Late night talk shows in the age of social distancing

Do any of you regularly watch any of the late night talk shows (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show, etc)? Normally, I watch The Late Show, The Daily Show and Conan O’Brien’s self-titled show.

All three of these shows, and some of the others, are airing, in their usual time slots, shows that are filmed in their homes without the studio audience, multiple cameras, live band, or the stage crew. On Stephen Colbert’s show, for example, the sole camera operator is his son, Peter (I wonder if the son had to join the union to do this). And the only stage crew is his dog. The guests are calling in from their homes. So the technology glitches are very obvious and sometimes amusing. Like the poor quality of the video from some guests, or the difficulty Stephen Colbert had getting audio from Daniel Radcliffe (who resorted just to calling in on a cell phone).

Anyone else, particularly those outside the US, see any of these shows and have any comments?

I saw Colbert’s show when John Oliver was a guest. I thought it was great. I don’t watch him in the normal format anymore; too much dancing around and bantering with the band guy.

Well, there have been no “normal format” shows since this started.

Anyhow, I find the audience sometimes annoying, particularly in how overly enthusiastic they are when applauding or giving a standing ovation. But the shows are somewhat hollow without that feedback.

Trevor Noah has been killing it. His interview last night with Bill Gates was fantastic. Trevor is much better without all the audience to pander to. He’s thoughtful, articulate and still humourous occasionally. He also had a recent fabulous interview with Anthony Fauci.

I only watch A Closer Look with Seth Meyers and one or two of the bits that come each day from Trevor Noah (and John Oliver, but I’m not sure that counts) and I only watch them on Youtube.
I kinda like them doing it from home, for the most part. It’s a nice change and it shows that they’re taking it seriously. Plus, Seth hopping from room to room to garage to attic as he tries to make it work has been kind of entertaining.
What’s been harder? stranger? more awkward? to deal with is when there’s dead silence while they’re clearly pausing for laughter.
And, I’m sure it’s even worse for them. They clearly play off their audience, using them to know how well a joke is doing, if they should stick with a trump impression longer, if they should cut their losses and move on…now they got nothing.

How’s Jimmy Fallon doing? I can’t imagine how someone that’s made a career out of fake laughing is handling not having an audience or guests.

I didn’t see those yet, but I suppose it has been more like Between The Scenes, where it feels a little less scripted and more like it’s actually him talking.

I was going to say the same thing. Seth Meyers does not do well without audience reaction, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is kind of terrifying, though that is more because Oliver covers very serious topics occasionally punctuated by a cheap gag, but Trevor Noah has become my daily “take twenty and chill” viewing. I honestly didn’t think all that much of him when he first took over The Daily Show because his humor was so understated compared to John Stewart’s relentless (and hilarious) pisstakes but Noah has quickly become a phenomenal presence of calm yet biting satire and commentary.


I saw part of one episode of Jimmy Fallon, and it was surreal. He was in a tent in his yard, his wife was filming it, and his two small daughters were behinding him holding up illustrations during the opening monologue. The jokes really fell flat witout an audience. It was like some comedy skit of a lone guy post-apocolypse going stir-crazy and doing a talk show for his collection of desert scorpions.

Behinding=behind, of course. Idiot server wouldn’t let me edit.

Trevor Noah, Samantha B, and John Oliver have been great.
Bill Maher, is supposed to have something tonight. It will be interesting to see what he does. He’s already done one sans audience. But I think he has something different planned for tonight.

It really is interesting to see these celebs in their homes. It normalizes them.

Yes, Jimmy’s attempts so far have fallen flat. I really like him and it makes me cringe and feel embarrassed for him.

I’ve been watching perhaps only the first twenty minutes or so of Trevor, Jimmy Fallon, Colbert, and Seth, and here are my thoughts:

  • Colbert was my favorite pre-lockdown, and now he’s my least favorite at-home presenter. He seems stiff and unsure of how to present his material. Good grief, at he wore a suit his first shows. His interviews (like most of the others’ as well) are surreal, though the Daniel Radcliffe interview was pretty interesting

  • Trevor has been consistent and good. I agree that his Bill Gates interview was great (did he really do it without a commercial break?). I always appreciate his take on foreign news that we don’t normally get exposed to. His correspondents have been hit and miss, but overall it seems like his old show (and just WHAT ARE THOSE SPHERES in the background)?

  • Jimmy Fallon has surprised me with the best improvement. Of these four, he was my least favorite in the past, but now his show is growing on me. It’s helping that he lost his announcer (I don’t even know his name) who seemed to grind the old show to a halt with his interruptions. I’m liking Jimmy and his girls - find the episode where one of his girls shows off her new shoes, and then tromps upstairs and Jimmy has to stop because his “cave” is under the stairway - and then she starts banging on a drum set. It probably helps if you have young kids.

  • Seth Meyer is pretty much like his old show, which is a good thing. His “A Closer Look” is always so sharp and insightful, and Fred Armisen is still his crazy self. His show is now my favorite.

I haven’t seen any indication that Lights Out with David Spade is returning. The show is usually Spade and three comics dishing on current culture and I’m not sure that works well without an audience. He’s done other things on the show, feeding lines to celebrities doing stand up is really funny, but I suppose the clubs are closed and he can’t do more of those. He did do two whole-show one-on-one interviews with Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey, both great shows in a format he could continue with.

I’m on one of his Facebook groups. He’s been posting stuff on there and doing interviews. Spade is super talented. I’m quite impressed with how quick he is off script.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I would have loved to have seen Craig Ferguson, Geoff Peterson, and Secretariat doing a show from Craig’s living room. I’m thinking that things wouldn’t have been much different.

Yup. Almost 40 minutes straight. And BTW Bill Gates was really impressive. I kept thinking “This guy should be president!”

Bill Maher is back tonight but it’s not live, he taped it yesterday at home.

I find them alternatively comforting and depressing. I like Colbert best when he incorporates Jon Batiste, i.e., “the band guy”, because Jon’s just an incredible musician. I also watch Noah and Oliver regularly, but not the others so much. However, I am really enjoying the Hometasking version of the British show Taskmaster. They set up challenges like “turn your bathroom into a great night out” or “stage an epic sporting event in your kitchen” and people send in videos … many are clever and a few are amazing.

Oddly enough, I read that as, unlike the word cromulent, a perfectly cromulent word.

behinding - the act of being seen to provide support from behind a performer.

Three singers in black dresses were behinding Elvis.

Elvis had 3 behinding singers.

The Bill Gates interview is on YouTube here.

I’ll be very glad to see the first shows back in the studios with the full staff and live audience. I hope it’s soon.