As Jimmy Kimmel put it, “It was a terrible debate. I’d call it a nightmare, but at least during a nightmare you get some sleep.”
“Get ready for democracy to crumble!” Stephen Colbert shouted in his best Michael Buffer voice to kick off the Late Show‘s coverage of the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Colbert wasn’t the only late-night host trying hard to make sense of what he just saw on Tuesday night, which featured Trump’s non-stop interrupting of not only Biden to the point where the Democratic candidate told him to ″shut up,″ but also of moderator Chris Wallace. There was a lot of name-calling, insults, and overall cacophony as both candidates spoke over each other.
″It was a terrible debate,″ Jimmy Kimmel said over on ABC. ″I’d call it a nightmare, but at least during a nightmare you get some sleep.″
On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon compared watching the debate to ″getting a COVID test in both nostrils at once.″ ″You know it was a rough debate when the guy who told the president to shut up was seen as the classy candidate,″ Fallon said.
″I cannot do 90 straight minutes of this sh– ever again. It was brutal,″ Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. ″There’s got to be a commercial break every five minutes, and during those commercial breaks, every ad should be for antidepressants or some drug that has side effects that makes you forget the last four years.″
For Colbert, ″one of the most telling, one of the most upsetting moments not only of the night but of my lifetime″ came when Trump wiggled his way out of outright condemning white supremacists and racist militia groups, specifically the violent extremists in the Proud Boys. Instead, Trump told the Proud Boys to ″stand back and stand by.″
″Yes, tonight saw the best minds of our generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked, dragging themselves through the streets at dawn, looking for the mute button,” Colbert said.
Noah began his response to the debate with, “What was that?! What was that?!”
“First things first, we need new debate rules, people,” the host said. “Chris Wallace, thank you for your service and I hope that you have a lot of money for your therapy. You made a valiant effort, but you were not ready for this because no human being could’ve been ready for this. They don’t need a moderator for this thing, they need a UFC ref. Dana White, get on it!”
Noah compared Trump to a toddler for all his constant interruptions and ignoring the debate rules. “That’s why Melania slaps the hand!” he joked, referring to video of First Lady Melania Trump rebuffing Trump when he tried to hold her hand. “You gotta slap the hand! Can’t be talking to a toddler.”
Noah also advocated for fact-checkers during the debates, something Wallace said prior to the debate that he generally wouldn’t do. “Otherwise, people can stand on the stage and say whatever they want and there are no consequences,” Noah said.
Trump’s tax returns, which were revealed in a New York Times report this weekend, were also the butt of late-night jokes. Kimmel referenced them when he commented during his monologue that the debate ″got off to an interesting start.″
″They flipped a coin to determine who would get the first question, but when Trump saw the quarter in the air he said, ‘Hey, that’s how much I paid in taxes last year,’ and it went downhill from there,” he joked.
Fallon was perplexed by what he saw during the debate. “Man what the hell was that? Was that a debate? What did we… I am so… what was it? I am so stressed right now. I have a kink [in my back]. It felt like I just slept on an air mattress.”
“Seriously, did anyone take anything away from tonight?” Fallon asked. “Was that helpful to any American? The only person who enjoyed that was Vladimir Putin while he was stroking a cat.”