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The road to the White House may be paved with laughter




Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Las Vegas. A Hispanic coalition is condemning NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' for inviting Trump to host the show.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Las Vegas. A Hispanic coalition is condemning NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' for inviting Trump to host the show.
John Locher/AP

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will host NBC's "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehIiDTDzENY

His appearance is not without controversy. Several Latino groups have asked "SNL" to cancel his appearance, with some calling his campaign racist.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton showed up on Jimmy Kimmel Thursday night, talking about life with her husband Bill if she won.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OLchWH8jjI

Why do serious political candidates keep showing up on late-night TV? Because those appearances can help turn the tide of a White House bid, at least according to Matthew Baum.

Baum is the Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and has written extensively on the subject. He and Take Two's A. Martinez looked back on some of the most memorable late night appearances by presidential candidates. 

"Sock it to me?"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qRZvlZZ0DY

Four words have rarely had such a marked impact on the trajectory of a White House run, says Matthew Baum.

"His advisors believed that this was an opportunity to make him appear more likeable, just a regular guy," Baum said. "Nixon was a policy wonk, he was never particularly comfortable talking about his personal life, and so this was all about just making him seem like a regular, likeable guy."

Clinton/Sax '92

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LhgGs4TrYA

 A young Bill Clinton made a splash with audiences when he appeared on the on the Arsenio Hall show during the 1992 presidential election. Baum says it was a bold move.

"This was something that was perceived as, sort of, new and different and really out there," Baum said. "It was very controversial at the time. The Pundit class was sure this was going to sink Bill Clinton ... yet it obviously worked quite differently. It was very effective for Clinton in firing up younger voters and minority voters, who were the predominant audience for the Arsenio show," he said. 

Sen. McCain and the wrath of Letterman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aR5FGkpfsbM

During his 2008 White House bid, Senator John McCain, appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. McCain had broken a previously scheduled interview with Letterman to do an interview with CBS News. Baum says, McCain quickly learned that Letterman can hold a grudge. 

"McCain was pretty goodhearted about the whole thing," Baum said. "But, more importantly, by 2008 this was necessary. You had to mend fences with Letterman because late night TV is now perceived as an important venue for getting to the White House. The last thing he could afford is having one of the most influential late night hosts repeatedly and aggressively going off on him ..."

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