The last word on Wednesday night’s presidential debate went to the nation’s late-night comics as they caught up with the debate discussion Thursday night.
The big faceoff between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney was Topic A for all the late-night funnymen.
They commented on the president’s perceived listlessness, Romney’s infamous Big Bird quip and even the performance of moderator Jim Lehrer, who was widely criticized for seeming, at times, to lose control of the debate (a criticism we happen to disagree with).
Among the most elaborate bits staged Thursday night was the one seen on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” — a re-creation of the debate, with Fallon playing Romney, and “Late Night” staffers Dion Flynn playing Obama and A.D. Miles playing Lehrer. In the bit, “Romney” really runs roughshod over “Lehrer” in an effort to completely silence the moderator.
Earlier in the show, Fallon’s monologue was typical of the late-night monologues reacting to the debate. “I’m your host, Jimmy Fallon,” he said at the opening of his show Thursday night. “And I just want to go on record that I too love Big Bird!”
“That’s right, after months of buildup, last night was the first presidential debate at the University of Denver,” Fallon said. “Of course, a lot of big names didn’t show up to the event — Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, President Obama …!”
For Jon Stewart and his “Daily Show,” the fallout from Wednesday’s debate formed the basis for most of his show Thursday night. In his opening segment, he railed on the president for his lackluster showing, and strung together video clips of post-debate commentary from the nation’s TV pundits showing the unanimity of opinion that Obama got trounced.
It was vintage Stewart. And later in the show, as luck would have it, Bill O’Reilly was Stewart’s in-studio guest. The two are having a debate of their own this weekend in Washington.
Debate jokes abounded on every channel throughout the late-night time period. Jay Leno jumped all over it in his “Tonight Show” monologue, starting with his very first joke reacting to the studio audience’s customary applause.
“What a crowd!” Leno declared. “You sound like Republicans watching last night’s debate!”
Leave it to Leno to combine the debate topic with another one in the news recently — the NFL’s replacement refs. “The consensus is that Mitt Romney won the presidential debate last night,” Leno said. “The only people who thought Obama won were the replacement refs!”
In addition to his monologue on Thursday’s “Late Show,” David Letterman reacted to the Romney-Obama faceoff in a “Top Ten” list entitled “Top Ten President Obama Excuses.”
Among the items on Dave’s list: “No. 8: Didn’t want to wake Jim Lehrer!” And “No. 3: Skipped rehearsal, just like Letterman!”
Jimmy Kimmel also connected the debate — specifically, the moderating by Jim Lehrer — to the replacement-ref story. Said Jimmy, during his monologue on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: “Jim was as in control of this evening as a replacement referee!”
Kimmel then showed a video-clip compilation of the moments during the debate when Romney and the President tangled with Lehrer over the time they were taking to give their answers and rebuttals. Interestingly, Kimmel was the one late-night host who didn’t start his monologue with the debate. Instead, he started with a riff on the season premiere of “Jersey Shore” on MTV. He got to the debate jokes about five minutes in.