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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Late Night's Amber Ruffin musically rebuts Trump's latest atonal racism

Illustration for article titled Late Night's Amber Ruffin musically rebuts Trump's latest atonal racism

Late Night With Seth Meyers has always made its writers part of the show, host Meyers happily sharing the spotlight with those traditionally unsung peons who, you know, actually write a lot of the funny stuff he says. And no one in the writers room has parlayed that opportunity into a triumphant personal showcase more than Amber Ruffin, whose outwardly chipper delivery belies the whip-smart, acidly wounding potency of her satirical chops. (She’s got a Lorne Michaels-produced comedy pilot in the works for her efforts.)


In the past, Ruffin’s deceptively demure exuberance has turned comically dark on the likes of high profile sexual abusers, TV bigots, pizza bigots, political bigots, Hollywood bigots, and all-American, everyday bigots, so the recent Twitter attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color by the Bigot-In-Chief himself brought out Ruffin’s skills as stealth comedy assassin once more. This time, flanked by a pair of equally (but secretly) pissed off singers, Ruffin grinningly took down the unimaginative racists’ (and Donald Trump’s) go-to insult for non-white Americans who dare to voice the opinion that, say, babies in cages, millions of uninsured, crippling college debt, and the ignorance-fueled return of preventable diseases aren’t exactly America at its finest.

As Meyers introduced them, The “Go Back To Your Country” Girls channeled 60s sequins-slathered girl-group harmony as they presented a pointedly funny and decidedly on-key response to racist jackasses (and the President of the United States) who respond to every attempt at substantive debate about, let’s call them “questionable,” U.S. policies with a check of their mental color chart, followed by the knee-jerk command to “go back to your country.” Expertly constructed to contrast the power trio’s tuneful chorus with each (100 percent American) woman’s bitter personal anecdote of being told to go back to the country they came from, the song fairly rang with lived-in, had-it-up-to-here anger, all delivered with a hip-swaying, choreographed stage smile. Ruffin explaining that her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska is “the literal opposite of Africa” (and that Africa is not a “country”), and her co-stars’ point that it’s “uncomfortably true” that every white person spouting this racist nonsense is standing on land they aren’t actually “from” segued each time into a beaming musical restatement of that same tired refrain.

At least until Ruffin, twisting the knife one final time, finally broke the cycle with a no-bullshit takedown of the next “raggedy bastard” to try out that shit at a party, on Twitter, in public, or from an ego-fluffing hate rally of red-hatted goons. Concluding with the harmonious pledge, “We’re here! We’re not going nowhere!,” The “Go Back To Your Country” Girls—smiles plastered defiantly on their kissers—sang the show to commercial with an anthemic “fuck you” to every sneering bigot (and the President of the United States) who thinks the same beyond-unoriginal trash is going to sound like anything but scratchy, old-timey, wax-cylinder racism in 2019.

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