Ron DeSantis jokes fill Fallon, Colbert and Kimmel opening monologues

Ron DeSantis' eight-month presidential campaign never produced Donald Trump comedic material — for some, it never has — but with Sunday's exit, DeSantis finally dominated Monday night television comedies.

Both “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” had DeSantis leading their opening monologues. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” visited Los Angeles after heavy rain and discussed “The Bachelor,” and Seth Meyers devoted his entire “A Closer Look” segment to the DeSantis news.

All four, in their own ways, targeted DeSantis for his lack of ease and charm.

“Don't cry because it's over,” Colbert advised DeSantis, “laugh because you need practice laughing.”

Kimmel played a 40-second montage of the Florida governor on the campaign trail for laughs and pointed out that DeSantis' campaign spent $2,263 per vote in Iowa.

“It would have been really cheap to buy a Peloton bike for each of his supporters,” he said.

All the hosts joked about DeSantis quoting Winston Churchill in a video announcing he was suspending his campaign. DeSantis recited a phrase that Churchill never uttered.

“DeSantis knew it was time to go,” Fallon said, “four months after the rest of us did.”

“The queer community took a big blow on Sunday,” Seth Meyers said of DeSantis' departure.

Meyers told DeSantis he had the posture of someone “wearing a backpack full of horse shoes” and the demeanor of a guy “trying to hide a zombie bite,” and called him the first candidate to “run with Trump in a different category.” But one key difference between them, Meyers said, is that Trump is appealing to his base. “DeSantis is not entertaining,” Meyers said, “he's weird and boring.”

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The flurry of recent late-night talk show monologues aside, DeSantis' campaign ended up without the decades-old cultural identity of “Saturday Night Live.”

DeSantis came close when actor John Higgins of the comedy group Please Don't Destroy starred in a sketch parodying a GOP debate in November 2023. (Molly Kearney's Chris Christie, Heidi Gardner's Nikki Haley, Ego Nwodim's Vivek Ramaswamy and Devon Walker's Tim Scott are all slated to speak, and Walker has made multiple appearances as Scott.)

Who knows who could have played the role DeSantis needed to become a regular. Breaking the fourth wall in the Republican debate sketch, James Austin Johnson addressed Trump's performance.

“Look who they played Meatball Ron,” Johnson says, sounding like Trump. “Destroy is one of the guys. At Ron's house, 'Who's that?' Poor Ron DeSantis, even SNL didn't think he had a chance. If they did, it would be like Paul Rudd or something there, right?

At other times, “Saturday Night Live” has tended to impersonate DeSantis' messages, such as when Bowen Yang played DeSantis as Jafar from “Aladdin” for feuding with Disney.

According to an analysis by Daniel Koper with Orlando-based Otter Public Relations, Ron DeSantis was mentioned on television an average of 737,000 times in the eight months since his campaign began. Trump had 2.4 million mentions at the time, though most of those likely included news of his impeachment.

Trump was a bonanza for comedy writers the moment he entered politics. He's already famous and known for so long that he actually hosted “Saturday Night Live.” He may also be one of the most impersonated men in history. When he returned to the show as a candidate in 2015, two different actors joined him on stage impersonating him.

It looks like exactly one guy on Earth is making a DeSantis impression. Comedian Matt Friend did a very talented DeSantis last year at PIX 11 in New York. The friend explained in DeSantis's voiceover that Trump has done a lot of impersonation as governor.

“Oddly enough, Ron DeSantis has adopted Trump's mannerisms as well,” the friend said. “No one has ever done DeSantis, but he's moving his hands like Trump is doing here. … He's using his exact words.

Republican public relations consultant Alex Conant, Sen. She worked on the 2016 presidential campaign for Marco Rubio, played by Taran Gillum and later by Pete Davidson on “Saturday Night Live.”

Campaign strategists monitor candidates' mentions of comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live” as closely as they are news, Conant said, because realistically, a lot of voters get their information from entertainment.

“Media attention is the lifeblood of a presidential campaign,” he said. “(Midnight jokes) may not be good coverage, but it's better than no attention at all. If you're on SNL, you're out of the political media bubble of general pop culture, and that's a good place for presidential candidates.

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DeSantis, Conant believes, “lived in conservative media and was never able to break into the general pop culture consciousness. … I think it's a broader reflection of this primal public disinterest and disinterest in DeSantis in particular.”

There's one surefire way to see the perennial DeSantis on “Saturday Night Live” this year — if he ends up being Trump's running mate.

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