The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Late-night TV hosts react to Trump’s presidency with disbelief, lots of jokes

Late-night comedy hosts worked through their disbelief at the outcome of the presidential election by poking fun at President-elect Donald Trump. (Video: The Washington Post)

Donald Trump is the president-elect and late-night hosts have one job to do: Make a ton of jokes about it, while also acknowledging that many people are fearful of the future.

Here’s how various hosts — Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Seth Meyers, Conan O’Brien, James Corden — handled the news on Wednesday night; summed up in 10 themes, from jokes about Putin and Canada to sincere calls for unity and empathy.

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1. This is not a dream. 

Kimmel: “I had the weirdest, weirdest dream last night. Remember that guy who used to host ‘The Apprentice?’ I dreamed we elected him president.”

Colbert: “All day long I had to remind myself, ‘Oh, yeah, this is not a dream … I’m not on a bad Peyote trip on the hunt of the great deer. This is real.’”

Noah: “If this morning you finally woke up from a coma, well, you might want to go back.” (Later, Noah made a pained face and confessed “it still doesn’t seem real.” He compared the outcome to Trump’s hair: “I know it’s real, but my mind can’t accept it. You know, because it looks like he’s wearing his hair backward. Everything is backward.”)

Fallon: “The big story is that America woke up this morning and was like, [a clip of Steve Urkel saying “Did I do that?”].”

On “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” an opening montage found a very excited Bee celebrating the end of the election. The segment featured cameos by Van Jones and her former “Daily Show” colleagues Larry Wilmore, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, whom she greeted on “The Late Show” set before waking up from her dream (nightmare?) with an “Oh no!”

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2. Ominous feelings. 

Colbert: “We have to accept Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States. (Audience boos.) Listen, I get that feeling completely. I just had to say it one more time. I want to just keep saying it until I can say it without throwing up in my mouth a little bit.”

Meyers: “[My wife and I] put our 8-month-old son to bed, I was holding him and I said to him, ‘When you wake up tomorrow morning we might have our first female president.’ Around midnight, I went into his room, shook his crib until he woke up and screamed, ‘We have to get out of here!’”

Bee called Trump’s victory “the democratic equivalent of installing an aboveground pool.” She added: “Even if we’re lucky and it doesn’t seep into our foundation, the neighbors will never look at us the same way again.”

Noah: “Welcome to ‘The Daily Show’ and the first day of the rest of your lives.”

3. The shock to everyone — especially the Republicans.

Colbert: “The Republican Party spent almost the entirety of this election in panic trying to stop Donald Trump from being their nominee, and when they could not, surprise! They won the presidency, both houses of Congress and soon, a new seat on the Supreme Court. It’s like the GOP got caught in a plunging elevator, and they all fell screaming ten stories down — and then landed gently to have the doors open on a candy store where everything is free.”

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Kimmel: “I think it was even a big surprise to Donald Trump. … He wanted to win, but he doesn’t actually want to be president. This was not the plan for the remainder of his life. His plan was to go home to Mar-a-Lago, play 5,000 rounds of golf, phone into Trump TV every morning for 10 years, then die on the toilet.”

Meyers: (To Trump) “C’mon, you didn’t think you were going to win this thing either, and I’m guessing that right now you are spinning out. You’re probably looking at a map of the United States and thinking, ‘Wait, how long does this wall have to be?!’”

4. The sudden appeal of Canada.

Colbert: “Last night, as the election returns were coming in, the Canadian immigration website crashed. Don’t know why!”

Bee: “We’re not allowed to run away to Canada. We have to stay here and fix our mess. So we are going to get up, change our Pampers, brush off our shoulders and push through together.”

Colbert: “Now I can understand why Canada is so attractive. They’ve got free health care and a prime minister who looks like the prince from ‘Tangled.’”

5. Trump’s most infamous quote.

Meyers on the results: “Well, that was a real grab in the p—y. And I’m sorry to use foul language like that, but last I checked, the electoral college seems to be fine with it.”

Kimmel: “Last night, Donald Trump reached out and grabbed America by the … Virginia.”

Colbert: “You know who’s taking this strangely well? Hillary Clinton. Even though the possible first female president lost to a crotch-grabbing beauty pageant owner.”

6. The media.

Kimmel: “I watched news coverage all night last night. It was especially interesting to watch the change in tone as the night progressed. They started out upbeat. But as the evening went on and the results came in, almost every anchor looked like a child slowly realizing that no one was showing up to his birthday party.”

