Culture Trips

Stephen Colbert on the inauguration: ‘Today we were reality-boarded’ | Late-night TV roundup

Stephen Colbert

After a safe, peaceful swearing-in ceremony for Joe Biden, a deep cleaning of the White House and a celebrity-filled virtual celebration, Stephen Colbert felt “enormous relief” for the US, he said on a live Late Show following inauguration day. “It’s like we’ve been on a ship that’s been in a storm for four years and we just stepped on to dry land.”

Biden’s inauguration, replete with a stirring performance by the youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, and a presidential address grounded in facts, represented a “return to normalcy”, Colbert continued, although one marked by the still-surreal calamity of the pandemic. But “even though it was abnormal, at least we understood why it was abnormal”, he said.

A year to the day after the first US patient was hospitalized with Covid, the incoming administration structured the day around clear Covid safety protocols. “So many times during the last four years, we were all like, ‘What the hell is happening? Why is this happening?’” Colbert said of the prior administration. “And they wouldn’t tell us. They wouldn’t tell us the real reasons, because everything was a sales job. And the weirdest feeling in the world is when something is clearly abnormal and someone tries to tell you that it’s not.

“What we saw today was the opposite of gaslighting,” he added. “Today we were reality-boarded, and I am here for it.”

Colbert also celebrated the historic inauguration of America’s first female vice-president, Kamala Harris. “It’s a moment that future generations will look back on and say, ‘wow, that took a long time,’” he said. Harris becomes not only the first female, first black and first south Asian American VP, but also “the first vice-president in four years who doesn’t think yogurt is too spicy”, he joked.

Trevor Noah

“Despite the pandemic, this inauguration had it all,” said Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. Highlights included: former president; the youngest inaugural poet in Gorman; “an amazing singer wearing her own Etsy store” with Lady Gaga in her Hunger Games-esque get-up; “an old man on his way to the post office” in Bernie Sanders, with his Vermont dad-chic mittens; and “even a lady whose outfit called me a broke bitch” with Michelle Obama in a wide-legged fuchsia suit.

Immediately following the ceremony, Biden signed 15 executive orders, including measures to rejoin the Paris climate accord, shut down the Keystone XL pipeline, reverse the ban on travel and immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, mandate masks on federal lands for 100 days and extend the pause on student debt collection.

“Let’s just say, the White House bathrooms aren’t the only place Biden is looking to wipe out any trace of Donald Trump,” Noah explained, calling the flurry of orders a “huge reversal of Trump’s legacy”.

“Although with America’s Covid rates right now, I don’t actually think that last one is gonna make much of a difference,” he added about the infamous Muslim ban.

Samantha Bee

Despite Biden’s inaugural plea for unity, “Republicans are furious that Joe Biden chose to divide America by becoming president,” joked Samantha Bee on Full Frontal. “And if that weren’t divisive enough, he’s openly plotting to do stuff.”

With control of the White House, Senate and House, “Democrats are in an unimaginable position: we can finally do things that help people!” Bee said. “For the next two years, we can confirm liberal judges and pass legislation that doesn’t suck.”

Bee looked ahead to possible Democratic achievements on paid family leave, universal pre-school, debt-free community college, and some form of student debt forgiveness. Their slim majority in the Senate, however, won’t allow for every Biden-Harris idea; if the new administration wants to restore the Voting Rights Act, pass immigration reform, or pursue statehood for DC and Puerto Rico, which will require GOP Senate votes, Biden will “end up facing the Klan’s Gambit”, Bee joked over an image of the Republican senators Mitch McConnell, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, all abetters of Trump’s baseless election fraud claims.

Seth Meyers

Wednesday’s inauguration was “a little like getting rid of the last guy at a party”, joked Seth Meyers on Late Night. “We spent four years yawning and stretching and hinting that he should get out, and then when he finally leaves it is a relief until you remember that you have to clean up all his puke, and he, like, puked everywhere.”

The celeb-stuffed affair included performances from Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga – “a nice break from the Trump era, when the only musical acts who would associate with the president were 3 Doors Down and the kids who got stiffed by Trump”, he added, referring to USA Freedom Kids, who performed at Trump’s rallies and later sued him for lack of pay.

Meyers also turned to Biden’s moving inaugural address, in which he urged Americans to rise above partisanship and face the challenges of the pandemic, systemic racism and inequality together. “Republicans incited an insurrection, and then complained that Democrats aren’t trying to unify the nation,” Meyers said. “Meanwhile, Biden talked more about unity than a marriage counselor who only gets paid if the couple stays together.”

Jimmy Kimmel

And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel recalled Donald Trump’s inauguration four years ago, a “terrible day” during which he wondered: “Can our country survive for years of this?”

“And now we know the answer: not really,” he said. “Just barely. But we made it.”

Kimmel also reflected on the tale of two Wednesdays in January 2021: “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. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, when they go low, we go J Lo.”

“And while Joe Biden was being sworn in, in Florida at Mar-a-Lago, an omelet bar attendant was being sworn at,” Kimmel added, as Trump slinked off to his Florida golf course following a sparsely attended morning sendoff in Washington. Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr waved their father off with visible tears – “it is heartbreaking to see children separated from their parents, isn’t it?” Kimmel mused with a final jab at Trump’s legacy on immigration and family separation.

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