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May 26 2017
by Natalie Dahl

Why College Students Like Late Night Talk Shows Now More Than Ever

By Natalie Dahl - May 26 2017

There is no doubt that late night talk shows are flourishing in the current political climate. While many Americans are worrying about the implications of Donald Trump’s presidency, late night hosts have found that the unusual actions of President Trump’s administration bring a plethora of jokes and pointed criticism to their shows. In fact, late night hosts who have chosen to focus almost entirely on our nation’s political climate, such as Full Frontal with Samantha Bee or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, have seen huge increases in viewership.

In a turn of events, these shows are becoming news sources for people across the country, especially for young people, including college students. In fact, millennials are often the most reliable base for late night talk shows. This is especially true on Youtube, where almost 50 percent or more of the viewers of clips from late night talk shows are millennials. However, what makes youth gravitate towards late night talk shows as their medium for receiving updates on politics?

More than anything, it is the fact that late night talk shows use humor and irony while being honest with their viewers. After major political events, most political comedians are much harsher on the president than the traditional news press. For example, two months ago, President Trump tweeted that President Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower. Right after Trump tweeted this, the conspiracy theorist who originally released the story, Mark Levin, was a guest on Fox News’ morning show, Fox and Friends. This gave a voice and credibility to an otherwise baseless accusation from Trump. In contrast, the host of the The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, immediately responded by tweeting, that “this whole story [was] bs” and made sure to point out that “no one needs to spy on [Trump], you can just follow him on Twitter.” 

Another really important part of the popularity of talk shows is the fact that they are able to incorporate humor into the news. Right now, there is little to no precedent for the actions this administration is taking, which can understandably worry college students. Late night shows help find the necessary humor in the complexity of politics today. As politically-minded Millennials worry about the consequences of Sean Spicer’s words in real life, Melissa McCarthy is popping out of bushes as Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live and exaggerating his word choice to help people see the funny side of the situation.

Right along with her, Samantha Bee, host of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, jokes that “our dumb democracy ran into a wall with a bucket on its head” when President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a move that people on both sides of the aisle saw as a constitutional crisis. By listening to these political situations turned into satire, college students are able to better handle the implications of these actions. 

Late night talk show hosts have a big job on their hands because they are instrumental to youth understanding our political climate today. These hosts use their satire to help people cope with the ever changing situation in our governments. At the end of the day, the millennial understanding of the political system in our country would not be the same if not for these late night talk shows.

Lead Image Credit: CBS

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Natalie Dahl - Ramapo College

Natalie is a sophomore at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She is majoring in nursing and is passionate about politics, as well as social justice. When she is not studying, she can be found binge watching Friends and The Office on Netflix.

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