Late Night Hosts Respond to Orlando Shooting With Poignancy, Humor - Rolling Stone
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Late Night Hosts Respond to Orlando Shooting With Poignancy, Humor

Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and others attempt to make sense of tragedy

In the aftermath of the massacre in Orlando Sunday morning, late night TV hosts were once again tasked with responding to the increasingly commonplace horror of a mass shooting.

Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers acknowledged the gravity of the situation by setting aside humor. “I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semi-automatic assault rifle,” Conan declared. “These are weapons of war and they have no place in civilian life.”

Meyers focused on the small acts of heroism from those who signed up to give blood or donate money to help the wounded, while Fallon set a tone of resilience: “There will always be more good than evil … Keep loving each other, keep respecting each other, and keep on dancing.”

But as Stephen Colbert pointed out during his monologue, in a country where mass shootings happen so frequently, these sort of responses are normalized. “You know what a president, whoever it is, will probably say,” Colbert told his viewers. “You know what both sides of the political aisle will probably say. You know what gun manufacturers will say. Even me, with a silly show like this, you have some idea what I will say.

“It’s as if there’s a national script we have learned,” he continued. “I think by accepting the script, we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time: with nothing changing.” He also finished by encouraging viewers to respond to hate with love. “Love allows us to change the script,” he noted, while gently chiding those who preach love but fail to back their words with meaningful action: “Let’s remember that love is a verb. To love means to do something.”

Like Colbert, Bee wasn’t interested in sticking to the “national script.” “After a massacre, the standard operating procedure is that you stand on stage and deliver some well-meaning words about how we will get through this together,” she said. “That is great, that is beautiful, but you know what? Fuck it. I am too angry for that. Love does not win, unless we start loving each other enough to fix our fucking problems. Is it okay if instead of making jokes, I just scream for seven minutes?”

But Bee did not abandon humor, choosing to make her jokes more prickly. Pointing to the fact that there have been no mass shootings in Australia since 1996, she delivered a pointed, topical rebuke to America’s second amendment: “Love you Madison, congratulations on your Tony. But you really fucked us with that one.”

She ended her monologue in prayer. “Are you there God? It’s me, Sam. Please, bless the victims and their friends and families in their time of unspeakable pain. Give us the courage to say no more. And while you’re at it, please send the NRA a plague of boils.”


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