Whether you get your news from the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Politico, Fox News, CNN, or any other outlet covering the current state of White House and world affairs, it’s hard to read a push notification and have any other reaction than “What?”
Enter Amber Ruffin, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” writer and occasional confetti cannon operator, who’s turned a simple one-word question into an art form. Over the past 15 months, “Late Night” has occasionally turned the floor over to Ruffin to funnel the news of the day through a flurry of different “What?!” inflections. Take last night’s roundup, which included thoughts on FLOTUS, hurricanes, and an astronaut:
It’s a beautifully simple format, flexible enough to even draw in a little bit of Mario theme song riffing. Meanwhile, the “sound barrier” joke at the end of the affirmative action discussion from last month’s edition shows how well this news timeout can adapt to things happening beyond the day’s headlines.
Want an entire legion of “Whats?” on one of 2017’s craziest moments? Amber had you covered mere hours after February’s insane Oscars ending.
Our pick for the best version? A perfect Cosby joke, a tiny Kushner whisper, some Santa just desserts, all with an emphatic leg kick at the end.
What really sets “Amber Says What” apart is that it’s a segment that always ends with a smile. (Just look at how happy Seth Meyers is when the camera cuts back to him!) It’s proof that late night comedy can be uplifting and talk about politics in the same breath. Meyers has done some insightful work on “A Closer Look,” but Ruffin is covering a lot of that same territory in a few of these segments, at lightning speed. (Her response to the national anthem protest backlash last September is still one of the best you’ll see anywhere.)
None of these segments last longer than a few minutes. They’re momentary reminders that there’s zaniness in the world around us. Even in moments of national crisis, there’s still an opportunity to point out how nuts everything is and combat the climate of negativity that helps fuel it. In a late night world where comics are all trying to find different ways to make people laugh in a satire-resistant news cycle, Ruffin is making that process her own, one “What?” at a time.