Late Night Talk Shows and Politics

Rochelle Xavier, Writer


Stephen Colbert on The Late Shows with Stephen Colbert 

          Across the board, late-night television hosts have been presenting political skits since the early 2000s, but they have only recently caught the public’s attention. The American political climate is the current hot topic that is circulating the entertainment industry, causing celebrities to make statements in support of and endorse presidential candidates. Yet prominent late-night shows such as Saturday Night Live (SNL), and The Daily Show have made politics their main attraction, and in particular the presidency of Donald Trump.

         Politics have always had a place at the late-night table, but the last decade has been especially significant. During the 1960s and 70s, The Dick Cavett Show became the leading voice in the turn from political satire to the reporting of hard news by late-night hosts. This was made clear during the Watergate hearings where, according to some, Dick Cavett grilled the Nixon Administration more thoroughly than the actual journalists themselves. 

        Currently, the likes of Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and even Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah have made hard news their comedic domain. Just a month ago, Netflix comedian Hasan Minhaj testified before Congress’ House Financial Services Committee regarding the student loan debt crisis before airing a brand new episode. The shift from joking about former President Obama and Vice President Biden’s bromance to full coverage reports of the Mueller Report and Ukraine Scandal.

        One AAST student, David Wang says, “I think that political late-night [discussions] really started with Jon Stewart and the 2000s. However, today it’s morphed into an almost symbiotic relationship. Politicians go on Colbert to announce candidacies, and in response, Colbert’s ratings have taken off.” 

        Often, young Americans make up a majority of late-night television viewers. Many students at BCA spend ample time discussing politics, whether it be in a club such as Model UN or during a general conversation. “It speaks to a younger generation, perhaps a frustrated, edgier crowd that is more educated and active than before,” David suggests. This generation of Americans, in comparison to their predecessors, are more invested in the political future of our country and this is reflected in the content of late-night show hosts.

         American politics have always been a topic that causes controversy, backlash, and in-depth debate. Late-night television has taken notice and a wave of political satire and hard news is on the rise. Furthermore,  the 2020 elections have shown that it is not stopping anytime soon. 




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