If there were two things Americans could have never predicted 10 years ago, it'd be the political rise of Donald Trump and the cultural demise of late-night comedy. 

The concept of a late-night comedian remaining apolitical or jabbing both sides of the aisle is from a bygone era as now it is routine for hosts to use their opening monologue to relentlessly bash Trump and Republicans at large.

An early sign of this dramatic shift in comedy was in May 2017 when "The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert told Trump, "The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's c--- holster." Colbert walked back the comments days later following public backlash and accusations of homophobia, but stopped short of offering any apology. 

The CBS host didn't suffer any consequences. Colbert was the king of late night as "The Late Show" became the most-watched late night show in the Trump era, averaging roughly 3 million viewers from 2017-2019. Notably, the executive producer of his show at the time was current CNN president Chris Licht. 


If anything, Colbert doubled down on the #Resistance posture by routinely having Democratic politicians and government officials he supports on his program. Just this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci sat alongside Colbert to receive his COVID booster shot on TV and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made at least her fourth "Late Show" appearance, this time to promote the Democratic agenda ahead of the midterms. 

"His show, like many other late night shows, has just become a platform to push DNC talking points and candidates — without a challenge to them to answer any of today's difficult questions," political satirist Tim Young told Fox News Digital. "It's nothing more than a promotional mechanism to not only the liberal bubble — but a very specific piece of the liberal bubble — which again, is why people are tuning out."

Nancy Pelosi speaking with Stephen Colbert

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promoted the Democratic agenda ahead of the midterms during her appearance this week on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." (CBS)

In 2019, "The Late Show" became a must-do for the Democratic presidential candidates competing in the 2020 primary. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker all stopped by the Ed Sullivan Theater, and Kirsten Gillibrand and Eric Swalwell announced their candidacies on Colbert's show, something previously unheard of in presidential politics. 

"Colbert courts as many big name Democrats as he can because he's an activist first and a comic second," comedian and Fox Nation host Jimmy Failla told Fox News Digital. "His entire point of being is to help Democrats feed moral superiority to viewers because that's what the Democratic ethos runs on."

But with Trump out of office, Colbert's liberal audience has shrunk to a 2.1 million viewer average in 2022, shedding 27% of his peak audience and losing his title as King of Late Night in recent months to Fox News host Greg Gutfeld, whose show "Gutfeld!" has edged out the CBS rival with 2.2-2.4 million viewers as of late. 


"It's kind of ironic that the biggest obstacle facing late night hosts is five foot four but yes, Greg Gutfeld has changed the game," Failla quipped. "One, he's attacking stories from an angle nobody is, and two, he's never taking himself seriously which is the golden rule of comedy. Guys like Colbert never make fun of themselves!"

Perhaps one of the greatest falls in late night is that of "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon, who largely remains apolitical in comparison to his direct competitors. In 2016, the NBC program reigned supreme in late night with 3.3 million viewers. In 2022, it has averaged 1.4 million, losing nearly 60% of its audience. 

Liberals turned on Fallon following his cordial interview with then-candidate Trump just weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Fallon, who had previously welcomed Hillary Clinton onto his show twice, invited his former NBC colleague for a similarly friendly chat, which ended with the host tousling Trump's hair. 

"Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon says he regrets ruffling Donald Trump's hair during the 2016 presidential election season.

"Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon says he regrets ruffling Donald Trump's hair during the 2016 presidential election season. (NBC)

Anti-Trump critics have said that interview humanized Trump and perhaps ultimately aided the Republican candidate on Election Day. In 2018, Fallon apologized and called it a "mistake."

While Fallon seemed regretful for turning off his liberal fans, the other late-night Jimmy, Jimmy Kimmel, has little to no regret losing conservative viewers.

Kimmel, another vocal Trump critic, made national headlines during the Trump years for his monologues advocating for health care reform after his newborn son underwent heart surgery, as well as for stricter gun control laws.


During a 2017 interview with CBS, the ABC host was asked whether he was concerned if such activism would alienate Republicans enough to change the channel. He shrugged them off. 

"As a talk-show host, that’s not ideal, but I would do it again in a heartbeat," Kimmel said at the time. "If they're so turned off by my opinion on health care and gun violence, then, I don't know, I probably wouldn't want to have a conversation with them anyway… Not good riddance, but riddance." 

In 2016, "Jimmy Kimmel Live" averaged 2.2 million viewers. In 2022, he's plummeted to 1.5 million, losing more than a third of his audience. 

Jimmy Kimmel gets emotional

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel chokes up while advocating for affordable health care following the heart surgery of his newborn son in 2017. (ABC)

The shrinking audiences have been systemic among the liberal comics. CBS' "The Late Late Show" starring James Corden has lost 36% of its viewers since 2016, now averaging an audience of 819,000. NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers" has slashed nearly half of its viewers between 2016 and 2022, going from roughly 1.5 million to 786,000. HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" has lost nearly 60% of its viewers since 2017, drawing an average 528,000 viewers this year. 

