WATCH: Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah bid adieu to Trump: 'America just got a brand-new dad'
Washington - Stephen Colbert shed plenty of tears on Wednesday, he confessed to viewers of "The Late Show," as he always does when he feels happy. But he had little to relish while watching outgoing president Donald Trump depart the White House that morning.
"It was extremely emotional, and not entirely in the way that I expected," Colbert said during a special live monologue. "I have zero gloat in me. There is no end zone dance here. What I feel is enormous relief."
That long-awaited release, though, did not mean the punchlines were over just yet.
After four-plus years of relentlessly bashing Trump, Colbert and his fellow late-night hosts used their shows Wednesday to roast the outgoing president's exit with one last round of jokes, homing in on his flurry of last-minute pardons and unapologetic departing words, as they also celebrated President Joe Biden's ascent to the White House.
"Well, you did it," Colbert told viewers, putting his tongue to his cheek. "You survived the last four years and your reward? A shiny, new, old president."
On "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," the ABC comic opened with footage of people around the world excitedly counting down the new year, passing it off as tape of them watching Trump climb into Air Force One, ready to depart Washington.
"I have to imagine this is what it feels like when the oncologist calls and tells you the tumor is benign," Kimmel quipped. "Today, this country showed the world that there is no MyPillow large enough to smother our democracy."
Trevor Noah, too, mentioned that something felt different in the air on Wednesday, even if he was still inside the same home TV studio he has occupied since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and McDonald's share price in Florida just went way up," he said, laying into Trump's well-known love of fast-food, "because America just got a brand new dad."
But before Biden could be sworn in, Noah noted, Trump had to spend one last day in the White House attending to business. Besides "whining and stealing silverware," the departing president "made sure to hand out some very nice parting gifts to all his friends" - more than 140 pardons to longtime allies like Stephen Bannon and celebrities like Lil Wayne.
Despite some speculation that Trump might extend a pre-emptive pardon to himself following the January 6 riots at the US Capitol, White House advisers eventually convinced him such a move would amount to an unnecessary admission of guilt.
Noah, however, saw it differently. "Even President Trump looked at Donald Trump's record and decided, 'Man, I can't let this guy off that easy,'" he said.
Biden, Trump, pomp, pardons, and the wildest transfer of power to date. pic.twitter.com/GE904Q7y0M— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) January 21, 2021
Like the "The Daily Show" host, a number of other TV comics also roasted Trump for the final words of his departure speech Wednesday morning at Joint Base Andrews: "So, have a good life," Trump said. "We will see you soon."
"Have a good life? That's not a presidential farewell," Seth Meyers told his viewers. "That's what your high school crush writes in your yearbook as a final twist of the knife."
After Trump's one-way flight to Mar-a-Lago gave way to Biden's star-studded inauguration on the Capitol steps, Kimmel turned to some of the event's celebrity guests. As he noted, the site of the ceremony had been host to a very different scene earlier this month.
"Two weeks ago, a bunch of dangerous imbeciles with Donald Trump flags tried to overthrow the government. Today, on that very same spot, we had the national anthem, sung by Lady Gaga," he observed. "To paraphrase Michelle Obama, 'When they go low, we go J-Lo.'"
Or, as Colbert put it: "In just two short weeks, that dais has gone from alt-right to all right."
Inevitably, many comics seem to mine Wednesday's events for humour by comparing Trump to his far less farcical successor.
Colbert, who noted Biden declaring that his "whole soul is in it," joked: "It was so nice to have a president with a soul again. ... The previous one sold his to the devil and didn't even get Georgia out of the deal."
As many television critics have argued, Trump did not prove to be the boon for liberal comics that some expected. TV writers have admitted that the former president irreparably altered the genre of late-night comedy, with antics so absurd or troublesome that they surpassed the point of mockery.
Sensing that reality, perhaps, Colbert ended his opening monologue on a more serious note as he addressed the divided state of affairs Trump left behind.
"However we fix this country, it's not the new administration's work alone," Colbert said. "It's up to all of us, as it always is, in whatever way we can. President Biden, Vice President Harris, you have our prayers, our best wishes, and our every confidence."