NEW YORK – Sewage treatment, sea turtles and a depressing condom ad all came up when late-night television hosts united for one night to turn their comic lenses to climate change.
Eight late-night hosts devoted a portion of their programs Wednesday and early Thursday to the issue, part of a Climate Week initiative timed to the United Nations' General Assembly meeting in New York.
“Don't even think about switching to another show,” said ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. “We're all focused on this topic tonight. You can't escape. It's basically an intervention. Our future is in jeopardy.”
In one case, they even combined forces: CBS' James Corden and NBC's Seth Meyers used a split-screen to open their 12:30 a.m. shows together.
“Crisis solved,” said CBS' Stephen Colbert, “just as surely as when all of those celebrities sang ‘Imagine’ and ended COVID.”
Colbert's “Late Show” cold open was a fake ad for “Trojan Buzzkill,” a condom that's packed with a sobering climate change fact sure to dampen the mood.
Noting that it was the first day of fall, NBC “Tonight” show host Jimmy Fallon said that “some people are sad that summer's over. But thanks to climate change, it's not.”
Kimmel called his audience to action, opening his show with a montage of politicians and preachers in clips downplaying science. He showed a 2003 clip of the late Sen. John McCain trying to convince his colleagues that climate change was important. "We're still acting as if this is something we don't have to worry about for 20 years,” Kimmel said.
He called on viewers to contact recalcitrant lawmakers, flashing a Washington phone number on the screen, and quipped, “when the food supply gets low, they're the ones we're going to eat first.”
On “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah's monologue concerned little-known facts about climate change. Because the sex of sea turtles is determined in part by how hot the sand is where eggs are laid, there has been an abundance of female turtles, putting the species in long-term risk, he said.
That led to a series of jokes about overworked male sea turtles.
“It's going to make for some really lame gender reveal parties,” Noah said.
Samantha Bee, on TBS' “Full Frontal,” devoted a segment to the admittedly unpleasant topic of sewage treatment. She noted that in most municipal systems, raw sewage from homes mixes with runoff from rainstorms, leading to backups during big storms, which are happening more often due to climate change.
“That's led to catastrophic flooding and sewage overflows around the country, and not just in the liberal urban hellholes you'd expect, but also in the red states that God doesn't hate,” she deadpanned.
Meyers' devoted his “A Closer Look” feature to the topic, noting that a tornado recently touched down in New Jersey. “You knew it was a New Jersey tornado because it was in a velour track suit shaking down a restaurant for protection money," he said.
Meyers also joked that Billy Joel rewrote one of his hits to “Actually, We Did Start the Fire,” and sang a couple of phantom verses.
Many of the shows' guests were booked specifically to talk about the topic, such as Jane Goodall on the “Tonight” show and Bill Gates on Corden's “Late Late Show.” Instead of singing, Shawn Mendes talked climate change with Colbert.
“Can I say a personal thing?” Corden said to Gates. “Thank you for being the one billionaire who's not trying to escape the planet Earth on a spaceship right now.”
Bravo's Andy Cohen was the eighth host to join in the effort.
Not everyone played along. Greg Gutfeld and his panelists on Fox News Channel mocked the effort and touted the benefits of fossil fuels.
“Comedy is dead and so is risk in this land of late-night teachers' pets,” Gutfeld said. “They went from George Carlin to George Soros.”
A half-hour later on CBS, Colbert noted the difficulty in getting many people to focus on the seriousness of the problem.
“Americans treat climate science like soccer,” he said. “We know it's out there and it really matters to the rest of the world, but no one can make us care.”
For one night, he and his competitors tried.