Late night Tackles the government shutdown
12:52 a.m.

The 27-day-old government shutdown "is getting ugly, and it was never a beauty queen," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked President Trump to postpone or scrap his State of the Union address until after the government reopened, citing security concerns, and on Thursday, 45 minutes before Pelosi was supposed to get on a plane to visit NATO allies in Belgium and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Trump informed her that he was canceling her trip.

"Now, Trump has the power to do this because Pelosi was flying military transport and he's the commander-in-chief, but Trump did give her another option": Fly commercial, Colbert said. "I'm sure JetBlue offers daily nonstop flights to a war zone." And not only did Trump spoil Pelosi's top-secret trip, he referred to her as "Madame" Speaker, not Madam Speaker, he noted. "A 'Madame speaker' is what Trump uses to order at a drive-thru brothel."

Trump is clearly urging Pelosi to fly commercial "like it's the worst thing he could think of," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "That's hard-core, though, right? Canceling her flight right before she's about to take off. That's like the complete opposite of a romantic comedy." To be fair to Trump, he said, "Nancy Pelosi's letter was a little bit snarky, right? But it's crazy that Trump's GPS never takes him onto the high road."

Noah dipped into Cardi B's viral plea to end the shutdown — "How cool would it be if Cardi B somehow ended the shutdown? Like, we find out that Trump is a major fan because 'Bodak Yellow' is his favorite song, and also the color of his hair" — and he brought Michael Kosta out to discuss the GoFundMe campaigns of furloughed federal workers and other ways people are coping with the shutdown. Watch below. Peter Weber

January 17, 2019

On Day 26 of the government shutdown, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made the very "reasonable" request that President Trump reschedule or cancel his State of the Union address, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "I mean, what's he gonna do? 'The state of our union is ... all the Democrats' fault.'" Also, Pelosi is doing this "because she can," Colbert said. "Trump acts like the Big Dog, but she won't let the dog into her House because she knows he's going to poop everywhere." Pelosi knows what she's doing, he added. "Nothing hurts Trump more than when you deny him a TV appearance — they already won't let him host the Oscars."

Pelosi's SOTU move is "such a great burn," Seth Meyers agreed at Late Night, but it's just one of the ways Trump is losing the shutdown fight. Yes, "Trump actually thinks he's winning the argument," mostly because "he watches more Fox News than all the residents of a Texas senior center combined," Meyers said. But "what we're witnessing right now are the desperate gasps of the Trump agenda," not just his wall.

But America and its economy are paying the cost, Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "You'd think Trump would pay attention to that, because he loves Wall Street. He thinks that's where you get the wall." Still, America's chaos is "nothing compared to what's happening in the U.K.," he said, running through the Brexit mess. "Right now, America's government is shut down and there's trash on the streets. The U.K.'s government is in turmoil and soon they may not have food. And Africa's watching all of this, like, 'Ha-ha, who's laughing now?'"

Jimmy Kimmel tried to reason with Trump in a language he understands: Golf. "With one crazy zig-zag stroke of your executive Sharpie, you could be back on the greens at Mar-a-Lago faster than you could say Pocahontas," he reasoned. "It's a win-win, for us and for you. The federal employees can go back to work and you can get back to doing what you do best: cheating at golf." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 15, 2019

Monday was Day 24 of the government shutdown, "which is a new record," Stephen Colbert noted on The Late Show. "It's one of those sad records, like slowest 100-yard dash or most pizza rolls consumed in a minute — records which are also both held by Donald Trump." He explained how Trump's tweeted shutdown-negotiations overture to Democrats "sounds like the world's worst phone-sex hotline," and is bound to be as successful. "Clearly, Trump has painted himself into a corner," he said "which isn't easy when your office is oval."

Colbert suggested that the stress of the shutdown is getting to Trump, reading and annotating the president's tweets refuting reports of "chaos" in the White House because "there's almost nobody" home but him, then Trump's justification for shutting down the government to get his border wall. "He's right, elections do have consequences," Colbert said, "and she's called the speaker of the House."

