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Stephen Colbert’s surreal, audience-less monologue calmed coronavirus nervousness

The purpose of the late-night comedy format has barely modified for the reason that 1960s: Bring jokes, information, celeb interviews, and musical performances into the residing rooms of each American family. But the expertise has by no means been extra intimate than what Stephen Colbert carried out on Thursday night time.

Earlier within the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people to be able to suppress the unfold of the coronavirus, which has now reached a pandemic stage in keeping with the World Health Organization. The ban pressured New York City’s Broadway circuit to close down, and noticed different establishments just like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Carnegie Hall shut their doorways. The transfer additionally impacted New York-based late-night exhibits like Colbert’s Late Show. When the host took the stage on Thursday night time, he did so with only some of his writers within the viewers. His bandleader, Jon Batiste, sat by his aspect, tapping on the piano to fill occasional useless air, however apart from that, Colbert was on the market within the wild, and susceptible to jokes that will not have landed. No studio viewers, no automated laughter, no security wire. The outcome was unbelievable.

“We’re just kind of winging it, right?” he admitted. “This is rehearsal proper now, which could be a very good factor. In my thoughts, all of my jokes are good. The solely one who disagrees with me is the viewers. Can’t disagree with me now, are you able to?”

In preparation for the odd expertise, Colbert stated he went again to outdated clips of Steve Allen, a founding father of the format who would recurrently simply sit at a piano and let Jack Kerouac learn excerpts from On the Road. The audience-less opening wasn’t fairly that esoteric — Colbert nonetheless cracked smart on the NBA season suspension and introduced out his Trump impression — nevertheless it wasn’t like the rest on TV, both. The comic sat at his desk, paused for laughs that weren’t there, soaked up the strangeness of all of it, and sometimes sipped from a cocktail hidden underneath his desk. Each time he stepped as much as a brand new bit, he took a deep breath of “the show must go on.”

The gonzo strategy labored. Even in what appeared like impromptu moments, like a stretch when Colbert in contrast the calming qualities of his combined drink to Batiste’s piano riffs, the agile host (who danced an identical dance on The Colbert Show during the 2008 writers strike) survived the haunting absence of viewers gratification. He simply knew his bits would work. And they did.

As of now, there’s no phrase on when the federal government will carry the New York gathering ban.

Jimmy Fallon additionally carried out with out an viewers on Thursday.

Correction: A earlier model of this text stated The Late Show would return subsequent week. That will not be the case — Stephen Colbert tweeted shortly earlier than the airing of Thursday night time’s episode that his manufacturing workforce had determined to cancel subsequent week’s exhibits.

“I wish I could stay on stage to share this uncertain moment [with] you, but I don’t do this show alone, and I have to do what’s best for my staff,” stated Colbert.

NBC additionally introduced Thursday that it had determined to droop manufacturing of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in addition to Late Night With Seth Meyers.

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