By now two of the big names in late-night television have gotten a crack at the Republican frontrunner, and Donald Trump's interviews with Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert couldn't have been more different. Viewers knew going in that each comedian offers up a different flavor of humor and takes different approaches to their interview style. But who grilled Trump best?
Neither interview was jaw-dropping in its revelation of new Trump details, and each showcased predictable Trump answers. But the two hosts managed to bring out different sides of the candidate — with Fallon, Trump was his magnanimous self, while a more reserved and serious candidate appeared on Colbert.
Fallon's interview, which aired on Sept. 11, was perfectly packaged to go viral. The opening skit featured Fallon dressed as Trump interviewing Trump through a mirror and was designed to highlight the stereotypical aspects of Trump's persona, from the larger-than-life confidence to the strangely combed hair. Although the gag included Trump, the candidate was very much the butt of the joke.
During his interview, Fallon seemed incapable of getting past the shock and surprise of Trump as a viable candidate. His face was a mix of confusion and awe as he asked the billionaire questions such as, "You're the front-runner, by far, for the Republican Party to be president of the United States... when did this happen?"
The most surprising aspect of Fallon's interview with Trump is that it didn't produce any of the shocking or inflammatory soundbites that have become associated with Trump's media run-ins. It was a light interview, which fed into the media circus that follows Trump wherever he goes. The only time Trump seemed remotely phased during the entire interview was when Fallon asked him, "Have you ever apologized for anything?" Trump paused for a moment before saying, "This was not supposed to be one of the questions."
Many expected Colbert's interview with the candidate would take a very different tone and that Colbert would treat Trump just like any other politician and grill him just as hard. Which half happened. Unlike Fallon, Colbert was very open about his willingness to make fun of Trump and had no problem discussing the elephant in the room — that Trump acts more like a reality TV star than a politician. "I want to thank you ... for running for president," Colbert said. "I'm not going to say this stuff writes itself, but you certainly do help deliver it on time each day."
If anything, Colbert seemed to throw in the towel during Tuesday's episode and decided to fully embrace the ridiculousness that has been the 2016 election — even reprising his impression of Caesar Flickerman, Stanley Tucci's character from The Hunger Games films while giving a monologue on the "Hungry For Power Games." It seemed very clear that Colbert didn't view Trump as a viable presidential candidate, and he treated him as such.
Despite his jokes, there were some serious moments during Colbert's interview with an uncharacteristically low-key Trump. While Fallon's hard-hitting questions focused on Hillary Clinton's private email server and Trump's opinions of Kanye West, Colbert ventured a little further. At one point, Colbert asked Trump, "Barack Obama: born in the United States?"
But Trump deflected. "I don't talk about that anymore," he said, which prompted the host to push the question a little harder, but to no avail. Colbert pushed Trump more than was expected during the night, peppering with questions and talking over him several times. "You seriously want the job?" Colbert asked at one point. While Trump smiled his way through Fallon's interview, he seemed almost hesitant when sitting down with Colbert. Maybe it's because he was aware that Colbert rarely pulls punches, and the host didn't disappoint.
There's no denying that Colbert pressed Trump far more than his competitor did, though Fallon was much nicer to the candidate. But Trump's performance on both shows could work in his favor. His lighthearted side came out with the help of Fallon, while his toned-down attitude and attempt to give real answers despite Colbert's constant ribbing actually managed to make the candidate look serious — something previously not associated with Trump.
While he may be hesitant to return to Colbert's clutches anytime soon, Trump's journey into late-night TV was, in general, successful. And even more so for the channels who got huge bumps in ratings from his appearances.