Corden: “It was a weird night, weird to be watching the news. If you were flipping around, every news anchor on every channel was just going ‘Uhhhhh’ and then ‘Go to commercial.’”

Kimmel: “Really, the only place [Clinton] did very well was among pollsters … they were all completely wrong. They should shut that FiveThirtyEight down. That website should be closed in disgrace, like Abu Ghraib. Turns out these poll numbers that you’re refreshing in your browser constantly are no different from those experiments where they make a hamsters ring a bell for a dropper full of sugar water. It’s meaningless. Nate Silver has been downgraded to Nate Bronze, from now on.”

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7. Vladimir Putin.

Kimmel: “One guy who is celebrating is Russian president Putin … he was quick to congratulate his new friend from Moscow today. (Scene of Putin making a speech with fake translations saying, “This was so much easier than we thought it would be. Congratulations to Mr. Spaghetti Hair on his hilarious victory. I look forward with him to destroying the moon.”)

Meyers: “I want to say to President-Elect Trump, ‘Congratulations.’ To Melania and the new first family, ‘Congratulations.’ And to Vladimir Putin and everyone in Russia, ‘Pozdravleniya.’”

8. Message to the future first female president. 

Meyers, who teared up when talking about how he hoped he (and his mother) would live to see the first female president: “Good news to our first woman president, whoever you are, wherever you are; you may have been rooting for Hillary, but now you can still be the first female president. And first is so much better than second. That is the difference between George Washington and John Adams. You either end up on money or Paul Giamatti plays you in a movie.”

“Daily Show” correspondents Hasan Minhaj and Michelle Wolf made an impassioned riff: “How did this happen?” Wolf asked. “Experienced politician vs. racist fake gynecologist!” Her rant went from angry to sad as the show aired footage of Clinton’s concession speech. (“To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”) “The saddest thing I heard all day is that we have to be reminded of that,” Wolf said.

9. Hope.

Meyers: “I would just say to those Trump voters, congratulations. I sincerely hope he addresses your concerns. I sincerely hope that if you’ve felt forgotten, he won’t forget you now. As a white man, I also know that any emotions that I’m feeling are likely a fraction of those being felt by the LGBTQ community, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, and any number of the immigrant communities so vital to our country. So hopefully the Trump administration and Trump supporters will be compassionate to them.”

Meyers: “In general, I am hopeful for President Trump, because hope is always the best possible path to take. And one thing that makes me hopeful is we know from interviews he’s given over the years that he has, at any given point, held every position on every issue. He’s been pro-choice, pro-life, for the Iraq War, against the Iraq War. Pretty much his only consistent position has been anti-Rosie O’Donnell. So I’m hopeful that he’s not actually a racist, and that he just used racist rhetoric to court voters.”

O’Brien: “Half the country is happy, and half the country is somewhere between despondent and furious. … I’m a history buff, I love U.S. history, and I was struck by one thought today: we have been here before. We have had bitter angry elections for 200 years — whether it was Jefferson vs. Burr, Adams vs. Jackson, Lincoln vs. Douglas, Alien vs. Predator. The optimist in me chooses, today, to be happy that we have fair and free elections at all. It’s an amazing thing.”

Fallon: “Some people are sad. Some people are scared and nervous. Some people are happy. I think most people are just exhausted, but as President Obama said, no matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.”

Corden: “This country isn’t about one election result. This country is about the people who live here. It’s you. It’s how you treat one another. It’s the tone that you set that will define who we are.”

Meanwhile, Bee celebrated the historic wins of Catherine Cortez Masto, Kamala Harris, Ilhan Omar, and Tammy Duckworth. 

10. America.

O’Brien recalled recent trips to Cuba, Armenia and the Middle East, noting that the people in those areas “would give anything to have our system.” “In America, we get to pick who’s going to ruin our country, and it’s up to us. We get to choose — and it’s a privilege.”

Colbert: “Being an American citizen is like family: you’re in it whether you like it or not. At Thanksgiving, when Uncle Ernie … starts saying racist things about ‘The Help,’ you don’t storm off from the table and move in with your next door neighbor. You stay and elect him commander in chief! That’s America.”

Protests swell across U.S. after Trump victory

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: People participate in an anti-hate rally at a Brooklyn park named in memory of Beastie Boys band member Adam Yauch after it was defaced with swastikas on November 20, 2016 in New York City. On Friday, the park and playground was spray painted with swastikas and the message "Go Trump". Hundreds of people, many with their children, listened to community leaders and Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz condemn racism and intolerance. Following the election of Donald Trump as president, there has been a surge of incidents of racist activities reported. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

This post has been updated.