Return to Transcripts main page

CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

Trump Up the Ante of Comedy; Politics No Laughing Matter to Anti-Trump. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... uncertain of our common future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN special report.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Buckle up, because I'm coming in hot! This is going to be a crazy one.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Every day, there's something nuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not the POTUS, you're the 'blotus.'

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, how long does this wall have to be?

BRIAN STELTER, SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, CNN: He's the most mocked man in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the problem with the media.

STELTER: Monopolizing late night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard not to feel like you're being redundant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jung-un as rocket man.

KIMMEL: Kim Jong-un, rocket man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un as rocket man.

STELTER: Dominating SNL.

BALDWIN: She's a nasty woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like a mine, producing raw material.

STELTER: He's blowing up scripts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a really great joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pace of the news...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... so much faster. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me first!

STELTER: Making and breaking careers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a little kind of Churchill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me!

STELTER: Would you say you're on a mission to take him down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to see him brought down, to the ground, preferably in handcuffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're turning into a real (muted) dictator.

STELTER: Has late-night gone too far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this disrespectful of the office of the presidency? I think so!

STELTER: Tonight, late night in the age of Trump.

November 8th, 2016. The Late Show's Stephen Colbert was hosting a live election night special, a seemingly dream gig for the comedian, who believed he'd be documenting history, the dawning of a Hillary Clinton presidency. He began the show upbeat.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: You don't need to chant my name. America doesn't have dictators, yet.

BILL CARTER, AUTHOR, WAR FOR LATE NIGHT: Here you have a guy, a host, ready to tell certain number of jokes that he expects are going to come out in the way he wants. And instead, the show starts to turn.

STELTER: Bill Carter is the author of the "War for Late Night."

CARTER: So he's like in between, he doesn't know which way to go.

COLBERT: When Trump wins a state, it will turn bright orange.

STELTER: Colbert tried to keep the jokes coming as the race got closer and closer.

COLBERT: This one is a nail biter and a passport grabber.

STELTER: Then, political experts gave Colbert some shocking news. Trump had taken the lead, winning two key states.

CARTER: The momentum shifts and his energy level drops. All the things about a woman being president, which was probably the theme of the night, has to be rejected and something else on the fly put in.

COLBERT: Would you care for a cocktail?

GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: By the time that whiskey ended up on his desk... COLBERT: Here's to democracy.

RUSSONELLO: You knew that things were off the rails.

STELTER: Giovanni Russonello is a culture reporter for the New York Times.

RUSSONELLO: I think he was just so incredibly unprepared to greet a Donald Trump presidency.

STELTER: At some point, it stopped being funny for him.

RUSSONELLO: It did stop being funny.

STELTER: And got downright uncomfortable when Trump went from underdog to front-runner.

COLBERT: Donald Trump has taken the state of Florida. That's a horrifying prospect. I can't put a happy face on that. And that's my job.

CARTER: All of his emotions were on display. And it made for incredibly arresting television, but in some ways disturbing. You're watching a guy have his hopes the drain out of him, right on the air. I've never seen anything like that before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sorry to keep you waiting. Complicated business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: When it was all over and the results were in, Colbert, shell shocked, left the audience with some dark final thoughts.

COLBERT: So, how did our politics get so poisonous? I think it's because we overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison.

CARTER: I think there was some sort of psychological change that came over Colbert.

COLBERT: We, as a nation, agree that we should never, ever have another election like this one. Do you agree?

(APPLAUSE)

CARTER: He became a different host after that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the late show with Stephen Colbert!

STELTER: Colbert's harsh attacks on Trump galvanized viewers, catapulting him and the Late Show to its biggest ratings victory in two decades.

COLBERT: Welcome to the late show, I'm your host, Stephen Colbert.

RUSSONELLO: It took him months, maybe about a year before he found his traction. And the question was, when he ditches the conservative pundit persona that he used throughout the Colbert report, is he going to be able to consistently amuse people and be outrageous.

COLBERT: You, Donald Trump, are a horrible, horrible human being.

[22:04:59] STELTER: By February, Colbert edged out longtime rival, Jimmy Fallon, when he ripped apart Trump's first solo press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: To be honest, I inherited a mess.

