‘The Amber Ruffin Show’ Is a Silly and Sharp Balm for Anxious Times | Review

     September 28, 2020

If you like late night programing like Late Night with Seth Meyers or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver but can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the anxiety those topical shows can induce, The Amber Ruffin Show is here to make your day.

Streaming exclusively on Peacock (which is entirely free), The Amber Ruffin Show is a new late-night show hosted by Late Night with Seth Meyers writer and on-camera standout Amber Ruffin, who has become a highlight of the NBC staple with her segments like “Amber Says What?” Ruffin’s superpower is delivering incisive and extremely pointed political commentary in both sweet and silly ways, without ever undercutting her argument. That’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, but it’s the secret sauce that makes The Amber Ruffin Show one of the best new late-night shows in recent memory.

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Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/Peacock

The 24-minute first episode – which debuted on Friday, September 25th – opens with a short monologue, during which a visibly joyful Ruffin opines on everything from coronavirus to key differences between The Amber Ruffin Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers (hint: it involves dirty words). From there, Ruffin employs some playful banter with her announcer and sidekick Tarik Davis, who is more than game to play along. These two opening bits are mainstays on most late-night programs, but there’s a level of “holy shit I can’t believe I have my own show” joy running just under the surface of everything that makes The Amber Ruffin Show special. Along with, of course, Ruffin’s effervescent personality.

It’s digging into sketches where most late-night shows can go sideways in their early days, but the ones showcased in the first episode of The Amber Ruffin Show are hilarious, smart, and more than a little infuriating. It should come as no surprise to learn, then, that the show’s writing staff includes terrific comedic voices like Demi Adejuyigbe, Shantira Jackson, and Dewayne Perkins, with Ruffin’s Late Night cohort Jenny Hagel serving as head writer (both Ruffin and Hagel continue to work on Late Night, and Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker are EPs on The Amber Ruffin Show).

In addition to Trump and the coronavirus, race is a significant point of interest in the show’s first episode, with a sketch involving a “White Forgiveness Countdown Clock” drilling down the seemingly unending string of transgressions against Black people. It is, like most of the show’s comedy, extremely funny and extremely aggravating in its truth.

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Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/Peacock

Ruffin made headlines this summer when, in the midst of protests against police brutality and prejudice, Seth Meyers handed the beginning of every show for a week over to Ruffin to detail a different experience she’s had with the cops in the past. And with The Amber Ruffin Show, she now has a platform to speak even more pointedly about these disturbing issues from a place of experience.

If The Amber Ruffin Show were simply this — really funny and really incisive political commentary — that’d be enough to recommend it. But what makes this appointment viewing is how Ruffin chooses to end the show. Following an emotional direct address in which she tells the viewer (and Black people specifically) that “you matter” — a bold and open discussion on race that’s striking for just how plainspoken and empathetic it is — Ruffin presents a funny and genuinely relaxing segment called The Cool Down.

“Watching a show about current events can be real anxiety-inducing,” Ruffin says towards the show’s end. “And there’s nothing we want less than for you to leave our show all riled up.” Indeed, it’s here that The Amber Ruffin Show kind of underlines its mission statement. It’s going to get extremely real sometimes, but it will also be silly, and will always end in a way that sends you off in a good mood. And that’s kind of exactly what a lot of folks need right now. It’s Late Night with Seth Meyers meets Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

So if you’re into laughter, silliness, and discussions about race and politics that get extremely candid, but you also kind of want a show in which the host downs an entire margarita when the credits roll, I cannot recommend The Amber Ruffin Show enough. It is genuinely good for your health.

New episodes of The Amber Ruffin Show premiere every Friday on Peacock.

Grade: A

Television