Late Night Loves Trump and Santos Jokes, But Not Biden and Menendez

October 26th, 2023 10:00 AM

In the first three weeks after the writers’ strike, the late night joke tellers picked right back up where they left off: telling Trump jokes at the expense of almost everything else, a NewsBusters study has found. 

An examination of all jokes told on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Comedy Central's The Daily Show has found that from Monday, October 2 through Friday, October 20, the men of late night told 247 jokes about Donald Trump over the course of 42 shows.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden was the target of 45 jokes, mostly about his age. That equates to 85 percent of the jokes between the top two presidential candidates being directed towards the Republican.

They steered around comedy gold mines in Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption scandal and Rep. Jamaal Bowman pulling a Congressional fire alarm. At the same time, jokes about first-term Republican Rep. George Santos and his legal predicament received noticeably more jokes -- 72 jokes -- as President Joe Biden despite the story only being in the news for the second week.

Most of the Trump jokes were about his legal situation, such as when Kimmel returned from the strike declaring "I would get texts asking me if I was bummed we didn't have a show that night, and mostly, I was fine. But the one that really got me was when they booked Trump in Georgia, and he self-reported his weight at 215 pounds. I almost crossed the picket line for that." In a similar vein, The Daily Show temp host Michael Kosta suggested Trump doesn't know what a gag order is, "He probably thinks it means he can't deep throat a McRib anymore."

A sample of late night's animosity towards Trump can be seen below courtesy of NewsBusters' media editor Bill D'Agostino.




By contrast, Menendez and his corruption received just two jokes, both from Colbert on the first day back from the strike, but later developments around Menendez being charged with being a foreign agent of Egypt received a total blackout. Meyers mentioned the Menendez scandal during his long-winded recap of the events that went on during the strike, but simply mentioning something’s existence is not the same as joking about it.



Almost always, whenever Colbert jokes about someone he will find an unflattering picture of them and make some snide comment about their appearance. Such as it was for Menendez, who Colbert described as, “New Jersey Senator and business basketball Bob Menendez.”

After an Egyptian-based pun about a pyramid scheme, Colbert added, “When the FBI raided his house they found more than $500,000 in cash stuffed into envelopes and hidden in closets. A safe, and even stuffed in the pocket of a jacket they found in his home. That's almost a nice feeling when you slip your hand in the pocket of a coat that you haven't worn in a while and you find half a million dollars in bribes. Ooh, and a Jolly Rancher.”

In the same two-week span, GOP Rep. George Santos and his indictments received 72 jokes including this extended skit on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Of the two members of Congress caught up in legal dramas, one being a GOP freshman, the other being a powerful Democratic committee chair, the likely one-and-done Republican received 97 percent of the jokes.

As for Bowman, he came up with the excuse that he thought the fire alarm would open a nearby door. When it comes to the intersection of politics and doors, the quizzical quartet has no problems making fun of Republicans, but Bowman’s actions were also received with a comedic blackout despite him being a former school principal who presumably knows his way around a fire alarm.

Comedy is partly about finding and pointing the absurdities in life and the subversion of expectations and what could be more absurd than the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee being an alleged foreign agent and Googling how much a one-kilogram gold bar is worth after he received gold bars as part of an alleged bribe or a congressman pulling the fire alarm? Instead, we get the same Trump and Santos jokes over and over… and over again.