COLBERT: No, you inherited a fortune, we elected a mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Colbert never let up, growing more vocal and more vicious as time passed.

COLBERT: I have the constitutional right to say that Donald Trump looks like a rotting haystack made of meat, but you cannot.

STELTER: Trump gave new life to all the late-night hosts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a human. What is wrong with this picture?

CARTER: Trump keeps creating the material. He's like a mine, he's producing raw material.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just going to look them in the camera and say, ISIS, stop it.

STELTER: Have you ever seen anything like this in another presidency?

CARTER: There's never been anything like this in a presidency. We've never had this many late-night people before, so we've never had teams of 10 or 12 comedy writers all writing jokes about the same guy all the same time.

KIMMEL: We went into the weekend worrying about Kim Jong-un starting a war and came out of it wondering if the president is cutting eye holes out of his bed sheets.

STELTER: How many late-night hosts are members of the resistance?

CARTER: Well, at least two overtly. Colbert and Seth Meyers are to me, like the voice of the resistance. Basically, their whole shows are about Trump.

SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: I boldly said on this show that it was a stunt and he would never really run.

STELTER: Seth Meyers was equally stunned on election night. He offered a mea culpa on late-night the next day.

MEYERS: Based on this pattern of me being wrong on every one of my Donald Trump predictions, he's probably going to be a great (muted) president.

STELTER: Then he gave the new president a warning.

MEYERS: We, here, at late night will be watching you.

STELTER: Meyers kept that promise, brutally dissecting Trump's every move in his signature closer look segment.

STELTER: Would you call what you're doing now investigative comedy?

MEYERS: We do try to bring out information that you couldn't get out in a monologue joke, so we try to do a longer piece where we can sort of have a little bit more freedom to explain the story.

Trump is so fully out of his mind, he broke a general. That guy has been in wars.

STELTER: It might be explanatory journalism sometimes?

MEYERS: Sure. I think we try very hard. Explanatory comedy. Again, I'm always...

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: You're afraid of the J-word, aren't you?

MEYERS: I feel like I'm doing a disservice to people who actually practice journalism to say I'm doing it as well. I like doing comedy the most, so that's what I would like to stick with.

STELTER: But experts say in the era of Trump, viewers depend on comedians like Meyers to make sense of the constant cycle of news.

MEYERS: It's time for breaking crazy.

RUSSONELLO: He's going as in-depth as he can. The line between late- night comedy and news reporting is so thoroughly blurred. People want a kind of a front-line style late-night show.

COLBERT: Two thousand sixteen has been an uncommonly (muted) year.

STELTER: What viewers want, they get, and plenty of it. Coming up, the daily show descendants.

COLBERT: You were telling the president about Putin. Go.

RUSSONELLO You really see a Jon Stewart decision of late-night. It was really pushed along by the Donald Trump presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American legion Trump, respectful and strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to get going soon. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to go.

STELTER: And later, the ever-expanding late-night landscape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the president of the United States! Let's go!

[22:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER: January 10th, 2017.

MEYERS: We have a lot of people who are sort of tasked with watching things as they happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York...

STELTER: One hour before Seth Meyers taped Late Night, there was big breaking news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: That night, Kellyanne Conway, Trump's incoming White House counselor, was scheduled to appear on his show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seth Meyers, this is late-night.

MEYERS: I had the CNN printout of that story. I made sure I understood the details of it. Because, obviously, it wasn't my expertise.

STELTER: He started things out light.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEYERS: He is my president.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Good for you.

MEYERS: He's my president so much, it's keeping me up at night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Then he got serious. Probing Conway about the big news of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEYERS: I believe it said they did brief him on that. CONWAY: Well, he has said that he is not aware of that.

MEYERS: OK. That concerns me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: He was incredibly prepared. Unlike even some news people interviewing her. He would not let her get away with anything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEYERS: I sometimes fear that the president-elect has no curiosity as to the amount they tried ...

CONWAY: That is completely false.

MEYERS: OK.

CONWAY: He has enormous curiosity. I'm there every day with him. He has a number of different meetings every day, briefings and otherwise. He was curious enough to figure out America. He knew America when many other republicans did not.

(CROSSTALK)

MEYERS: That's a pivot right there, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: No, the democrats did not...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: He did not let her slip away. I thought it was very effective. It was one of the best interviews he's done.

