Our Late Night Hosts Are Letting Us Down With These Presidential Candidate Interviews
With the real election approaching we need far more scrutiny from our funny men—and woman
In back to back nights, Jimmy Kimmel had Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on his late night show, and honestly, can we get Samantha Bee on this assignment instead?
The remaining presidential hopefuls made the talk show rounds towards the end of last year, too, when it was more forgivable to do totally puffy interviews, but now we are coming down to the final leg of the primary race and these people need to be asked some real questions.
Between the two interviews, Kimmel was marginally more effective with Trump. He at least asked him about the bathroom laws that are metastasizing throughout the southern states and got him to admit that his previous endorsements of Hillary Clinton were just a whole lot of opportunistic hot air. There wasn’t a lot of back and forth, but at least he asked him something of substance.
With Sanders, though, it was just a whole lot of banter. They touched on the transgender bathroom laws a little, but the least Kimmel could have done was mention what his continued campaign and increasingly divisive rhetoric against Clinton will mean for the Democratic party when it has to rally around one nominee just a few months from now.
When Trump was on just the day before Sanders, Kimmel asked if he was enjoying watching the two liberals pick each other apart, and Trump clearly appeared delighted—as he should be! This could not have provided a better setup for subsequently asking Sanders about how continued infighting on his side is giving a boost to Trump, but, nah. Let’s just talk about him being a poor gift giver instead.
It’s all just so… tepid. And yeah this is late night TV, not some debate on CNN moderated by Donna Brazile, but we know it doesn’t have to be this way. Jimmy Fallon is the human equivalent of a shelf elf, and that’s his whole deal. We know he’s not going to go hard in the paint on candidates. But if Kimmel is going to get the great opportunity to talk to people aspiring to the highest office in the land during the most insane, polarizing presidential race in memory, he has to step his game up.
Stephen Colbert has been better than the others in his cohort. He actually asked Sanders how he plans to fund his wonderfully intentioned but seemingly impossible to achieve plans like free college educations for everyone, and he put Trump on the spot for his insane Mexico-will-build-our-border wall idea. He also had Hillary Clinton explaining how letting the banks fail is a better move for the economy. And yet, you just felt in your bones that Colbert of the Report years would have had sharper teeth with all of them.
John Oliver is doing some of the best long form investigative “journalism” on TV, but while Trevor Noah is doing his best at The Daily Show he’s still no Jon Stewart, and Oliver can’t be our only discernable signal amidst the noise. With Colbert looking de-fanged and Kimmel and Fallon unwilling to be our after-11:00 pm crusaders, we’re hoping Samantha Bee and Full Frontal can step up and start doing some interviews on her show—at least for the rest of election season. Among her cable companions she’s been the most unsparing critic of all the candidate’s political bullshit, and someone needs to let Sanders, Clinton, Trump et al that a couch conversation doesn’t just mean a free pass to serve up hot dishes of spin and witty repartee.
Because this election is coming whether we want it to or not, and lying down on the floor isn’t going to help anyone.