You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Anthony Weiner & Ted Cruz’s Excellent Latenight Adventures With Bill Maher & Jay Leno

Pols on opposite ends of the spectrum awkwardly take their pitches to HBO, NBC

Ted Cruz and Anthony Weiner don’t see eye to eye on much politically, and they’re at very different stages of their careers. Yet they had one thing in common Friday, as both ventured into the waters of latenight comedy: Cruz, the filibustering Texas senator, appearing on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno;” and Weiner, the disgraced congressman, failed New York mayoral candidate and ready-made punchline, dropping in on “Real Time With Bill Maher.”

Cruz might have become a darling of conservatives and a driving force in the recent government shutdown, but he seemed ill-equipped for Leno, and slightly taken aback by the latenight host’s questioning regarding the shutdown, the GOP emphasis on social issues (Leno has previously articulated a more accepting, libertarian view of gay marriage, for one) and the general vitriol in Washington.

In fact, Leno — who doesn’t really have to worry about losing the gig at this point — delivered as many applause lines as Cruz mustered, keeping the senator mired in discussions of policy while offering scant opportunity to flash any of his lighter side, which is one of the reasons politicians gravitate toward the latenight couch. (Cruz did get in a line about his daughter and his reading Dr. Seuss during his filibuster, but that qualified as too little, too late.)

Relegated to the second guest spot (after Mariska Hargitay of NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”), Cruz still had ample time to pitch his positions, and certainly earned some national exposure among those who pay scant attention to politics. That said, if he really does harbor presidential ambitions, as Leno referenced, he’s going to need to work on this more casual aspect of his portfolio, beyond just wearing boots and no tie.

As for Weiner, Maher opened the “Real Time” appearance by expressing a general plea that politicians stop getting chased from the professional arena over their sexual peccadilloes, a suggestion that left Weiner — still sounding contrite about the Twitter-pic scandal that chased him from office and undercut his mayoral bid — relatively speechless. “It wasn’t that awful, what you did,” Maher said, citing John F. Kennedy’s more tangible infidelity as a contrast.

Weiner clearly felt much more comfortable once the conversation shifted to politics, allowing him to engage in a full-throated defense of healthcare reform and to bash Republicans for working against the government when they lose elections.

Ultimately, Weiner’s most serious addiction seems to be one common among politicians — namely, a hunger to remain in the spotlight. At this point, however, he’s still too close to his recent setbacks and all those one-liners, which continue to serve as a distraction.

Weiner still might have a future in punditry, while Cruz is ensconced in the thick of politics. On Friday, though, the headliners were Maher and Leno, leaving both of their much-talked-about guests looking like the No. 2 guy on the ticket.

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content