How late-night comedians are taking on the RNC

LSSC_SHOW0179_SG
The "Late Show with Stephen Colbert" will air live Monday, July 25, 2016, with guests Jon Stewart and Zoe Saldana in New York.

It's hard to beat a political convention for comedy.

Even professional comedians have struggled this week to keep up with the Republicans in Cleveland, who gave us Melania Trump feeding Michelle Obama lines to a cheering crowd, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rounding up angry villagers for jury duty and Dr. Ben Carson playing Six Degrees of Satan with Hillary Clinton.

Carson, apparently unaware that conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch owns a network that just gave a second season to, yes, Lucifer, proved almost beyond the reach of parody.

Here's how some of the pros did:

CBS' Late Show with Stephen Colbert, live from New York for both conventions, kicked off the week by reuniting its host with Jon Stewart, and briefly reviving the conservative-blowhard persona of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Though live seems to agree with Colbert, the timing of many of the best bits - including Broadway star Laura Benanti's fabulous take on Melania Trump on Tuesday - was the same as it would have been if the show had taped earlier.

Timing was also an issue for Samantha Bee, whose weekly TBS show, Full Frontal, added a second edition on Wednesday, but stuck with its 10:30 p.m. time slot, meaning it was on during the most-watched hour of the convention proceedings. (This is why we have YouTube.) Bee, who bought Herman Cain's old campaign bus to travel to Cleveland - with Scandal president (and Clinton supporter) Tony Goldwyn in the driver's seat - did her best work in the middle of Pennsylvania. Her interviews with Donald Trump supporters explained his poll numbers better than any news show I've seen, and her interview with a clearly conflicted Republican state legislator, Jim Christiana, was as much journalism as comedy.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, live on Thursdays only for both convention weeks, underwent tonal shifts from night to night. On Tuesday, Noah, often so cool, seemed for once genuinely angry as he talked about an RNC speaker's pleasure in the third acquittal of a Baltimore police officer in the death of Freddie Gray. By Wednesday, he was just as pointed, but funnier, as he deconstructed Christie's indictment of Clinton with examples that implicated Trump on the same points.

 

HBO's experiment with a live Real Time with Bill Maher ran into problems on night Wednesday, as the GOP ran late. Most of Maher's jokes could have been written a day or so earlier, but it was panelist Michael Moore who stood out as the filmmaker reminded his fellow liberals that they were taking their pot shots at Trump from a bubble.

"The truth is that this plays to a lot of people . . . I think Trump is going to win," said Moore.

No one seemed to find the idea a bit funny.


graye@phillynews.com

215-854-5950 @elgray

ph.ly/EllenGray