If any good could come from the Eliot Spitzer scandal, it’s that the late-night shows have some of their best source material since Bill Clinton requested the definition of the word “is.” So with that in mind, we fired up our DVR for the most promising night of comedy in years. And boy, were we disappointed.
Letterman, predictably, was funny enough, opening his monologue by asking whether it was too soon to hit on Mrs. Eliot Spitzer, then telling a handful of jokes (“Did you happen to see the press conference? Very dramatic. Eliot Spitzer was there with yellow crime-scene tape around his pants”). The Times has a complete rundown of every joke, if you’re interested. Seated back at his desk, Letterman read off a Top Ten List of Eliot Spitzer excuses (No. 8: Just trying to help the economy!).
Leno, too, was predictable, with a run of schlocky hooker jokes (“To be fair, he did bring prostitution to its knees, one girl at a time!”). Stephen Colbert spent a couple of minutes on the subject as well, calling dibs on the headline “Eliot Mess,” and wondering how Colbert himself didn’t realize, since he usually has “excellent whore-dar.”
But Conan told exactly one Spitzer joke (“Spitzer responded … by saying. ‘I violated my obligations to my family and I violated my sense of right and wrong.’ Spitzer also admitted violating someone named Amber.”) And Jon Stewart, whose show must consider this type of politician misconduct to be a virtual godsend, completely dropped the ball. With the scandal’s “heady mix of sex and hypocrisy,” he said, “you might expect us to spend a great portion of our program tonight luxuriously bathing in its sweet Schadenfreude.” But no, they’d spent so much time on their Wyoming-caucus graphic, he explained, that they’d be immediately moving on to that story.
We suppose we’ll give Stewart and O’Brien the benefit of the doubt, since their shows tape in the afternoon, just a few hours after the story broke. But we’ll say this: If SNL can’t be funny with this story — and six days to prepare — then there’s no hope for them at all. —Joe DeLessio