For the last 18 months, comedy’s relationship with the presidential election has been an uneasy one. Some late-night hosts, like Jimmy Fallon and James Corden, have largely avoided its darker implications, plowing on with less uncomfortable humor to try and unite a polarized audience. Others, like John Oliver and Samantha Bee, have been polemical, offering an unfiltered point of view applauded for its honesty, if pitched at a smaller crowd. Late Night with Seth Meyers has tended toward the latter approach, with its host clearly articulating his left-leaning point of view and taking apart many of Trump’s stated policies.
Last night, in his first broadcast since Trump’s election, Meyers gave a 10-minute speech that could help chart a path for the next four years in his job. He was at once sharply funny and nakedly emotional. He made an effort to speak to Trump supporters without seeming entirely condescending. He acknowledged that in his position as a well-off white guy, his anguish at the electoral result was not the only perspective required on the night. He told jokes, of course, but with the awareness that jokes alone won’t be what his audience needs going forward.
In the last two days, much ink has been spilled on the notion that society has become excessively blinkered, sectioned off by social media that echoes back like-minded thinking at everyone who uses it. Before the election, the same was said of shows like Full Frontal or Late Night, that wide swaths of voters were sick of being lectured to by TV comedians. Meyers did well to address that without seeming like he was pandering, or suddenly blowing with the wind—his beliefs are still obviously his beliefs, but that doesn’t make him ignorant of the world around him.