MEYERS: In general, you always walk away from interviews with politicians wishing, you know, you'd pushed a little harder.

STELTER: Have the hosts stopped being funny and started getting too serious?

MEYERS: It's become a new brand of comedy, I think, that's both informative, and yes, I do think pretty funny.

STELTER: Giovanni Russonello was hired by the New York Times to do a roundup column called best of late night.

RUSSONELLO: We realized that Trump was redefining late-night TV.

STELTER: Do you think if someone watched these shows every night the way you do, they would find themselves changing their political views?

RUSSONELLO: No, I think that the way these shows work, they tune into a certain decibel level, a certain level of outrage, a certain angle of critique.

COLBERT: The president was griping about is size of the crowd and wondering how his pink tie played with his audience.

STELTER: Who would you say is the toughest on Trump?

RUSSONELLO: Colbert has been the most savage in his attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: I'm the most unpopular president in modern history. I have deepened America's racial divide. We are on the brink of thermonuclear conflict. It's got to be the pink tie, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSONELLO: Other hosts are making equally, if not even more substantive critiques of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN: Trump's trust in Breitbart actually goes way back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSONELLO: Every time we see John Oliver, once a week, they've spent a full week preparing what are essentially investigative reports.

[22:15:00] OLIVER: Holding up a Breitbart article does not make you seem more credible.

STELTER: Oliver, a daily show vet, has earned the rep of being one of the sharpest political satirists on late-night. He devotes a huge chunk of HBO's last week tonight to fact finding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVER: The press is going to be a key element in helping us sort out fact from fiction. And they are under attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Do you remember in February, he hires a bunch of singing dancers to try to inform Trump about Putin.

RUSSONELLO: Pageantry for him is activism and I think that's part of our new reality.

He's essentially being a town crier and an advocate as well as a new- fangled TV comedian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CORDEN, ACTOR: Donald Trump is acting moodier and more erratic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: James Corden is a more broad-approached guy, but he's done some pretty tough things about Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORDEN: And recently confided in one White House aide, telling him, I hate everyone in the White House. Is this guy the president of the United States or a cast member on Big Brother? I hate everyone in the house!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Corden and Oliver have a way of looking at the American experience like, are you kidding me? This is what you people do?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORDEN: I'm sharing news from the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: The clever bits kept coming. But with so many late-night stars, how do hosts stand apart?

Do you ever worry about saying the same thing every other show is saying?

STEVE BODOW, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE DAILY SHOW: Yes, we think about it a little bit, but it happens less often than you would think.

STELTER: Steve Bodow is the executive producer of the daily show with Trevor Noah.

TREVOR NOAH, COMEDIAN: We said Trump was an African dictator, right?

BODOW: Trevor has a certain point of view and a certain style. And so even if Stephen's show observe the same thing on a given night, it's still going to come out differently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH: Donald Trump does not (muted) around, yes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSONELLO: He delivers these punches against Donald Trump that doesn't have the nastiness other hosts do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH: Special, like important? Or special, like the guy I made fun of? Which one?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: He struggled to find his voice when he took over Jon Stewart's chair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the daily show with Trevor Noah.

STELTER: But nearly two years, Noah and the daily show were flying high. Then there was that one epic week in May.

BODOW: Comey is fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH: If he's gone, who's going to investigate Russia's ties to...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BODOW: It comes out that Trump maybe leaked information to the Russians in the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH: This is trap, no? No, it has to be. No, it can't be this easy. Come on. Come on.

Mueller is appointed, probably saying to himself, man, I am glad I'm not part of this anymore. I am just like -- hello?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BODOW: Each night, we were rewriting the show almost on the fly when that happened. I was very proud of that.

STELTER: Trump and those bombshells notched Trevor Noah his best week ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH: Comey reminds me of every black mother. I brought you into this world and, child, I can take you out of it!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Is Donald Trump the best thing that's ever happened to late- night TV?

MEYERS: There are certainly days where it seems that way.

STELTER: Next, too much Trump?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He refers to Kim Kong-un as rocket man. Which beats the other nickname he gave him, little Kim.

KIMMEL: Maybe it will make him sound like he's an action-packed new movie franchise. Just call him little Kim.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MEYERS: And there are also times when it's hard not to feel like

you're being redundant.

