As they returned to work after Sunday morning's mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, TV's late-night hosts faced the challenge none of them looks forward to.
Their specialty is mining laughs. Their quarry is the foolishness of the human race and the absurdities gleaned from the latest news. But when a national tragedy afflicts the nation — an event too wrenching to ignore and certainly no laughing matter — these jokesters must shift gears. They have to find a way to bond with their viewers, as they do every night, but with shared feelings unrelieved by the comfort of comedy.
That is what a number of these hosts did Monday night, opening their respective shows with apologies for departing from their customary hijinks, and with heart-felt expressions of shock and sorrow:
— Trevor Noah ("The Daily Show"): "I wonder if President Obama ever thought to himself that mass-shooting speeches would be such a big part of his job. Because at this point he's hosted 12 state dinners, but he's had to give 16 mass-shooting addresses. So right now the White House is using more Kleenex than it is good napkins. ... America needs to ask itself the question: Do you want to be a country that takes reasonable measures to protect its citizens, or should we tell the president to prepare speech No. 17?"
— Jimmy Fallon ("The Tonight Show"): "This (shooter) was just one bad guy here. Forty-nine good people, and one bad guy. And there will always be more good than evil. When I think of Orlando, I think of nothing but fun and joy and families. If anyone can do it, you can. Keep loving each other, keep respecting each other, and keep on dancing."
— Stephen Colbert ("The Late Show"): After so many mass shootings, "it's as if there's a national script that we have learned, and I think that by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time with nothing changing, except for the loved ones and families of the victims, for whom nothing will ever be the same. ... Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script. So love your country, love your family, love the families and the victims and the people of Orlando."
— Conan O'Brien ("Conan"): "Now I am not a pundit, I am not an expert, and I have always, always made it a policy to stick to my job and keep my opinions to myself. I have really tried very hard over the years not to bore you with what I think. However, I am a father of two, I like to believe I have a shred of common sense, and I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semi-automatic assault rifle. These are weapons of war and they have no place in civilian life."
— Larry Wilmore ("The Nightly Show"): "When the news broke, the people of this nation were unified in a selfless outpouring of support for the victims and their families. Well, it was selfless except for one person," indicating a self-congratulatory tweet by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
— Seth Meyers ("Late Night") also referenced Trump's tweet (which said "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism...."): "I don't know who's been congratulating Donald Trump, but you may want to redirect your congratulations to the first responders or those waiting in line to give blood. ... I have a feeling Donald Trump's not giving blood, and if he did, no one would want it, because it probably looks like ectoplasm."