Late night comedy writers went into full panic mode Tuesday, after Donald Trump gave an impromptu press conference where he doubled down on his Saturday remarks that “many sides” were to blame for the events in Charlottesville and that white supremacists and neo-Nazis really aren’t that big of a deal.
“You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,“ Trump told reporters.
It was a stunning moment and a staggering meltdown, even by Trump’s lofty standards. In the late night TV work cycle, it happened at the eleventh hour—just moments before hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert were set to tape the night’s opening monologues. Staff writers were forced to scrap what they had and come up with something entirely new to reflect what had just happened. Jimmy Kimmel’s head writer (and wife) felt for her comedy brethren:
My condolences to all the other late night writers and hosts out there who just had to throw away tonight’s monologue and start over.— Molly McNearney (@mollymcnearney) August 15, 2017
Despite the short notice, late night TV was once again the best place to make sense of the surreal events of the day.
Jimmy Kimmel used a good chunk of his monologue to appeal directly to Trump supporters. He told them that he understands why they voted for someone who’s “not a part of the political establishment,” but that it’s probably time to abandon ship. Kimmel went on to list just some of the outrageous things Trump has done while in office because “If I went through all of it, it would be longer than the menu at the Cheesecake Factory.”
Kimmel didn’t mince words when he suggested that it’s time for Trump to step down and let Mike Pence take office. He proposed that we take a page out of England’s book and name Trump the first King of America—a position that will satisfy is ego but grant him no political clout.
“England has a Queen,” Kimmel said. “She lives in a palace – everyone makes a big deal when she shows up – she has no power at all. In the morning, they put a crown on her head and she stands there and waves, she goes back to bed. That’s it. If the Queen were to walk out on her balcony and strip off her top, nothing over there would change. The Queen could be completely bonkers – it would make no difference. She’d still be Queen, it’d still be fine. That’s what we need to do with Donald Trump. We need to set him up in castle – maybe in Florida – lead him to the top, and then lock the door to that castle.”
Meanwhile, Seth Meyers looked genuinely bewildered as he played various clips from the “clinically insane” press conference. "You know that list of side effects at the end of a pharmaceutical ad? He apparently has all of them.” Meyers said. “Usually when someone is talking that level of crazy, Batman crashes through the ceiling and punches him.”
Stephen Colbert started his show by imagining an alternate universe in which our president was, you know, sane. “Even though many criticized how long it took, the president knew the right thing was to make a statement on Monday, be clear on who was to blame, and then move on to the people’s business,” he said. “I’m just kidding. He held a press conference today in, I believe, the seventh circle of hell?”
One of the most scrutinized moments of Tuesday’s presser occurred when Trump said that he waited so long to condemn whit supremacist groups because he needed to wait for the facts. “I wait for the facts, okay?” Colbert said in his best Trump voice. “Just ask the millions of illegal voters who refused to look for Obama’s birth certificate during my record breaking inauguration, okay? It’s all on the Obama wiretaps.”