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now, ladies and gentlemen, here's Johnny!

STELTER: There was only one real king of late night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we've got a real humdinger of a show tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Johnny Carson held court for 30 years. But when it came to politics, he chose punch lines over political attacks. Razzing presidents like Ronald Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see the picture in the magazine of Reagan riding his horse on the ranch with George Bush riding behind with a pooper-scooper?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Johnny Carson wanted to be everything to everybody. He wanted to be a Middle American kind of guy.

STELTER: Bill Carter has covered the media industry for more than 30 years.

CARTER: He was looking for the joke of it. He would look for the silliness of it. He wasn't a member of the resistance, let's put it that way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't know, Brian. My fellow Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't know. You just remember those things, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Former SNL cast member, Joe Piscopo took his own jabs at President Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE PISCOPO, COMEDIAN: If you vote for me again in 1984, you'll receive this handsome set of Ginsu steak knives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Piscopo said back then, late-night hosts did not attack.

CARTER: Johnny Carson, he would always joke about Nixon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to lend me your makeup man, are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I wouldn't lend him to Lyndon Johnson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: He would joke about Gerald Ford, but it was never vicious. It seems to be vicious now.

STELTER: Like Johnny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Jay Leno!

STELTER: The tonight show's Jay Leno kept his punches light.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: A lot of people think I probably went up because of that kiss he gave tipper at the convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Leno, you can't tell how I vote. You have no idea how I vote from listening to me.

STELTER: Even David Letterman, the master of stinging insults, held back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Does it bother you that I'm always, you know, yakking about stuff?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm glad you're saying my name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: If you pressed David, like, what do I know? I don't know anything. I'm just an idiot who tells joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Jon Stewart, COMEDIAN: Welcome, welcome to the daily show.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Then in 1999, Jon Stewart, a new late-night host, burst on to the scene.

STEWART: This whole trial is sexy.

STELTER: And the slant radically changed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There might be a woman candidate who will be elected president watching this evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not on comedy central.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Jon Stewart really changed it. Jon Stewart brought big-time point of view to late-night. Consistent point of view. You know, he wasn't always liberal, but he was extremely committed to certain issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: We are, as we speak, live from our election center studios in New York City's abandoned prostitute district.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:25:02] BODOW: It was the 2000 presidential campaign when the show went from being mostly about pop culture to really focusing on the election.

STELTER: Steve Bodow was Jon Stewart's executive producer on the Daily Show.

BODOW: By then, the show was a political show and it pretty much has been ever since.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good news for Mitt Romney, he has won tonight, we can announce this right now, most of the confederacy.

STELTER: Giovanni Russonello writes the best of late-night column for the New York Times.

RUSSONELLO Mulling over the certain compact news story and teasing out all the ironies of it has become sort of the rubric for almost everybody on late-night.

MEYERS: Responding to Trump's ill-informed tweets can be a full-time job. And I know, because it's my full-time job.

STELTER: Late-night now had a blueprint. New shows were spawning new talent.

RUSSONELLO: Jon Stewart is the jumping off point for Stephen Colbert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trevor Noah. Trevor, thanks for joining us!

RUSSONELLO: Trevor Noah.

OLIVER: Welcome to the daily show!

RUSSONELLO: And John Oliver.

STELTER: That late-night lineup exploded even more with Trump. All of them covering politics and the president, 24/7.

How has it changed the landscape?

CARTER: Just crazily changed. And basically, you just learn more about Trump now. So it's really not topical humor, it's Trump humor.

STELTER: Are there nights where it feels like too much Trump, it's overkill?

RUSSONELLO: Yes. I think that there are most nights feel that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un as rocket man.

KIMMEL: Kim Jong-un, rocket man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un as rocket man.

MEYERS: That's not a dis. That's a cool nickname.

STELTER: With so much Trump news...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which beats the other nickname he gave him, little Kim.

STELTER: ... hosts have no choice but riff on the same material.

BODOW: The pace of the news is so much faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trevor Noah!

STELTER: Steve Bodow now runs the Daily Show with Trevor Noah who took over for Jon Stewart in 2015.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fire ants are coming together to save each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a way I admire.