Despite his dwindling audience, Oliver has struck gold. Literally. "Last Week Tonight" won its seventh consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series last month, monopolizing the category ever since Jon Stewart stepped down as host of "The Daily Show." 

Notably snubbed by the TV Academy in recent years, however, is Oliver's HBO colleague, Bill Maher


Maher, host of "Real Time with Bill Maher," often makes more headlines, generates more buzz on social media and has higher viewership than several late-night hosts including Oliver, Seth Meyers, James Corden and Trevor Noah.

Yet, "Real Time" has not been nominated for Outstanding Variety Talk Series since 2017 after having earned 12 nominations over 13 years, while its more politically correct competitors earn slots in the category year after year. His past Emmy nominations spanned decades, which include his stint as host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect."

In a recent interview, Maher was asked why he thinks he gets the cold shoulder by the TV Academy.  

"I tell the truth," Maher told NewsNation this week. "I don't perform for just one half of the country and say things that will make them applaud. And there's nothing wrong with that. And there's very talented people you're talking about and do fine shows, but I just — this has always been my bond with the audience, which is much more important than an award."

"Real Time" host Bill Maher

"Real Time with Bill Maher" has not been nominated at the Emmys for Outstanding Variety Talk Series since 2017, something the host suspects is due to his criticisms of the left. (HBO)

Like other late-night hosts, Maher's TV audience has shrunk over the years (he's down roughly 1 million viewers since 2017). But unlike the others, Maher has maintained his ability to fuel news cycles. Last week, for example, he suggested President Biden, assuming he runs for re-election in 2024, cut Vice President Kamala Harris from the Democratic ticket. In May, Maher challenged the modern LGBTQ orthodoxy, which sparked fierce backlash from the left. 

While he's still an outspoken liberal who mercilessly mocks Trump and other prominent Republicans, Maher frequently lambasts the "woke" progressives in elected office, often taking swipes at the Democratic "Squad" and its leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., something other late-night comedians wouldn't dare to do. He also often calls out blatant hypocrisy of his own peers in Hollywood. 

"So many things about the left now contain some level of ridiculousness, and I not only call that out, I love calling it out," Maher said in the interview. "First of all, it's the thing that the liberals should be doing more than anything else is criticizing their own side for what's losing them elections. But besides that, I'm a comedian. I go where it's funny."


There has been a shakeup in the late-night landscape in the post-Trump era. Conan O'Brien ended his struggling TBS program last year after losing 57% of his audience from 2016 to less than a quarter million viewers, though he has found more success with his podcast that he launched in 2018. Corden announced in April he'll be leaving "The Late Late Show" next year after having helmed the CBS program since 2015. TBS canceled "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," as the far-left host lost a whopping 79% from her 2017 audience average of 1.25 million viewers to 268,000 viewers.

Comedian and radio host Joe Piscopo sees the changes in late-night as the "pendulum coming back," telling Fox News Digital that "the corporate heads may virtue signal" but "all they care about is the bottom line."

"They couldn't care less about any of the talent. So when the numbers start to slip a little bit, they're gone," Piscopo said. 

Joe Concha, Fox News contributor and author of the new book "Come On, Man! The Truth About Joe Biden's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Presidency," put their ousters more bluntly: "Their ratings profoundly sucked."

"They sucked because all of these shows echoed each other and were completely predictable," Concha said.

Samatha Bee at WGA Awards

Samantha Bee poses backstage at the 72nd Writers Guild Awards at Edison Ballroom in New York City on Feb. 1, 2020. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Writers Guild of America, East)

Bee, who famously called Ivanka Trump a "feckless c---" in 2018, offered a stunning admission last year that she would "pull punches" for President Biden.

"I can’t deny that that has happened, I think that’s probably true across the board," Bee told Dan Rather. "You’re like, ‘OK, well, we could be making jokes about the infrastructure plan,’ but in general, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is great.' Why would I purposefully undermine something that seems to be a great idea, pretty much across the board?"

In a separate interview, Bee acknowledged she did not want to challenge the "hero" narrative of now-ousted Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the pandemic for the sake of pleasing her audience — Bee referred to Cuomo on her show at the time as "America's favorite Teen Beat cover gov" instead.


Another development in the late-night shakeup emerged last week when Noah announced he was exiting "The Daily Show."

"I realized after seven years that my time is up," he said to his shocked in-studio audience. "But in the most beautiful way, honestly, I've loved hosting this show. It's been one of my greatest challenges, it's been one of my greatest joys. I loved trying to figure out how to make people laugh even when the stories are particularly s----y on the worst days, you know, we've laughed together, we've cried together, but after seven years, I feel like it's time." 

Trevor Noah on The Daily Show

"The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah announces he's leaving the long-running Comedy Central program after seven years. (Comedy Central)

In 2015, Comedy Central tapped Noah, then a virtually unheard-of comedian from South Africa, to succeed Stewart as host of "The Daily Show." During his tenure, Stewart's audience peaked at 2.5 million viewers. In the most recent months, Noah has failed to reach a 400,000 average.

