Conan O’Brien did his final late night show last week, after 28 years on air. He’s stepping away at the right time. Whether you liked his comedic style or not, he really was trying to make people laugh.
When was the last time you watched “The Late Show” in order to laugh? That’s a trick question — nobody who watches Stephen Colbert is laughing. Laughter is entirely beside the point; Colbert’s show is political catechism in nightly hour-long installments.
One of Colbert’s masterworks in June was a song “parody” titled “500 Vials,” which didn’t even have a joke — it was just telling everyone to get the vaccine. It may be the least funny video ever created, and after the female-empowerment version of “Ghostbusters,” that can’t be said lightly (but remember: Anyone who didn’t laugh is sexist).
Increasingly, though, Colbert is the norm for late-night shows. For four years, limited big-tent political comedy got replaced by an aggressive churn of anti-Donald Trump “Resistance” theater barely papered over by jokes.
Some have just about given up the ghost entirely: John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” is pretty much nothing but lectures on what a liberal is supposed to be mad about this week.
And remember “The Daily Show”? While certainly steeped in sarcastic vitriol, it’s impossible to say it’s been relevant since Trevor Noah took the reins nearly six years ago.