STELTER: They invited us in for a sneak peek behind the creative curtain of their show.

BODOW: We watch a lot of video clips, throw jokes around the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like that better.

BODOW: Then we take maybe an hour and a half to re-write the show. Tape it at 6.30 and get to go home. That's the normal way. It doesn't happen very much anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

STELTER: In the age of Trump, shows are sometimes turned upside down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I now just got a piece of information in my ear that Scaramucci has just resigned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: At the 11th hour.

When's the last time you had to blow up the scripts?

BODOW: Yesterday. The mooch couldn't make it to day 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH: The guy got fired before the job began.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Being able to plan ahead has become virtually impossible.

PISCOPO: And now the president tweets again. You can't make this up. I'm loving every minute of it.

Five minutes after 9 o'clock with Piscopo in the morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Joe Piscopo doesn't mind the rapid pace of Trump news.

PISCOPO: It's a gift from heaven. It's a gift from God. Everybody is so upset. There's the vitriol, the hate, the divide. I'm loving it.

PISCOPO: It's time for you.

STELTER: The former SNL comic now hosts a conservative radio talk show.

PISCOPO: I campaign in Florida. I spoke at a Trump/Pence rally.

I've known Donald like 25 years, man, OK?

STELTER: As someone who voted for Trump, you don't get angry at the jokes, all the attacks from late-night comics the way that others do.

PISCOPO: No. Does it go too far? It does go too far. Does it go disrespectful of the office of the presidency of the United States? I think so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: Let me read this presidential briefing. Yes, I got the president, I got the briefing right here. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Next, how far is too far? Late-night goes off the rails.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: You're the president! But you're turning into a real (muted) dictator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESTER HOLT, HOST, NBC NEWS: Good evening from Hofstra University. I'm Lester Holt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN STELTER, SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It's debate night on SNL, October 2018. This was Alec Baldwin's debut of Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Our jobs are fleeing this country. They're going to Mexico. They're going to China. I have to stop it. If Hillary knew how, she would have done it already. Period. End of story. I won the debate. I stayed calm. Just like I promised. And it is over. Good night, Hofstra.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Baldwin was winging it. Later, he told the late show's Stephen Colbert that the first time he tried out Trump was during his SNL dress rehearsal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: It's totally a caricature. You know, you just pick a few things. Like, I'm sitting in the room, I'm going, left eyebrow up, right eyebrow down, shove your face out like you're trying to suck the chrome off the fender of a car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLT: Mr. Trump, two more minutes.

BALDWIN: The thing about the blacks...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: As he sparred with Kate McKinnon's hilarious Hillary Clinton, viewers ate it up.

KATE MCKINNON, ACTRESS: This man is clearly unfit to be commander in chief.

BALDWIN: Wrong.

MCKINNON: He is a bully.

BALDWIN: Shut up.

MCKINNON: He started the birther movement.

BALDWIN: You did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: After that night, Baldwin's rendition of Trump was forever cemented in America's psyche.

MCKINNON: And number four.

BILL CARTER, AUTHOR, WAR FOR LATE NIGHT: Saturday Night Live now has a permanent character. They always had presidents, but this is now this, you know, iconic Saturday Night Live character.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Send in Steve Bannon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Members of Trump's team gave SNL even more red meat. Kate McKinnon stole the show as Trump's overworked campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKINNON: Hello, Jake. Do you want a drink?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: And post-election, Kate's impersonation of an unhinged Conway trying to win over CNN's Jake Tapper...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKINNON: I'm not going to be ignored!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: ... gave SNL's version of fatal attraction another hit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:35:00] MELISSA MCCARTHY, COMEDIAN: I'm here to swallow gum and I'm here to take names!

STELTER: Comedian Melissa McCarthy struck comedy goal as press secretary Sean Spicy Spicer. MCCARTHY: And our president will not be deterred.

(APPLAUSE)

STELTER: Driving his podium into the press.

MCCARTHY: Are you kidding me? Are you...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: A lot of it is just funny. And again, all credit goes to Trump for that. He sets that up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Saturday Night Live.

STELTER: Trump gave SNL a record-shattering season.

BALDWIN: Come on over here to daddy.

STELTER: And brought Baldwin back for another round.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States...

STELTER: SNL has historically always gone after presidents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hold on, Harry, why so tense?

