Late-Night Leftism

While Colbert and Kimmel move further left, Fallon has remained relative apolitical. But for how long?

Lewis Morris · Feb. 7, 2018

Late-night talk-show host Jimmy Fallon has managed to remain above the political fray while his competitors Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel regularly dish out anti-Trump and anti-Republican monologues and material. That may have to change though, because Fallon’s NBC show is starting to slip in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

Fallon’s “Tonight Show” was the most-watched late-night program in the 2016 fall season, but that changed last year, when Colbert’s “The Late Show” took the first-place slot. NBC can still claim that Fallon leads in viewers 18-49, but his lead over Colbert in this group has dwindled from 2016 to 2017.

The 18-49 demographic is considered ratings gold because this is the age group that advertisers target for their high rate of disposable income. Fallon’s generally apolitical and goofy style has charmed this group, but he has also lost 264,000 viewers in this demographic, according to Nielsen, allowing Colbert to cut into Fallon’s lead.

That’s not to say Fallon is losing viewers to Colbert, because all three late-night hosts lost viewers age 18-49 from 2016 to 2017. It’s just that CBS’s “Late Show” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” lost fewer viewers in this category than Fallon.

Conservatives may not be tuning in to late-night comedians in general because of the overt leftism. That Fallon steers clear of it means he not only misses out on those conservatives but on leftists who want to see caustic comedy. Thus, NBC may be pressuring Fallon to add some more anti-Trump material to his show, because that seems to be “working” for Colbert and Kimmel. Then again, their material isn’t so much anti-Trump comedy as it is outright vitriol and tired and predictable cheap shots.

Last week, at a live taping for the leftist podcast “Pod Save America,” Kimmel even went so far as to say, “It just so happens that almost every talk-show host is a liberal and that’s because it requires a level of intelligence.”

Then again, he didn’t say what level…

All the same, the arrogance of that statement is staggering. Kimmel may have been playing to the lefty crowd a bit, but he believes his statement. His show has drifted steadily to the left for a couple years now, to the point where he now bashes Trump nightly and regularly injects socialist screeds about health care, taxes and gun control into his monologues.

Kimmel’s puffery about intelligence is likely to alienate his few remaining conservative viewers. People don’t like being called stupid, which is basically what Kimmel is saying to those who happen to not subscribe to his political viewpoint. How else can you interpret what he said? So what about Kimmel’s longtime buddy Adam Carolla, who hosts the most downloaded podcast in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records? He regularly rails against leftist hypocrisy on his programs, so according to Kimmel’s measuring stick, he’s not smart.

Kimmel has seen his overall audience grow in the last year, though, so we can expect to see more anti-Republican vitriol from him since the formula seems to be working. Colbert, who established his career by spoofing conservative talk-show hosts, will also continue doing what he does “best.”

We’ll have to see whether Fallon’s material becomes more overtly anti-Trump and what this does to his ratings this spring.

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