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Late-night tries to find something new to say about the same fucking gun madness

James Corden
Screenshot: The Late Late Show

“Here we are again.” That’s how James Corden opened his Late Late Show on Monday, after a wrenchingly extended montage of all the times the congenitally congenial British transplant has opened his chummy late-night show with a bewildered eulogy for the people killed in that day’s mass gun violence in America. Old clips from his four-and-a-half years on the show about massacres carried out by assault weapon-wielding men in Roseburg, Sutherland Springs, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, Thousand Oaks bled into his new condolences for the people of El Paso and Dayton. “The sadness of it all is overwhelming,” said Corden, once more back in his studio for another somber and heartbroken cold open.

Late-night shows have increasingly picked up the responsibility of processing what, under Donald Trump and the Republicans’ reign, has become a free-fire zone of racist, heavily armed white men chopping people to bits with war zone armaments. Even on a day when Trump’s racism isn’t the direct and obvious cause of yet another mass shooting or known hate crime, monologues become public service, finding ways to enlighten through comedy the morass of confusion, empty rhetoric, double-speak, and outright bigotry emanating from Washington. On days like Monday, with the ache of at least 31 dead (and many more wounded) freshly gnawing away, Corden, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers all took it upon themselves to, in their own signature ways, find a way through it all, again.

Meyers used his “A Closer Look” segment for a typically tight and acid dissection of the GOP’s complicity in shootings where Donald Trump’s vocal bigotry once more inspired horrific violence. Calling the “heartbreaking weekend of unspeakable tragedy” a direct result of “white supremacist domestic terrorism,” Meyers called out the Republican Party which—en masse— declined to appear on cable news (except, in some cases, GOP propaganda outlet Fox) to provide any semblance of leadership in what Meyers called “a moment that demands moral clarity and urgency from our political leaders.” When those GOP-ers did speak out, it was against those old standby scapegoats, video games, with Meyers contemptuously asking, “You do know that other countries have video games?,” and positing that, if video games were so effective at influencing human behavior, then someone would have invented a Congress-based one called F#@!ING DO SOMETHING! a long time ago. Noting that Democrats have been especially vocal about Trump’s own white supremacy and incitements to anti-immigrant racist violence, Meyers played clips of presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Tim Ryan cursing in frustration as reporters continued to ask the same old questions. “If there was a time for swearing, this is it,” concluded Meyers.

Jimmy Kimmel threw punches, focusing on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is currently blocking a Senate vote on two bi-partisan gun control bills (as incremental as they are) that already passed the house. Calling McConnell an “evil, soulless old creep,” Kimmel scolded the Republican to “drag his bony grey ass back into work to vote on these bills” and also mocked McConnell’s GOP colleagues for refusing to stand up to the NRA and gun manufacturers. Comparing them to the law enforcement officers who brought down the Dayton shooter by running into the fusillade of bullets emanating from his absurdly high-capacity magazine (which allowed him to shoot 41 people in 30 seconds), Kimmel said that, very unlike those officers, Republicans were “too cowardly to go on cable.”

Jimmy Fallon gave the twin tragedies a quick 1:18 at the top of The Tonight Show, addressing those “whose background has made them a target of prejudice, or hate, or violence, or anyone who feels that they may not be welcome in this country—know that you are welcome. We support you, and we love you.”

Trevor Noah led off The Daily Show by appealing to logic, bless him. Noting the outrage over professional pedant Neil deGrasse Tyson’s typically bloodless take on the minuteness of dozens of senseless, brutal deaths in the grand scheme of the universe, Noah claimed to be fascinated by the logical hoops people will go to to defend their right to own a weapon that can kill an entire school classroom before someone can pull the fire alarm. Noting that such arguments “missed the human element of what people are fighting for in America,” Noah patiently dismantled the whole specious “We don’t ban cars or airplanes” tack gun fetishists take after another mass shooting, saying, in reference to flying after 9/11, “Yeah, but they locked that shit up hard.”

Stephen Colbert started out with wry comedy, promising a feel-good story from the “Smile File,” which tuned out to be the comparatively sunny news that Trump’s China tariffs caused the stock market to plummet. (Hey, at least nobody got shot by a heavily armed, half-formed white guy whipped into a killing mood by a white supremacist president’s witless bigotry.) Comparing the current gun culture in America to HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries, Colbert said that Republican politicians are getting plenty of warnings that the white supremacist gun violence Trump’s own racism is engendering is building to “a meltdown.” “Any acknowledgement of failure threatens their position of power, and their power is more important than saving any lives,” was Colbert’s icy summation of the GOP’s silence/complicity with Trump’s racist agenda and the ignorant gun culture he’s feeding it to. Sneering at the usual Republican post-massacre rationalization talking points (video games, mental illness), Colbert segued into his Trump impression, his Trump wondering just where all this racist violence is coming from before leading his supporters in a chorus of “Send her back, my Lord. Send her back.”

Cycling back to Corden, The Late Late Show host’s parting words resonated, coming as they did on the heels of his montage of grief-stricken past statements. If thoughts and prayers, scapegoats, and lies are all we get once more after another weekend of bloody, racist violence in America said Corden, “the only thing that’s going to change is the location of the next mass shooting and the number of casualties.”

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.