After President Trump's first big speech to Congress, Stephen Colbert hosted a live broadcast of “The Late Show” — annotating the address and taking digs at the administration.
He also took a jab at Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, who was back in the news earlier in the day over a photo showing her kneeling on an Oval Office couch. Although Conway has been a favorite mark among late-night comics, Colbert did not reference any specific incident. But he showed a clip from Trump's address in which the president said he had placed a hiring freeze on “nonmilitary and nonessential federal workers.”
“Nonessential federal workers,” Colbert repeated. “So Kellyanne Conway is out? … You will be missed.”
Colbert began his routine referencing Trump's well-known motto.
“The theme of the speech was ‘renewal of the American spirit,’ which, I’ve got to say, really just sounds like a Chinese bootleg of ‘Make America Great Again,’” Colbert said. “And to begin the evening, Trump spoke in uplifting terms.”
Then he took on Trump, point by point. Here are some highlights.
Trump: “Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.”
Colbert: “Then he extinguished that torch with a coconut and asked the Democrats to leave the island.”
Trump on his immigration plan: “Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.”
Colbert: “Bad ones out, good ones in. This nuanced policy comes from Trump’s immigration director, Secretary Incredible Hulk.”
Trump on his standards for immigrants: “It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.”
Colbert: “Just like the Statue of Liberty says, 'Give us your tired, your poor, but not so poor they can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment and, like, a Mitsubishi.'”
Trump on terrorism: “We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.”
Colbert: “And just because we haven’t seen the attacks in Sweden doesn’t mean they did not happen, all right? Invisible terrorists are everywhere.”
Trump: “Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.”
Colbert: “Honestly, I don’t know what we inherited; you inherited, like, $100 million. Let’s be honest.”
Trump on government spending: “With this $6 trillion we could have rebuilt our country — twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.”
Colbert: “Maybe even rebuild it 10 times if we had people who refused to pay their contractors.”
Trump: “Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare … [applause].”
Colbert: “I’ve got to say, that must have been hard on Trump: People got so excited just hearing Obama’s name.”
Trump: “Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved.”
Colbert: “Well, there’s one problem we can’t solve for four years, but, other than that, I agree with you.”
“And this surprised me. This next thing I did not expect at all,” Colbert added. “Trump came out as pro-choice when it comes to schools.”
Trump: “These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.”
Colbert: “Wait, you can choose a different home school? Then I choose your home — it seems really nice.”
Trump on law and order: “And we must support the victims of crime.”
Colbert: “Unless they are plaintiffs against me. Those women are lying.”
Trump: “The time for trivial fights is behind us.”
Colbert: “Adding just one more thing: Suck it, Nordstrom.”
“So, as we come to end of tonight’s address to Congress,” Colbert added, “I think we can all agree on one thing — one down, seven to go.”
Other late-night talk shows, which appeared to be previously recorded, touched on Trump's address but did not go into specifics for that reason. Jimmy Kimmel, indeed, declared it “Trump-free Tuesday.”
“This is a special night tonight,” Kimmel said. “Tonight we're having a Trump-free Tuesday.”
“The president spoke tonight before a joint session of Congress and we're going to ignore it for a very good reason, and the reason is I need a break from it, to be honest with you,” he added. “Tonight if anyone says the name of the orange-colored man with the Russian boyfriend, they will have to put $100 in that jar that Guillermo is holding right now.”
Host Seth Meyers also explained that his show was filmed before Trump's address.
“Now, our show tapes early — so we don't know what happened,” Meyers said. “But I'll bet that people who were there aren't that sure what happened, either.”
Since the divisive presidential election, late-night talk show hosts have homed in on Trump's campaign and his tumultuous first month in office. Earlier this month, Colbert created a parody using the storied Hollywood villain Keyser Söze.
Conway has not escaped the spotlight, either.
Joe Scarborough talked to Colbert last week about why he banned her from his own show.
“It got to a point where Kellyanne would keep coming out and everything she said was disproven like five minutes later,” Scarborough said. “And it wasn't disproven by a fact-checker — it was somebody else in the administration that would come out and actually say, well, actually, no, that's not true.”
“There's a quicker way to say that entire sentence,” Colbert replied. “She just lied.”
It seems that this pivot back to politics has helped grow TV audiences for some late-night hosts.
As The Washington Post's Callum Borchers reported, Colbert has been gaining on late-night king Jimmy Fallon, who is far less inclined to take on the president in a harsh manner.
Conventional wisdom is that Fallon’s approach works best on a major broadcast network. When the Hollywood Reporter commissioned a survey of late-night viewers in the fall of 2015, shortly after Colbert’s debut on CBS, it found that Fallon appealed to people across the political spectrum. The “Tonight Show” host’s audience was 36 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican and 27 percent independent.Colbert’s audience skewed sharply to the left: 47 percent Democrat, 17 percent Republican and 31 percent independent.