"Trump was so angry about The Washington Post's Russia bombshell that he tweeted about their owner," Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Colbert said. The Trump-friendly National Enquirer has focused on texts between Bezos — who is getting a divorce — and his girlfriend, and Trump rubbed that in with a tweet about "Jeff Bozo." Colbert was amused: "A man with an orange face and cotton-candy hair is comparing someone else to a clown. You know the old saying: Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw giant shoes." Still, Bezos' soon-to-be ex-wife, MacKenzie, stands to get up to $69 billion in the divorce settlement, and that gave Colbert an idea. It involves costumes, roses, and Alexa.

The Late Show also found some fake notes Trump's translator took during his extraordinarily secretive talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as reported in the Post. You can watch that below. Peter Weber

January 11, 2019

On Day 20 of the government shutdown "the president flew down to the southern border to ... point at the big empty space where the wall would go?" Stephen Colbert mused on Thursday's Late Show. President Trump "gave a firm meh" on declaring a national emergency to build his wall, because "that's just how emergencies are: You can never tell if they're urgent or not," he deadpanned. "By the way, illegal border crossings are down to a 46-year low right now, so what is the actual maybe emergency?" (A new "caravan.")

Colbert poked at Trump's claim he doesn't throw "temper tantrums" and is "a professional at technology," his newly coined phrase "peachy-dory," and his odd suggestion that the wheel is older than the wall. "I don't know if that's true," Colbert said. "No one does. You'd have to ask someone who was around when wheels and walls were invented — so, Wilbur Ross?"

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah fact-checked Trump's "Drunk History lesson" about walls and wheels. "If a football player got up after a tackle and started talking like that, the trainer would be like, 'We need to get you to the locker room now, your brain is not okay,'" he said. "If there are any kids watching who are going to use this on a history test, walls are actually much older than the wheel — 6,000 years older than the wheel." The bigger problem with Trump's argument, he added, is that "since walls have been around for so long, people have had centuries to figure out how to get through them."

"Walls are definitely older than wheels," Jimmy Kimmel concurred on Kimmel Live. "We had sailboats before we had wheels." He also found Trump's new "caravan" suspicious and laughed at Trump's claim to being a big boy. "Nothing says 'I didn't throw a temper tantrum' like throwing another temper tantrum," he said. "Can you imagine any other president in history denying he has temper tantrums? Donald Trump puts the 'tan' in tantrum." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 10, 2019

"Last night, Donald Trump jumped the border of America's prime-time lineup to make his demands" to end the government shutdown, "and I will say, he seemed less spirited than usual," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Why was he so calm if there's a crisis?" He mocked Trump for claiming that "law enforcement professionals" had requested the $5.7 billion for Trump's long-promised border wall, and for asserting that Democrats had asked him to put up a steel fence instead of a concrete wall. "Mr. President, steel slats are not the metal bars we want you behind," Colbert said.

"In the end, Trump's big network-interrupting Oval Office liar-side chat was his old immigration talking points with nothing new," Colbert said. "Speaking of nothing new, the Democratic response." Ugh, he said, pointing at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, "it looks like America's about to get the sex talk." Trump apparently didn't want to give the speech, telling TV anchors beforehand that "it's not going to change a damn thing, but I'm still doing it," he added, "which would also be a very honest pitch for the wall."

"But if Trump seemed a little too on-script last night, don't you worry, because today he unleashed the full director's cut at an impromptu yell-at-the-press event," Colbert said. Trump claimed he didn't want this fight, after saying otherwise in December, but he does want the wall, because it worked in medieval times. "You really cannot go wrong with medieval technology," Colbert deadpanned, mentioning alchemy and leeches. He ended with Trump's odd, repeated request for guidance from ABC's Jonathan Karl. Watch below. Peter Weber

Peter Weber

January 9, 2019

The partial government shutdown, entering its 19th day, is already affecting about 800,000 federal workers, "and it's just going to get worse," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, "because now it's coming for your beer." The shutdown "is holding craft beers hostage because brewers can't get labels approved for new beers," he said. "No new beer? S--t just got real." If things don't change, some craft brewers are saying they will have to take the painful step of dumping out their label-less beer. "If only there was something they could drink to dull that pain," Colbert quipped.

