That long-awaited release, though, did not mean the punchlines were over just yet.
After four-plus years of relentlessly bashing Trump, Colbert and his fellow late-night hosts used their shows Wednesday to roast the outgoing president’s exit with one last round of jokes, homing in on his flurry of last-minute pardons and unapologetic departing words, as they also celebrated President Biden’s ascent to the White House.
“Well, you did it,” Colbert told viewers, putting his tongue to his cheek. “You survived the last four years and your reward? A shiny, new, old president.”
On “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” the ABC comic opened with footage of people around the world excitedly counting down the new year, passing it off as tape of them watching Trump climb into Marine One, ready to depart Washington.
“I have to imagine this is what it feels like when the oncologist calls and tells you the tumor is benign,” Kimmel quipped. “Today, this country showed the world that there is no MyPillow large enough to smother our democracy.”
“The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and McDonald’s share price in Florida just went way up,” he said, laying into Trump’s well-known love of fast food, “because America just got a brand new dad.”
But before Biden could be sworn in, Noah noted, Trump had to spend one last day in the White House attending to business. Besides “whining and stealing silverware,” the departing president “made sure to hand out some very nice parting gifts to all his friends” — more than 140 pardons to longtime allies such as Stephen K. Bannon and celebrities such as Lil Wayne.
Despite some speculation that Trump might extend a preemptive pardon to himself following the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, White House advisers eventually convinced him such a move would amount to an unnecessary admission of guilt.
Noah, however, saw it differently. “Even President Trump looked at Donald Trump’s record and decided, ‘Man, I can’t let this guy off that easy,’” he said.
Like the “Daily Show” host, a number of other TV comics also roasted Trump for the final words of his departure speech Wednesday morning at Joint Base Andrews: “So, have a good life,” Trump said. “We will see you soon.”
“Have a good life? That’s not a presidential farewell,” Seth Meyers told his viewers. “That’s what your high school crush writes in your yearbook as a final twist of the knife.”
After Trump’s one-way flight to Mar-a-Lago gave way to Biden’s star-studded inauguration on the Capitol steps, Kimmel turned to some of the event’s celebrity guests. As he noted, the site of the ceremony had been host to a very different scene earlier this month.
“Two weeks ago, a bunch of dangerous imbeciles with Donald Trump flags tried to overthrow the government. Today, on that very same spot, we had the national anthem, sung by Lady Gaga,” he observed. “To paraphrase Michelle Obama, ‘When they go low, we go J-Lo.’”
Or, as Colbert put it: “In just two short weeks, that dais has gone from alt-right to all right.”
Inevitably, many comics seemed to mine Wednesday’s events for humor by comparing Trump to his far less farcical successor.
Colbert, who noted Biden declaring that his “whole soul is in it,” joked: “It was so nice to have a president with a soul again. ... The previous one sold his to the devil and didn’t even get Georgia out of the deal.”
As many television critics have argued, Trump did not prove to be the boon for liberal comics that some expected. TV writers have admitted that the former president irreparably altered the genre of late-night comedy, with antics so absurd or troublesome that they surpassed the point of mockery.
Sensing that reality, perhaps, Colbert ended his opening monologue on a more serious note as he addressed the divided state of affairs Trump left behind.
“However we fix this country, it’s not the new administration’s work alone,” Colbert said. “It’s up to all of us, as it always is, in whatever way we can. President Biden, Vice President Harris, you have our prayers, our best wishes and our every confidence.”