The Top 10 Late Night Television Moments of 2017

8 minute read

In a year when there was no shortage of political antics to be turned into comedy gold, it’s been a banner 12 months for late night television. But it wasn’t all policy talk. Hosts like Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel also managed to recruit guests that found a way to inject humor into everyday happenings like watching Game of Thrones or cashing in a Groupon.

Here are TIME’s picks for the top 10 late night moments of 2017.

10. Jimmy Kimmel takes a stand

After Jimmy Kimmel’s newborn son, William “Billy” Kimmel, underwent open heart surgery in April, the Live! host delivered a tearful plea for universal health care coverage that created waves across the late-night landscape. His emotional monologue was so powerful that we’ve also included it in our round-up of the Top 10 TV Episodes of the year.

Since then, Kimmel has not only remained an active participant in the national health care debate, but has also become a powerful advocate for gun control. He responded to the Las Vegas shooting — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — with an impassioned call to action to end gun violence. “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell,” Kimmel said of the tragedy.

9. Tiffany Haddish recounts her swamp tour with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith

Thanks largely to her hilarious turn in the breakout summer comedy Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish has experienced a well-deserved rise to stardom in 2017. But Haddish’s gift for laugh-out-loud humor was apparent even before the movie hit theaters. During a July appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, she captivated viewers with a wildly entertaining story about taking Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour.

“All I could think was, ‘Tiffany, you need to be as careful as possible,'” she riffed on driving the famous couple through New Orleans. “‘You don’t wanna be the b—h on TMZ who killed the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.'”

8. Samantha Bee skewers Harvey Weinstein

In the wake of the numerous sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Harvey Weinstein, Samantha Bee took it upon herself to deliver a rousing takedown of the longtime Hollywood producer. The Full Frontal host called out Weinstein for his “apology-like statement” as well as his excuse that he came of age in the “different” ’60s and ’70s before issuing a warning to all the other “creeps of Hollywood.”

“We know who you are,” she said. “Women talk to each other and we talk to journalists and we talk to lawyers. It’s 2017, we don’t have to put up with this s—t. We are coming for you.”

7. Aziz Ansari’s SNL cold open

Hosting Saturday Night Live is a daunting task at the best of times. But with the added pressure of performing just one night after the inauguration of the (arguably) most polarizing president in U.S. history, it’s a whole new game. Luckily, when Aziz Ansari took the stage at Studio 8H in January, it was clear he was up to the challenge. The seasoned comedian demonstrated his stand-up chops with a witty and well-received opening monologue that consistently put a humorous spin on the issues of the day.

Ansari closed out his set with a memorable final thought: “If you look at our country’s history, change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people. And if Day 1 is any indication, you are part of the largest group of angry people I have ever seen.”


6. Jennifer Lawrence interviews Kim Kardashian West

While filling in for Jimmy Kimmel as the host of Live!, Jennifer Lawrence gave us the celebrity interview we never knew we needed but now want to watch on repeat — a one-on-one with Kim Kardashian West that touched on everything from the reality star’s ex-boyfriends to what she and husband Kanye wear to bed. Lawrence even gifted viewers with a video of herself and Kardashian West’s mom, Kris Jenner, drunkenly dancing during a dinner party at Jenner’s Los Angeles home.

5. Trevor Noah grieves the Philando Castile verdict

“It broke me,” Trevor Noah said of the dash-cam footage of a Minnesota police officer fatally shooting Philando Castile during a traffic stop in 2016. Following the July acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez on all charges in Castile’s death, The Daily Show host aired the disturbing video before delivering an emotional monologue expressing his anguish over the treatment of black people by law enforcement.

“It’s one thing to have the system against you — the district attorneys, the police unions, the courts — that’s one thing,” he said. “But when a jury of your peers, your community, sees this evidence and decides that even this is self-defense, that is truly depressing. Because what they’re basically saying is, in America, it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because they are black.”

4. Leslie Jones and Seth Meyers watch Game of Thrones

After Seth Meyers missed the climactic fourth installment of Game of Thrones’ seventh season, the Late Night host made the wise decision to enlist Leslie Jones to help him catch up on the HBO drama. In the second round of “Game of Jones,” the Saturday Night Live star laid some serious Westerosi knowledge on Meyers by serving up a stream of hilarious running commentary on the episode.

Jones even got to scold Lord Varys himself — a.k.a. actor Conleth Hill — who joined the pair halfway through the segment.”I was saying, you can’t trust your a—!” Jones argued. “You know s—t that you’re not telling everybody. Like you know about the Red Witch, you didn’t tell ’em about the Red Witch!”

A sentiment we can all agree with.

3. Robin Thede presents ‘The Hairmaid’s Tale’

Robin Thede may have only come on the late night scene in October, but she’s already proving her future is bright by churning out sketches like “The Hairmaid’s Tale (Blessed Be the Baby Hair.)” Following the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Rundown host parodied the Emmy-winning drama by imagining a dystopian future in which racial micro-aggressions are forbidden. “After Trump caused a nuclear race war, white people outlawed any passive aggressive racial pettiness,” Thede introduced her audience to the new world.

2. John Oliver has Weird Al serenade North Korea

Never one to shy away from complex issues, John Oliver devoted nearly an entire episode of Last Week Tonight to dissecting the ongoing North Korea crisis. Amid heightened U.S. tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program, the host delivered an in-depth breakdown of the state of the isolated nation as well as President Donald Trump’s fraught relationship with its leader, Kim Jong Un. He then brought in special guest Weird Al Yankovic to perform a song on the accordion — North Korea’s supposedly most beloved instrument — in the hopes of extending a musical olive branch to the country.

1. Stephen Colbert interviews Anthony Scaramucci

In a year when Stephen Colbert’s sharp commentary on the Trump administration earned him an extended run as the reigning king of late night, nothing exemplified his knack for shrewdly scrutinizing American politics more than his interview with Anthony Scaramucci. Colbert threw a number of hardball questions at the former White House communications director — who resigned after just 10 days in the position following a profanity-laden interview with The New Yorker — that challenged the Mooch to address the issues of his short-lived tenure.

“Nazis, good or bad?” the Late Show host opened the interview, which took place in the wake of clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville in August. “Why do you think the President of the United States, who you called, ‘the most media-savvy person of our times,’ would shank a softball like that so hard, when he should have just come out there and condemned the people who were there to start violence.”

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