"Jon Stewart was a man of the people — an American who was dissatisfied with the system and honest about it. Trevor Noah didn't even understand the system he attempted to mock," Young told Fox News Digital. "You can't go from an honest Stewart who truly connected with Americans and their distaste in the government to someone who was merely reading DNC talking points."

Concha told Fox News Digital, "Trevor Noah had a seven-year run that was a spectacular failure. He never came close to generating the viral buzz that Jon Stewart did. His ratings were a fraction of his predecessor. And that’s because Noah served as a Democratic activist just like Colbert and Kimmel and Seth Meyers. Lectures are boring, and that’s exactly what he did on a nightly basis."


The hosts have shown themselves to be dutiful supporters of the Democratic Party. Meyers is such a reliable Democratic booster that Pennsylvania Senate hopeful John Fetterman called him "my dude" after he did a joke mocking his GOP opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Colbert once said "I miss you" to Barack Obama, and another time said he was so moved by a speech by Michelle Obama in 2020 that he declared he couldn't come up with any jokes for it. 

Another struggling program in recent years is NBC's "Saturday Night Live." 

The long-running weekend staple is currently having an identity crisis, which it subtly acknowledged in Season 48's premiere featuring "Peyton and Eli Manning" providing play-by-play analysis of a purposefully poorly written Trump sketch. 

Peyton, played by host Miles Teller, drew attention to the show's heavy reliance on Trump for material in the cold open. 

"I've got to point out — where's the balance politically?" Teller's Manning asked. "They're making Trump-Columbus jokes — meanwhile Joe Biden has lost his damn marbles. They're not even going to mention that?"

"SNL" holding back its punches against Biden is nothing new. In his first year as president, Biden was satirized only three times in the show's cold open, which historically showcases the biggest news of the week, equating to roughly 14% of the 22 episodes that aired between Jan. 30, 2021, and Jan 22, 2022. Cast member James Austin Johnson made his debut as Biden in the Season 47 premiere in October 2021, which marked the very first time the president was satirized in the cold open, going through a nearly nine-month dry spell.

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin appeared in the cold open at least 11 times to satirize then-President Trump between Jan. 21, 2017, and Jan. 20, 2018, a whopping 52% of the 21 episodes, according to the show's library on the Peacock streaming service.

Alec Baldwin as Trump

Alec Baldwin made regular appearances on "Saturday Night Live" playing President Donald Trump through his term in office. (Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Piscopo, a former "SNL" cast member, told Fox News Digital that "the comedy writes itself" from the Biden administration, yet his alma mater is missing "opportunities" to poke fun at the Democrats in power with so much available material.

"You've got to be even-handed," Piscopo said. "I satirized Ronald Reagan… but it wasn't mean-spirited, you know?"

Piscopo, who stressed he did not want to be critical of the show that launched his career, expressed confidence in Lorne Michaels, creator and longtime executive producer of "SNL," saying he doesn't need any advice. But the former cast member hinted at steering away from political correctness, highlighting the recent "SNL" appearances of Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle.  

"You need more of that," Piscopo said. 


Former cast member Rob Schneider suggested the turning point was days after the 2016 election when Kate McKinnon, dressed as Hillary Clinton, sat behind a piano and performed a somber rendition of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" in the cold open. There was no punchline; it was plainly an expression of mourning that Clinton had lost the election.

"I literally prayed, ‘please have a joke at the end. Don’t do this. Please don’t go down there,'" Schneider recalled in a recent interview with Glenn Beck. "And there was no joke at the end, and I went, ‘It’s over. It’s over. It’s not gonna come back.'"

Cast members later said they sobbed over her defeat and weren't sure how to put together a show.

Schneider later added, "You can take the comedic indoctrination process happening with each of the late-night hosts, and you could exchange them with each other. That’s how you know it’s not interesting anymore."

Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton

Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton sings Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during the "Election Week Cold Open" sketch on "Saturday Night Live" on Nov. 12, 2016. (Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

McKinnon, along with other "SNL" stars like Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson, exited the show ahead of Season 48, leaving a vacuum of high-profile talent. But that wasn't the only exodus. Audiences, too, have been flocking from the show, particularly since Trump left office. "SNL," which averaged 7.4 million viewers in 2017, dropped 37% to just 4.7 million viewers in 2022.

When asked whether late-night shows can turn things around, Young offered a grim forecast, saying they're "finished."

"Their content is not only hyper-political, but insulting to people's intelligence. People don't want to watch a show where the writers and hosts clearly not only lack respect for the viewers, but openly hate half of who could potentially watch," he said.

"It's crazy to me that major networks just can't have a late-night show that is fun, intelligent and non-biased," Young added.


Piscopo, on the other hand, was a bit more optimistic about the future of late-night comedy, telling Fox News Digital that the "pendulum" is "coming back hard and heavy" through alternative comedians who push back against progressive wokeism.

"My prediction: It's just gonna go the other way," he said.