Strange times breed strange measures, and so it was with the late night television political commentators. Stripped of their audiences over concerns of spreading COVID-19, the commentators tried to carry on as best they could without the laughter, hooting and shouting that marks the audience’s participation in their monologues.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert had planned to start the taping without an audience tactic on Monday, but sped up the decision when Broadway decided to close down en masse. Colbert instead had a talk with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Late Night With Seth Meyers broadcast an encore performance, but decided to put up its already-completed “A Closer Look” segment online for fans. The show has shut down production until at least March 30.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah did have a monologue segment with an audience tonight, likely his last live crowd for a while. The jokes focused on Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s confinement because of contracting the coronavirus, with Noah quipping that Hanks is used to being isolated with Wilson, a subtle salute to Hanks’s Cast Away film.
Whether any of the shows will continue without an audience for long remains to be seen, but most are projected to work without a crowd through the end of the month at least.