"So this shutdown is suddenly getting serious," Colbert said. "I mean, first they came for our national parks and I said nothing, because I was drunk on beer. Then they came for our beer and I was even drunker. But it's time for me to take a stand." And what that translated to was Colbert bringing out a series of beers and ales (with approved labels) to explain the shutdown using puns. "The president of the United States is living the High Life," he said, for example. "It's been almost three weeks, and I Amstel pissed about it." There's lots more, though he fumbled the Yuengling and simply made up the last beer.

The Late Show also prepared for Trump's Oval Office address by parodying Bird Box, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

January 9, 2019

Stephen Colbert kicked off Tuesday's Late Show by giving a shout-out to his "warm-up act tonight, Donald Trump, America's favorite funnyman." He taped the show before Prsident Trump's prime-time Oval Office address, so "by the time this is broadcast, we're either in a brand new state of emergency — or the same one we've been in since November of 2016," he said. It turns out, Trump said nothing new. "I think Trump gave that speech because he misses being on prime-time television," he suggested.

Based on polling, "Trump faces an uphill battle selling his version of the shutdown," Colbert said. But people are worried that Trump will declare a national emergency that would "allow him to construct a border wall without congressional approval," something "right up Trump's ally — remember, he got elected without the voters' approval."

"It's not like other presidents haven't declared national emergencies before — they've done it for lots of things," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "What they don't do is declare an emergency just to win a policy fight with Congress. So the question we need to answer is: Is Trump even allowed to do this?" The Supreme Court ruled in the 1930s that a national emergency "must be urgent, infrequent, and unexpected," Noah said, and "none of these things apply to illegal immigration." But "the Supreme Court doesn't get to weigh in immediately," he added, listing some of the crazy and frightening things Trump could do before they check him.

The founders and Congress gave presidents space to react to actual emergencies because they assumed "the president would be somebody responsible and trustworthy and potty-trained," Noah said. "They didn't think there'd be a President Trump. ... Which goes back to what we've been saying about Trump for a very long time: He's basically the black light on American democracy," exposing all the flaws that nobody noticed before. There are some probably NSFW parts. Watch below. Peter Weber

January 8, 2019

The ongoing partial government shutdown is causing problems across the U.S., including trash and human waste piling up at national parks. On Monday's Late Show, Yogi Bear had a solution for Jellystone Park, and it may be replicable in the real world.

There's also a human toll for the 800,000 federal employees being furloughed or forced to work without pay, noted Stephen Colbert. "Turns out, people don't want to go to work when they're not getting paid," including TSA agents. "The president does have some sympathy for the plight of unpaid federal workers," Colbert deadpanned, showing video of Trump saying unpaid workers "will make adjustments."

"I agree, adjustments must be made — starting in November of 2020," Colbert said. He was skeptical of Trump's claim that these unpaid federal workers support his quixotic quest to build a wall, but he noted that the White House has at least offered succor to struggling federal employees, advising them to barter their skills in lieu of rent. "You know things are bad when the government is advising federal workers to use the same strategies you see in porn," Colbert said, explaining what he meant.

This is "Donald Trump doing what Donald Trump does best: Not paying the people who work for him — that is where he shines," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "It's unfortunate that these people, these workers who have nothing to do with this ridiculous wall, aren't getting paychecks, especially right after the holidays. So I wanted to do our part to pitch in, and so tonight and every night until the shutdown is over, we're going to put a federal employee to work here at the show." He started with a prison guard, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads