee taking a somber tone as well. The typically fiery host was decidedly more subdued as she read a list of police brutality victims. Notably, the show faded to commercial break with Bee unable to finish.
Yes, this week the comedy snuck back into several segments, but late-night mostly continued having important conversations about race and injustice during a time of national unrest. I, for one, am grateful for the “new normal.”
To help combat systemic racism, please consider donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero, which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
- Color of Change, which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
- Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.