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Late Night Goes Home
March 25, 2020  | By Eric Gould  | 13 comments

Maybe the true test of a comic’s skill is just to let them do it without an audience or a laugh track. 

While a few late-night hosts are passing that test, the nation is still dangerously behind on the most important kind, the one for Covid-19.

With thousands more either testing negative or getting diagnoses confirmed so they can take appropriate measures, that’s a slight bit of comforting news.

The other comfort is that alternative comedy venues abound, such as Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon all doing versions of their late-night shows from home.

On the upside, we’re learning that Meyers, Noah, Colbert, and Kimmel are the real deal.  

Meyers, host of Late Night with Seth Meyers doing his trademark “A Closer Look” segment from what looks to be the bedroom hallway of his apartment in Manhattan -- with the accompanying graphic slides, asides, and impressions – is as easygoing, funny, and as brilliant as ever, never missing a beat. Or an audience.

Ranting about Trump’s tweeting about his treatment in the media, he wonders how the President has the time to watch all the news shows when he (Meyers), with young children at home, only has time to watch the look of disappointment on his wife’s face when he can’t make oatmeal:


Likewise with Noah, retitling his shortened show (also being uploaded to YouTube) as The Daily Social Distancing Show. He relies on some better lighting and editing here, giving it a more polished feel, but he has assembled the usual first-rate jokes from his writing staff, delivers (again, without a laugh track) sitting at his dining table.

Daily Show fans will not be disappointed with his impromptu guests via Skype or when he observes that a million people might be infected in New York state, the same number of riders on one subway car:


Colbert wins the creative stage design category, doing his version of The Late Show (Social Distancing Edtion) monologue from various parts of his house, such as from the bathtub (in a suit) on March 17:


Jimmy Kimmel took his Jimmy Kimmel Live show literally on the road on March 19, interviewing standup comic Bill Burr (literally standing up on the sidewalk) safely from the distance of the front seat of his car: 


On the flip, as on broadcast during regular times, and while delivering his usual middle-tier corny fare, Jimmy Fallon is doing a more gonzo version of his Tonight Show. He has his young daughters banging out toy instruments for a nonsense theme, has hand-lettered graphic cards, and the show is shot hand-held on a phone by his wife. 

He’s also doing interviews over Skype (as is Noah, recently), if you can get through his monologue, which is generally not possible when he is in the studio.

Going without a net like this maybe shows the real underpinnings and depth of a show. If you’ve got the goods like Meyers and Noah, it’s plain to see. With Fallon, maybe not so much:

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Colbert is on break this week(planned,I believe),filling up time with interviews with the thousands of Dems who threw their hats in the ring in the last year,only to take them out,save Biden & Sanders. Dunno. Not much to learn from someone out of the game. His monologues last week were truly inventive,and I believe he was the first to diy at home(Sam Bee may have been the first to tape without an audience). The 2 Jimmys got mileage using their kids(Fallon's house has a sliding board into the living room);Colbert's kids are grown and lost the cutes years ago. But the results have been entertaining. Of course the Trump daily briefings are fun,too,if only to see the body language. Would love to see some behind-the scenes- interactions with the talk show writers,segment producers,etc.,scrambling from phone to fax(remember fax?) to possibly Skype,putting all of this together.
Mar 25, 2020   |  Reply
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