STELTER: Arguably, no one did a better Ronald Reagan than comic Joe Piscopo.

JOE PISCOPO, COMEDIAN: I think Alec Baldwin is absolutely brilliant. Folks get upset when they see Alec Baldwin portray Donald Trump, but you know what I learned, man, you don't cut funny. And if it's funny, it's going to hurt, but you got to have a sense of humor about it.

STELTER: So Trump should embrace these caricatures?

PISCOPO: Absolutely. Donald Trump should invite Alec Baldwin to the White House.

STELTER: But so far, Trump is not laughing. After Baldwin's debut, the president hate-tweeted his disdain. "Just tried watching SNL. Unwatchable! Totally biased. Not funny. And the Baldwin impersonation just can't get any worse. Sad!"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do miss my old life.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: We all do, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: As the Trump jokes escalated, the president's distaste for late night intensified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: You attract more skinheads than free Rogaine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: In May, the late show's Stephen Colbert found himself in hot water when he blasted Trump in an over-the-top profanity-laden meltdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's (muted) holster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: His tirade sparked a firestorm in the press and fueled the hash tag fire Colbert campaign on Twitter. Trump did not respond right away.

GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Trump was obviously restrained for the first six months of his presidency.

STELTER: But days after the attack, the president surfaced, condemning Colbert in a Time magazine interview saying, quote, "You see a no-talent guy like Colbert. There's nothing funny about what he says."

RUSSONELLO: He was probably watching these shows and probably feeling offended every night. At that moment, we realized that he couldn't take it anymore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: The only thing smaller than your hands is your tax returns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Trump went on, slamming Colbert over his improved ratings. "The guy was dying. By the way, they were going to take him off television." Then he started attacking me and he started doing better. Colbert's response was, to say the least, effusive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: The president of the United States has personally come after me and my show. And there's only one thing to say.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: I think when Trump tweets about one of these shows, they probably have a party. They must love that. Because that means they're scoring points. STELTER: Months later, Trump took aim at late-night again, tweeting

"Late-night hosts are dealing with the democrats for their very unfunny and repetitive material. Always anti-Trump! Should we get equal time?"

It did not take long for a late-night report. Jimmy Kimmel tweeted, "Excellent point, Mr. President. You should quit that boring job. I'll let you have my show all to yourself." The Trump versus late night war wages on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: So we put the baby in the ambulance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Coming up, crossing the line from satire to activism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: If your baby is going to die, and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT: I have something to say here. Donald Trump, if you're watching, first of all, you're a bad president. Please resign. Second of all...

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: In the Trump era, the Late Show's Stephen Colbert's satirical voice cracked the code. But Colbert's method of madness is in sharp contrast to what not long ago was a winning formula on NBC's the Tonight Show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Wow. I look fantastic.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: The thing about Jimmy is he does an impression of Trump, a very good impression of Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FALLON: All right, me, we've got a big interview with Jimmy Fallon coming up. But let's be honest, Fallon is a lightweight. No way he deserves to interview me. The only one qualified to interview me is me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Bill Carter is the author of the Late Shift.

CARTER: He doesn't want to be in the mix of, this is my point of view and you know, I'm pounding away at the president. He knows it's not his strength. He doesn't want to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope they're going to understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Just months before the election, Jimmy Fallon was vilified for being too soft on Trump. His ratings suffered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

STELTER: Was interviewing Trump and playing with him a big deal? Was that actually a big deal?

Giovanni Russonello is a culture reporter for the New York Times.

RUSSONELLO: I think he's acknowledged since then that, yes, it was a huge deal and that he was surprised by the kind of blowback that he got, but he has to reckon with it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: Today, Trump said he believes in torturing prisoners, which is bad news for Melania. And...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Like Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel stuck to a more traditional show on ABC.

RUSSONELLO: He's sort of like your all-American 1950s guy. He's not especially progressive in his social views in my opinion. I don't think of him like out there to bash conservatives.

[22:44:56] STELTER: That persona changed last May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: So now...

STELTER: When Kimmel, through tears, revealed a health scare involving his newborn son.

