Last week a gunman stalked the halls of a high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people. Many late-night hosts were on hiatus at the time, meaning they were saved from delivering another round of despairingly de rigeur monologues in which they are forced to process grief—and make comedy—in the wake of a national tragedy. As many of them returned to new broadcasts last night, they all began by expressing the sense of astonishment and terror that necessarily accompanies yet another mass shooting, followed by yet another game of rhetorical slap-fighting and inevitable legislative inaction.
But, given a week’s distance, these monologues also had a welcome change from their predecessors. All were delivered in light of the massive, righteous, and coordinated efforts of the shooting’s survivors, who are staging mass walkouts in high schools across the country and a march on Washington to demand that this shooting doesn’t end up mired in political gamesmanship but, rather, substantive change.
Stephen Colbert stayed squarely on the actions of these young adults, saying, “There is one group that gives me hope that we can do something to protect our children, and sadly, it’s our children.” He also zeroed in on Marco Rubio, who in Congress recited the old “if someone wants to do a mass shooting, we can’t stop them” argument, which is an argument against the presence of laws and also the presence of Marco Rubio in Congress. “Then why do we need you?” Colbert asked of Rubio. “It seems like a houseplant would do a better job, and it’d probably need a little less water,” he said, before cutting to the old thirsty Marco Rubio clip.
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah spent more time surfacing the breathtakingly wrong, callous response to the shooting from Fox News pundits, who demanded more armed guards at schools, more armed teachers at schools, and training in hand-to-hand combat for students, because the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a child trained to disarm them. Noah pivoted to extrapolate this line of thinking with even more bad ideas, like equipping schools with super-magnets that’ll grab everything metallic, to be flipped on at the moment a gunman enters the school, kids with braces be damned. It’s grim stuff, and nobody needs to spend more time watching Fox News than necessary, but it’s worth looking at what some of the worst people in our modern political spectrum think is to be learned from a tragedy like Parkland.
And, lastly, James Corden defended his right to have an opinion, in part as the English father of American children who have grown up regularly practicing drills for earthquakes, which are unavoidable phenomena of nature, and drills for active shooters in their schools, which are not. He goes deeper on the statistics behind gun-control laws, citing examples of effective legislation in the U.K., Australia, and Japan, the last of which has barely any gun deaths at all, let alone deaths via mass shootings. Corden, like Noah and Colbert, ends with words of praise and clips of students like Emma Gonzalez, Carly Novell, Delaney Tarr, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky, who are, along with their fellow students, doing incredible things to assure that these late-night hosts won’t have to give monologues like these again.
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