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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Adrian Horton

Stephen Colbert on the return to late-night: ‘It feels good to be back’

Stephen Colbert on stage hosting his late-night show
Stephen Colbert: ‘The writers strike is over with a new contract that includes protections for AI, cost of living increases, better pay for streaming.’ Photograph: Youtube

Stephen Colbert

More than five months after he went off the air for the writers strike, Stephen Colbert returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater for a Late Show monologue on Monday evening. “Oh, it feels good to be back,” he said.

“Now the writers strike is over with a new contract that includes protections for AI, cost of living increases, better pay for streaming,” he added. “Plus, thanks to the picket lines, my writers got fresh air and sunshine, and they do not care for that. Now they’re back safely in their joke holes, doing what they do best: making my prompter word screen full of good and haha.”

A lot had happened since he last took to the stage – “I believe we’ve been off the air for 154 indictments. It was a crazy summer to be off,” he quipped. So Colbert tried to zoom through as much 2023 news as possible, including: King Charles’s coronation, the first Trump indictment for mishandling classified documents, Barbenheimer, Elon Musk’s rebrand of Twitter to X (“to which the world replied: why?”) and another Trump indictment for fueling the January 6 insurrection.

And, of course, Trump’s mugshot for a third indictment in Georgia. “That is one anger-glazed ham,” Colbert joked.

He also touched on the other great saga of the moment: Taylor Swift potentially dating the Kansas City Chiefs tight-end Travis Kelce, after she was seen cheering him on at two Sunday games in a row. “This is all great publicity for the NFL,” Colbert noted. “Mere rumors that Tay-Tay might be at last night’s game-game sent ticket prices surging more than 40%. It used to be that you couldn’t afford to watch Taylor Swift. Now you can’t afford to watch Taylor Swift watch something.”

But “the Swift Lift is not limited to tickets”, he continued. “Her maybe-boyfriend’s jersey saw a 400% spike in sales,” and the jean shorts she was wearing are now sold out everywhere.

“Everything she touches is instantly revitalized” he surmised, giving him an idea: “Taylor, if this relationship doesn’t work out, is there any way you can start dating one of our nation’s crumbling bridges?”

Jimmy Kimmel

“We’ve been gone so long the Bachelor is now a grandfather,” Jimmy Kimmel quipped during his first show back in Los Angeles. The new writers contract is “a big win for the little guy and a big win for the chubby guy and the hairy dude and the weird girl who doesn’t make eye contact, and the for the two potheads in the Star Wars T-shirts that are too small for their bodies and the guy who’s too old to have a ponytail and the lady whose cats each have their own Instagram pages,” he said. “We call them writers, and they are all back to work.”

“We hope that the actors and the auto workers and the healthcare workers all get the contracts they deserve, too.”

Kimmel then pivoted to his favorite target: Donald Trump, who now faces 91 felony counts. “It’s like all of Melania’s birthday wishes came true at once,” Kimmel joked.

The host noted that, for most stories during the summer, he was not tempted to have the show back to comment. But “the one that really got me was when they booked Trump in Georgia and he self-reported his weight at 215lbs. I almost crossed the picket line for that,” he said. “If he’s 215lbs, that means he’s 30lbs lighter than his last physical when he was president. He was 245lbs, which means he’s either lying or the colonel is now frying his chicken in Ozempic.”

Seth Meyers

And on Late Night Seth Meyers thanked many people for getting the show back to work. “I never take this show for granted, but being away from it for as long as I’ve been away from it, really hits home how much I love having this as a workplace,” he said.

“I have a great relationship with the people who run this place, and even though we were on opposite sides during the strike, I want to thank them,” he added. “They made some very compassionate choices about the people who work at this show and at this network, and it did not go unnoticed. They have my gratitude for that.”

In a separate, half-hour closer look segment, Meyers then tore through five months’ worth of Trump news, including his fraud case in New York. “This ruling undercuts his entire mythology. Everything about him is a lie,” he said. “Not only were his businesses and net worth inflated, but he even pretended that his own apartment was three times bigger than it actually was. Next we’re going to find out that he and Melania are just friends. I’m kidding – friends like each other.

“And yet somehow, this fraud trial could end up being the least of Trump’s concerns,” as he has four upcoming criminal trials, three of which have trial dates scheduled. “The faraway frontrunner for the GOP nomination is facing four indictments and a civil fraud case against his entire business. But fair is fair, and I do want to give the Republican party credit,” he deadpanned. “I’m happy to report that in the five months since we were last on the air, the GOP has undergone a radical transformation into a serious, sober-minded collection of diligent professionals capable of competently administering the basic functions of government.

“I’m just kidding – it’s still an ass-over-tea-kettle clusterfuck.”

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