KIMMEL: It's a terrifying thing. I'm -- you know, my wife is back in the recovery room. She has no idea what's going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Kimmel's emotional story became a call to action on health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make. I think that's something that whether you're a republican or a democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: He puts himself out there in the middle of the health care discussion. I think he really zeroed in on that. And it's kind of made him, you know, a heroic figure for some people.

STELTER: Then Kimmel was fully immersed in the political fray when he had on the Louisiana senator who was making a last-ditch effort to pass a new health reform bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: The Jimmy Kimmel test I think should be, no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it. Can that be the Jimmy Kimmel test? Is that oversimplifying it?

(APPLAUSE)

BILL CASSIDY, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Hey, man, you're on the right track. And if that's as close as we can get, that works great in government. Now, we've got to be able to pay for it, and that's the challenge.

KIMMEL: I can think of how to pay for it. Don't give a huge tax cut to millionaires like me and instead leave it how it is. That would be one way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Months later, in September, Kimmel went on a three-night tirade, announcing that Cassidy's proposed Jimmy Kimmel test failed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: They continued to duke it out when the senator said Kimmel didn't understand the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand and you got caught with your GOP-enis out. Is that possible?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Kimmel didn't let up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: I don't want to turn this into a Kanye and Taylor Swift-type situation.

STELTER: This time calling out Trump.

KIMMEL: There's no way President Trump read this bill. The democrats should just re-name it Ivankacare. Guaranteed he gets onboard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSONELLO: Kimmel is not a political actor by nature, but the entire sphere of late-night has become so politicized that it's almost within my job description now.

STELTER: As Trump's wild ride continued, Jimmy Fallon was pulled in, too. It was the horrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia, that provoked him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FALLON: Even though the tonight show isn't a political show, it's my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being.

What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, was just disgusting. The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racist and white supremacists is shameful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSONELLO: It was a moment when the gloves came off. I think, even Fallon said, this is no way for a president to act and that he needs to apologize.

STELTER: Do you think he was reluctant to do this?

RUSSONELLO: I felt like -- I felt like his mode of delivery was strange.

FALLON: It's important for everyone --

RUSSONELLO: It just made me think, he's just telling this like he tells his jokes.

FALLON: Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it. RUSSONELLO: So Kimmel is still mining that divide between, am I the

all-American guy or am I the critic? It's one that Fallon has decisively sort of advocated that choice. He said, I'm not going to even budge.

STELTER: Fallon ditched the hair-messing, but continued the Trump mocking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FALLON: Buckle up, because I'm coming in hot! This is going to be a crazy one. Daddy came to play.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT SHOW: I think when you look at the 11.30 shows, they're different kinds of television shows.

COLBERT: If you were a better president...

MEYERS: Some people want to turn on late-night shows and they want to see hard takes on politics and other people use it for escapism. And I think it's important that those shows still exist. And I think Jimmy does that better than anybody.

STELTER: Coming up, the new faces of late-night.

FALLON: I won't deport you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hear me?!

FALLON: Let's roll!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hold my breath for a long time.

STELTER: The ritual is a labor of love for comedian Anthony Atamanuik. He's transforming to President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's wrong?

STELTER: Atamanuik is the break out star of the show unlike anything else on TV. Comedy's Central the president show. Imagine Donald Trump hosting his own late night series.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY ATAMANUIK, COMEDIAN: I turn the Oval Office into a classic late night set.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Anthony channels a darker version of Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's the president you hate?

ATAMANUIK: It is me.

STELTER: What did you figure out early on about playing him?

ATAMANUIK: He has a sort of like animal thing with his jaw where he's like, he push his jaw forward and does this Mussolini turn.

STELTER: Anthony got his start in New York's improve clubs (Ph).

ATAMANUIK: We will never plagiarize Michelle Obama.

STELTER: Which is where he realized he did a pretty good Trump.

Your performance at UCB, then you pitch this show to Comedy Central.

ATAMANUIK: Yes. The pitch was Donald Trump is bored at the White House but he does, he always wanted his TV show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

I think it is important to let the audience know who's being nice and who's being not nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.

STELTER: The president show was born.

ATAMANUIK: I'm the president, can you believe it?

STELTER: Airing once a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went to a wedding to Mar-a-Lago.

