The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in most late-night talk shows (make that most shows, period) being put on temporary hiatus, but their hosts are finding ways to improvise. Many have begun offering fans their daily takes on the latest headlines via at-home monologues and short videos.
From showing off the healthcare curve chart from the bath to disinfecting an orange slice that fell on the floor to staging an impromptu charity concert from a family room, here’s how the hosts of late-night TV have been delivering new material, despite being isolated at home like the rest of us.
After taping before an audience-free studio last week, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert went on hiatus. But on Monday, the host still returned with new material, delivering a monologue about social distancing from the comfort of his bathtub — don’t worry, he was wearing a tuxedo and covered in bubbles, so it’s not NSFW.
“If you are watching this from home right now, know that you are doing the right thing. I’m at home. Every member of my staff is at home. ‘Cause we need to slow the spread of this virus. Epidemiologists call this ‘flattening the curve.’ But based on my current level of inactivity and stress-baking, I definitely will not be flattening my curves,” Stephen Colbert joked in the segment.
Colbert noted that his entire staff was sent home as a result of COVID-19, but, despite the change of circumstances (and, er, location), he still managed to throw in some timely cutaways to Donald Trump speaking — this time at those task force press conferences — so that he could take shots at the president’s management skills. “Some idiot disbanded Obama’s pandemic response team. We should really look into whoever was after President Obama. ‘Cause that guy screwed the pooch,” he said after reviewing one such clip.
Colbert also noted that he and the rest of us should be well prepared for what we’re being asked to do right now. “At this time of national peril, we all have to do our part, and by do I mean don’t. We all have to don’t our part. And there is no country in the world more prepared for that than the USA,” he said. “Turns out, Americans weren’t lazy couch potatoes this whole time. All that sitting on our asses and watching TV was actually training to save the world. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what your country can do for you, ask how many episodes of Love Is Blind you can watch in one sitting.”
On Tuesday night, Colbert again returned with a new original monologue from home. This time, it was more of a fireside chat, as he hosted the segment from his backyard fire pit. Not only was it a lengthier clip, but he also incorporated some music from band leader Jon Batiste. If his technique with these monologues keeps working, Colbert might not even need to return to the studio when this is all said and done.
On Wednesday, Colbert followed the series up with another outdoor monologue, covering the news that the virus has now spread to all 50 states in the U.S.
Jimmy Fallon also offered an at-home edition on Tuesday to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day under quarantine, with his wife serving as camera operator for the segment and his dog and daughter joining in as the evening’s special guests.
After experiencing some of the interruptions a lot of parents are dealing with as they migrate to at-home workdays with children out of school — including showing off his daughter’s green poop emoji drawing that was supposed to resemble a shamrock — Fallon performed a song about the holiday to help raise money for the hunger relief organization Feeding America.
The effort wasn’t quite as polished as what we would normally see from The Tonight Show, but the delivery was endearing, personal, and, frankly, perfect for the moment.
Fallon followed that up on Wednesday night with an at-home mini-show which featured his daughters Frannie and Winnie, who did the intro music and slid in for cameos, and celebrity guest Lin-Manuel Miranda, who played his own intro music on the keyboard and talked about his experience learning to home school his children. This time, Fallon used the segment to promote BroadwayCares.org/help2020 to help theater artists affected by the shutdown.
As Trevor Noah announced that The Daily Show would be joining in on the hiatus spree with an at-home selfie video, he also invited audiences to watch him do some deep cleaning in his home with this short clip.
On Wednesday, he got a bit more organized and delivered a full episode which covered the news of the U.S.-Canada border shutdown, the NBA suspension, and featured a chat with Roy Wood. Jr. He also used the segment to raise funds for NoKidHungry.org.
Beginning Tuesday night, Jimmy Kimmel also committed to shooting mini-monologues from his home every day until the show returns from hiatus, to keep fans entertained and to stave off his own sense of boredom.
“You know, you learn a lot about yourself when you’re isolated at home. For instance, I learned that I have two children, which is really something to find out. Thank god for television. My blood type right now is Disney Positive, Disney+, whatever they call it. We’ve watched Frozen II more times than the animators who drew it watched Frozen II,” he joked.
Kimmel also incorporated some thoughts on the latest news, noting, “Yesterday, our president Donald Trump gave himself a 10 out of 10 for the way he’s handled this situation. He gave himself a 10, which, incidentally, is the same amount of testing kits that are currently available in the United States right now.” He also noted that Tom Brady’s decision to announce that he’d leave the New England Patriots on St. Patrick’s Day was a choice. “For people from Boston, this is like if Santa died on Christmas. This is terrible,” he joked.
Kimmel closed the mini monologue by saying that he will be dedicating these webisodes to raising funds for different charitable causes, starting with NoKidHungry.org.
Indeed, on Wednesday, he returned with a segment which covered the latest headlines — including the border closure, Nevada’s decision to close casinos, and Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese Virus” — and also included a videochat with Guillermo, who was also at home. Kimmel’s charity of choice this time was the Red Cross.
On Wednesday night, Samantha Bee presented the first installment in her coronavirus era series “Beeing at Home,” promising to offer “daily tips for how to survive and thrive while also social distancing.” Airing from a rundown cabin in the woods, she demonstrated (badly) how to chop fire wood and joked, “I don’t know how lumberjanes do it.”
Bee went on to lament the fact that grocery stores have been overrun by people buying essentials in hopes of reselling them at a profit. “It’s deeply sad that the Beanie Baby of today is a two-ounce bottle of Purell, but here we are.”
David Spade has also been going lo-fi this week in the wake of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, he delivered his first monologue from home, updating fans on how his own family is handling the crisis.
On Wednesday, he returned with another quarantine chat — this time from a bunker in his house — and covering some recent celebrity news, like Flavor Flav’s 61st birthday and those wild results of The Bachelor.
John Oliver announced on Sunday, March 22 that HBO would air a rerun of Last Week Tonight instead of a new episode while production was shut down due to coronavirus concerns. Deadline now reports the show will be back Sunday, March 29, and Oliver will be taping the new episode from home.
Real Time with Bill Maher was another late-night show that shut down without airing new episodes the week of March 15. Deadline reports that Maher will behind filming new episodes from home, and the show will make its return on Friday, April 3 at 10/9c on HBO.
Find out which other television and entertainment productions have been impacted by the coronavirus here.