Summer is typically a sleepy time for late-night, but the past few months have proven to be an exception, thanks to a chaotic news cycle that late-night hosts admit has changed the way they approach their shows.
With the bulk of hosts returning Tuesday after a couple of weeks off, we decided to take a look back at some of the summer’s best moments in late-night — from searing political commentary to hilarious celebrity interviews. They are listed below in no particular order. (Note that for the purpose of this post, we’re defining summer as late May through August.)
1. Seth Meyers on Trump’s Charlottesville response
President Trump’s multiple, inconsistent statements on Charlottesville drew rebuke across late-night in the week following a horrific weekend at the University of Virginia. On Monday, Aug. 15, Meyers was especially pointed in his remarks.
“The leader of our country is called the president because he’s supposed to preside over our society,” Meyers said in a scathing monologue. “His job is to lead, to cajole, to scold, to correct our path, to lift up what is good about us and to absolutely and unequivocally and immediately condemn what is evil in us. And if he does not do that, if he does not preside over our society, then he is not a president.”
2. Jimmy Fallon gets serious on Charlottesville
The “Tonight Show” host, who faced an onslaught of criticism for playfully tousling Trump’s hair during the presidential campaign, is steadfast in his nonpolitical approach to late-night. But the “Saturday Night Live” alum took a noticeable departure after Charlottesville, with a somber monologue that found him on the verge of tears.
“The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful,” Fallon said. “And I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. It’s important for everyone, especially white people in this country, to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it.”
3. Kimmel’s speech to Trump voters
Kimmel, who made an unexpected and emotional foray into the health-care debate earlier this year, joined his colleagues in lambasting Trump’s response to Charlottesville. His most serious remarks followed a baffling news conference in which Trump aggressively doubled down on his assertion that there was “blame on both sides.”
In a lengthy speech, Kimmel appealed directly to those who voted for Trump, listing some of his most controversial recent decisions and suggesting that he should not be president. The kicker? “Instead of president we make Donald Trump king,” Kimmel (half) joked.
4. Trevor Noah on the Philando Castile verdict
Following the acquittal of the Minnesota police officer who shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year, “The Daily Show” host spoke candidly about his emotional reaction to newly released dash-cam video footage of the fatal shooting.
“When I watched this video, it broke me. It just — it broke me,” Noah said. “You see so many of these videos, and you start to get numb, but this one? Seeing the child, that little girl, getting out of the car, after watching a man get killed, it broke my heart into little pieces.”
5. Andy Serkis reading Trump tweets as Gollum
The British actor was on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in July to promote his new film “War for the Planet of the Apes.” But Stephen Colbert couldn’t resist asking Serkis to tap into one of his most iconic roles: Gollum, the creaky-voiced creature he portrayed in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies.
Serkis read several of Trump’s tweets as Gollum and, well, there’s nothing quite like it.
6. John Oliver on “Stupid Watergate”
The weekly format of “Last Week Tonight” proved especially helpful when the former “Daily Show” correspondent recapped a week that began with news that Trump had revealed highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting that took place in May. But that was only the first of many bombshells to emerge that week, and Oliver was there to explain it all.
7. Colbert sings farewell to The Mooch
Sure, “The Late Show” landed a major interview with former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. But it was Colbert’s Queen parody that really captured the absurdity of the (very brief) Scaramucci era.
8. Tiffany Haddish’s captivating Groupon story
In July, the comedian and breakout star of the box office smash “Girls Trip” appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” where she told a really hilarious story about the time she took Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour in New Orleans. Which also marked the time Jada Pinkett Smith asked her: “What the f–k is a Groupon?” To date, the interview has been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.
9. Desus and Mero explain Migos v. Joe Budden
Viceland’s breakout late-night duo have gained a following with their no-holds-barred criticism of Trump and his administration. But it’s the pair’s fluency in hip-hop that really sets Desus Nice and the Kid Mero apart from their contemporaries. Take, for example, their hilarious breakdown of one of this year’s most confounding pop culture moments — the super awkward BET Awards exchange between Atlanta rap trio Migos, DJ Akademiks and rapper Joe Budden. (Note, the video below contains some strong language).
10. Leslie Jones and Seth Meyers watch “Game of Thrones”
What’s better than dragons? SNL’s Leslie Jones impersonating dragons while sharing a couch with Lord Varys.