STELTER: It looks like a real late night talk show with celebrity guests and banter with Trump's side kick. V.P. Mike Pence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ATAMANUIK: You know what? Get him out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

ATAMANUIK: get him out. I don't want to talk to you either. Get him out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ATAMANUIK: What we try to do is turn them into sort f a dark version of Abbott and Costello.

STELTER: Like art imitating like, others in the Trump's administrations have had short runs. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.

[22:54:59] STELTER: Like chief strategist Steve Bannon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who put that drawer in the door way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys heard in the front door, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: And his infamous White House communications director.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

MARIO CANTONE, COMEDIAN: I'm so good with being short because I don't want to step on stage and (Inaudible) Do the smooch.

ATAMANUIK: Anthony Scarramucci.

STELTER: Played Sex and City actor Mario Cantone.

CANTONE: Not bad a bit.

STELTER: The real fun begins when POTUS (Ph) leaves the studio for improvise sketches.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really terrible. What are we off throwing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: In one popular segment Anthony is Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ATAMANUIK: It is all changed. This is not like the old neighborhood at all.

STELTER: He visits his childhood home, in Queens New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a beautiful neighborhood. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What an awful block.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Why did you want to bring your character here?

ATAMANUIK: I always want to do the roots of trump. My version of him is like sort of petulant and like always rejecting his past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where Donald Trump is born.

ATAMANUIK: OK. I don't need my own biography, Mike.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: The formula worked. The show is evolved to the top of Comedy Central's rating. This demands for Trump humor. It brought another comic to an unexpected place.

CARTER: I would never think to watch a late night show on Netflix on a daily basis because that's not what it does. But it's interested that she landed there. Chelsea Handler landed Netflix's first talk show Chelsea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA HANDLER, COMEDIAN: Donald Trump monkeys...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Viewers being her outrageous rant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANDLER: A little place I like to call monkey business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: By about her least favorite person.

How much of your show has changed as a result of the Trump candidacy.

HANDLER: A lot. I mean, I'm a real loud mouth. I can't help myself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANDLER: According to WebMD, the symptoms of syphilis are exhibit a, patchy hair loss, exhibit b, visual problems and squinting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Would you say you are on a vision to take him down?

HANDLER: I would like to see him brought down, down to the ground, preferably in handcuffs. I want him to be in prison. I think a lot of people want him to be in prison. STELTER: Handler uses her hour-long show to delve in into divisive

issues like DACA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANDLER: These young people are the American dream, 91 percent of them are employed and 99 percent of them have no criminal record. That means they've never obstructed justice, colluded with Russia, fraud to people through a fake university, drive about sexual assault or pardon a racist maniac. So.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: In the end, Handler chose politics over late night.

After a rocky two seasons...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't you know why Trump is so big?

STELTER: The comedian says he was ending her Netflix show to focus on activism.

HANDLER: It's important to me to use my platform for good. A lot of people say you don't do politics, you don't have a choice now. OK. This is like, this is serious stuff. So we don't have a choice to opt out.

STELTER: Has Trump been good for the Chelsea Handlers of the world.

HANDLER: I mean, in terms of comedy, like, God, you have so much materials. Yes, you can take the materials. I don't want this kind of comedy. No.

STELTER: Same goes for Anthony Atamanuik.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ATAMANUIK: We are going to take people who are illegal immigrants and ship them into other country. What do you think of that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: What happens on the day President Trump running as president?

ATAMANUIK: I'll probably put some stones in my pocket and walk out of the ocean. I don't want to do him anymore.

COLBERT: A lot of people are saying Trump wants our foreign policy to be good cop/bad cop. I think it's more like good cop and insane president.

MEYERS: There is no way anyone who comes after will ever take out as much in the show that we built on, on President Trump.

CARTER: That's going to be a fascinating thing to watch if it happens in four years or whenever it happens. They're going to be like addicts that have to completely go cold turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, have you seen Donald Trump? If there is one thing he is never going to get is a clean bill of health.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: There is never going to be somebody like Trump again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: And even though he mean he won't talk about Donald Trump much tonight and then he opened his mouth and all manner of stupid came out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: This is a one of a kind situation both for the country and for the comedians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ATAMANUIK: I have the power to destroy any country on earth but I promise you. It will be America first. See you next week.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it for late show, everybody.

Have a great night.

KIMMEL: Good night everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)