First of all, I told you so-
American TV’s most awkward & painful tradition: Why politicians need to stop going on late-night talk shows
by Jack Mirkinson, Salon
Monday, Sep 21, 2015 05:58 AM EST
I, for one, wish no politician would ever darken the door of any talk show host. It would save us all a fair bit of misery. But that is a battle I shall never win, and because I am a self-loathing masochist, I’ve been watching a lot of the appearances that the 2016 crowd has been making on these shows.
The one thing that almost all of these segments-from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s trips to the “Tonight” show to Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders’ get-togethers with Stephen Colbert-is their utter pointlessness. They’re not interesting, they’re not funny, and yet if the candidates avoid them, the press will talk about how scared they are of dealing with the supposed bear pit that is the talk show circuit.
In a sign of the limits of Fallon’s political imagination, both sketches featured his impersonation of Trump. In one, he and Trump sit on opposite sides of a mirror as Trump “interviews” himself. How will Trump create jobs? “I just will,” the real Trump says. Hilarious! In another, Fallon-as-Trump “interviews” Clinton-as-Clinton. Sample Clinton dialogue: “America was built by people who came here, they worked their hearts out for a better life!” (She also makes fun of his hair. And she smiles!) Thank god Hillary Clinton finally got a platform to say that!
Fallon’s actual interviewing technique is just a cut above. His probing of Clinton’s email scandal lasted about 90 seconds before he moved on to selfies.
The one man who sailed through his talk show appearance and came out neither embarrassed nor wounded was Bernie Sanders. He came out, barked out his talking points, didn’t try to be funny, the New York crowd predictably ate it up, applause rained down, he left, done and done. Now that’s how you do it. Either everybody should act like Sanders or we should just ban the talk show appearance altogether. There are no other choices.
I don’t want to give you the impression Mirkinson was any more complimentary of Stephen’s interviews than Fallon’s because he wasn’t. Sorry if that bothers you, my point was about Bernie’s performance, not Colbert’s, and I’ve personally never felt he was an especially good interviewer except by comparison to almost everyone else, though I will grant his preparation is always obvious.
Some people quite like the job he is doing however-
Stephen Colbert dismantles Ted Cruz’s anti-gay bigotry & tax cut fanaticism
by Sophia Tesfaye, Salon
Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 04:47 PM EST
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz paid a visit to Stephen Colbert’s two-week-old “Late Show” set last night and sat for a grilling over the legacy of conservative icon Ronald Reagan tougher than any question the Texas senator fielded at last week’s debate at Reagan’s presidential library.
Colbert’s Ted Cruz (calm and fair) smackdown: How “The Late Show” is triumphing with even-handed intelligence in these polarized times
by Scott Timberg, Salon
Tuesday, Sep 22, 2015 12:33 PM EST
Since his debut helming David Letterman’s old show, a few optimists predicted that Colbert – who has also recently dropped an old mask of his own – would become an important and grownup player in the discussion of politics. It’s still early, but so far he’s made good on these hopes. He’s now had Jeb Bush, Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders on his show, and he’s demonstrated that he can speak, with a mix of seriousness and humor, to political figures better than just about anyone on television. Coming so soon after the weirdly brain-dead GOP debate on CNN, with its pandering questions, the Cruz interview served as a reminder of how valuable a part of the mix Colbert is becoming.
The Cruz interview started out conventional and light-hearted; it didn’t reveal much but allowed Colbert to connect with the jowly Texan. The highlight of the interview came when Colbert asked Cruz about the unreflective Reagan-worship in today’s GOP, which was on evidence at the debate the Reagan Library and on Cruz’s discussion of Reagan Democrats. “Reagan raised taxes, okay,” Colbert asked. “Reagan actually had an amnesty program for illegal immigrants. Neither of those things would allow Reagan to be nominated today. So to what level can you truly emulate Ronald Reagan?… Could you agree with Reagan on those two things?”
Cruz tried to squirm out, and on the issue of compromising like the Gipper had done, gave a twangy response as to why he would not “give in more to Barack Obama.” He later fell back on the usual half-truths about the miracle of the Reagan economy and his supposed shrinking of the government. (No mention of years of recession or the tripling of the deficit or the undercutting of the middle class or the way the economic cycle Reagan presided over led to the Bush I slump.)
Instead of rolling over, Colbert came right back.
When the two discussed gay marriage, and the audience began to boo Cruz, Colbert announced, “Guys, guys, however you feel, he’s my guest, so please don’t boo him.” You can dislike Cruz (as I do) and also think this may’ve been the most important line of the night.
Not every loose end was followed up. But the main way this interview could have been improved was to simply make it longer.
Colbert’s interview with Bush – which was effective not because it sparkled, but because he allowed the candidate to decisively reveal his own tone-deafness – and his ability to open Joe Biden up about the death of his son, show his real skill. Part of it comes from prodding, part of it from allowing these guys to be themselves.
Of course Timberg also calls Jon Stewart an “angry liberal” which everyone who reads these pieces knows is a laughable falsehood. To think that Colbert’s show was more “centrist”, reasonable, and less strident than Jon’s demonstrates a profound ignorance of the content under discussion.
Tonight is The Donald who is vastly more entertaining than Cruz who even on review I think was soporific. Thank goodness for that since his other guest is also political (and probably less interesting than last night’s snooze-Cruz) Ernest Moniz, current Secretary of Energy. The musical guest is Raury.
The New Continuity
Timberg did like Larry’s Sanders piece.
As for Sanders, Larry Wilmore had more fun with him than Colbert did. Despite at least one great question from Colbert – why didn’t Sanders realize what an insult the term “socialist” was supposed to be? – and a joke about “messages from giant corporations to pay our bills,” Sanders offered pretty familiar stuff about Scandinavia and college costs and corporate America. Powerful, and things we need to hear, but standard stump-speech stuff. (Colbert does get points for asking about SuperPACs.)
Bernie, Bernie, Bernie
I didn’t think it was all that, but it did generate a lot of positive buzz.
Tonightly the subject is the YouTube sensation, Pizza Rat–