The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was most accurately summed up by Dana Bash on CNN moments after it concluded — "That was a sh--show," she said — but the late-night hosts had to get their own first reactions in following such a thoroughly unhinged evening. To put it as succinctly as Trevor Noah did on The Daily Show, "Yo, what was that?"
Noah, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel were all in agreement about the night being more of a 90-minute fight between Trump and Biden than it was a debate. Kimmel compared it to WrestleMania, Colbert referred to it as "the battle of the boomers," and Noah insisted, "They don't need a moderator for this thing, they need a UFC ref." Throughout his Late Show monologue, Colbert vacillated between joking and being genuinely disappointed, while Kimmel welcomed his guest Sen. Bernie Sanders to try and make sense of the whole thing. Toward the end of his opening segment, Colbert posed the question we were all left thinking, "I feel like I did coming out of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. How can we possibly do this two more times?"
Take a look at how the late-night hosts covered the Trump-Biden debate below.
As he did with the DNC and the RNC, Stephen Colbert was back for more live coverage immediately following Tuesday's debate, and while he got some good mileage out of his Trump impression, he seemed just as frustrated as the rest of us. "I come to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, an empty vessel," he said at the top of his monologue. "Forget fact-checking this debate, we couldn't even do any sentence-finding. I never thought I'd say this, but I am so looking forward to the vice presidential debate."
He ran through some of Trump's more egregious claims and statements, including the president's refusal to condemn white supremacy, his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, and his insistence that his campaign rallies have had "no negative effect." Colbert replied, "That's an interesting point. Herman Cain, your thoughts? Herman Cain? Evidently we're having connection issues with the great beyond." All jokes aside, Colbert ended on a serious note, stressing the importance of the election to his audience. "This is a serious moment, where human lives and the future of his irreplaceable country is on the line," he concluded.
Over at the Daily Show, Trevor Noah was fired up and had a lot of suggestions for the upcoming debates, "because I can not do 90 straight minutes of this sh-- ever again." Right away, he voiced his disapproval of Chris Wallace's moderating strategy, saying, "Thank you for your service, and I hope you have a lot of money for your therapy, you made a valiant effort. But you were not ready for this, because no human being could've been ready for this." He had a recommendation for future moderators: "Give the next moderator a spray bottle," he advised. "I promise you, Trump will be quiet, because his hair turns into a gremlin if it gets wet." Noah also advised that future debates should have commercial breaks every five minutes, adding that "every ad should be for anti-depressants."
The only solace Noah could find of the whole night was that, "Now we know what the Fight Club sequel will look like in 40 years." When trying to sum up his thoughts on the debate, Noah could only shrug in exasperation. "I don't know if anybody won," he said. "All I know is for the next debate, I'm going to stand back from the TV and stand by a bottle of wine."
After referring to it as the "worst debate ever" in his monologue, Jimmy Kimmel had a long talk with Sen. Bernie Sanders on Jimmy Kimmel Live. After Sanders admitted he yelled at his television "many" times throughout the night, he expressed his frustration over Trump's performance and reiterated (not for the first time) his stance on the U.S. health care system as well as the climate crisis.
Kimmel's last question for Sanders was about the $70,000 Trump claims to have spent on his hair. "How much are you spending on your hair on an annual basis?" Kimmel asked. "Uh, clearly not enough, that's for sure," Sanders joked.