Amber Ruffin changes the late-night television game


Illustration by Marissa Haas.

‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’ writer and performer Amber Ruffin debuted ‘The Amber Ruffin Show’ Sep. 25 on Peacock TV. Instead of a talk show centered around celebrity guest interviews, Ruffin’s show consists of sketches, jokes, songs and a whole lot of heart and joy.

While Ruffin had been a part of Meyers’ writing team since the beginning of his show, she later appeared in segments such as “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” and “Amber Says What?”, captivating audiences with her gleeful demeanor. 

Although it is a bit strange to watch late night television without a live studio audience, Ruffin makes up for that loss with her charisma and wit. While some topics she discusses may be heavy in nature, her demeanor and energy both alleviates and drives home the importance of these topics. She offers the audience a perfect mix of lighthearted, fun humor while conducting critical discussions surrounding systemic racism in America. 

When protests regarding the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd began, Ruffin used her platform on ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’ to discuss her experiences with the police as a Black woman. She also brings these same important conversations to her own show.“Because I have my own show, I have a responsibility to say things that people need to know but that aren’t being said,” said Ruffin during her opening monologue. “It’s a cool opportunity that I don’t take lightly. There are very big, obvious truths that nobody wants to say on TV, but I will. […] You matter.” 

She then went on to discuss Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was murdered in her own home at the hands of the police. 

“What happened to Breonna Taylor was the product of a system made to protect the oppressor.” Ruffin said. “I also choose to look at the fact that this injustice organized millions of Americans who previously were sitting on the sidelines, but this never should have happened.”  

With this, Ruffin presents a unique take on late-night television. Instead of filling airtime interviewing guests about their latest projects, she talks about issues that are affecting America and her personally as a Black woman. She doesn’t turn the audience away from these truths, either, but rather invites them to empathize with these communities.

While the aforementioned anecdote was delivered in a monologue, she also drives home these same ideas in sketches. In a sketch towards the beginning of the show, she talked about how misinformation is bad and how it often comes from top officials, which is dangerous. With this, she delivered a rapidfire “Fact Check” to various Trump claims like, “Black Lives Matter is dangerous to black people” and “Our COVID-19 numbers are better than almost all countries.’” Her one-liner response to these claims gave audiences a chuckle while reminding the audience about the dangers of misinformation.

While it may seem like ‘The Amber Ruffin Show’ is all about serious topics, Ruffin’s show is basically a one-woman variety sketch show, and most of the show . 

Ruffin acknowledged the weight of her material and gave the audience a chance to relax towards the end of the show with a sketch called “The Cool Down”. This featured a montage of Ruffin’s head floating in a field while saying things like, “Imagine a hot person smiling at you on the sidewalk,” and “A sincere apology from your college boyfriend,” and “A man with 20/20 vision that confused you with Academy Award winner Angela Bassett.” (The sketch quickly turned into a love letter from Ruffin to Bassett from there, only adding to the comedy.)

In ‘The Amber Ruffin Show’, Ruffin is genuinely having a good time while delivering fun yet important material. The personification of joy, Ruffin is a fantastic performer and giving her a late-night show is one of the best things to happen in 2020. 

New episodes of ‘The Amber Ruffin Show’ are streaming every Friday on Peacock.