Stephen Colbert kicked off his live election night special with an extended animated “My Cartoon President” bit which saw Donald Trump floating away with a giant balloon, leaving Joe Biden the supposed winner. However, right as the balloon passed the White House, it popped, and Biden realized that many votes still needed to be counted if he was going to oust the incumbent.
And sure enough, as Colbert and fellow late-night host Trevor Noah went live at 11 p.m. ET/PT the race was far too early and too close to call.
When Colbert appeared in person on Showtime, he was sat in an Oval Office set with only his wife and a couple of masked cameramen in the room. Both Colbert and “The Daily Show” host are having to walk the comedy tightrope of what their viewers are going to find funny on a night when their nerves are likely in shreds.
“We don’t know what some of tonight’s show is going to be, it’s like making cookies and we don’t know what’s going to be in the batch…chocolate chips or thumbtacks,” Colbert said in his opening monologue.
Colbert also highlighted the massive increase in mail-in votes due to the pandemic, saying that the GOP are “as we speak” trying to get those votes invalidated in multiple states.
“You know the old saying, if you can’t beat ’em, find a judge who says, you know what you actually did beat ’em,” Colbert joked.
The host also pointed to businesses across the country boarding up their storefronts in case protests kick off after the results, as well as cracking a joke about the massive wall that Trump erected in front of the White House.
“In the end they built the wall and locked him up,” Colbert said.
Colbert’s mood by the end seemed to be a mixture of resignation and perhaps a little cautious optimism, as he left viewers with a message urging them to be patient for the final results.
“It’s a good thing we don’t know who won yet,” Colbert said. “The truth is, the reason it’s taking so long to declare a winner is because we’ve had such a massive voter turnout….millions of you braved the pandemic, an army of poll watchers, even the post office…Each and every one of those votes deserves to be counted.”
Switching focus to Noah, the “Daily Show” emcee was broadcasting from an “election fallout shelter” in New York, with “Daily Show” correspondent Roy Wood Jr. sat next tom him nursing a drink.
During his special, Noah took a jab at Lindsey Graham while announcing that he had beaten Democrat Jaime Harrison in his South Carolina Senate race.
“Not really a surprise, the South has kept their Confederate monument,” Noah said.
Bills to legalize marijuana New Jersey and decriminalize mushrooms in Washington D.C. prompted Noah to make gag about how he might be able to handle four more years of Trump in the White House.
“If Trump wins again, all drugs should just become legal,” Noah said. “We cannot go through the next four years sober. I need heroin gummies, at least.”
The special also featured in-depth analysis of why compulsory voting will likely never become a reality in the United States.
Colbert previously hosted a live election special on Showtime in 2016, during which the host veered from surprise that Trump’s candidacy had made it that far, to incredulity that he was about to beat Hillary Clinton. Variety described the wild hour as “the late-night equivalent of a wake.”
This time around for “Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020: Democracy’s Last Stand: Building Back America Great Again Better 2020,” the “Late Show” host welcomed a guest list which includes Charlamagne Tha God, Alex Wagner, John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon.
Meanwhile Noah was joined by a host of familiar “Daily Show” correspondents including Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan, and Jaboukie Young-White. Jordan Klepper provided special reporting for “Votegasm.”