Last night, late night hosts had to very quickly adjust to a new reality. Because of fears around the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Stephen Colbert filmed his monologue for The Late Show without an audience. The same was true of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers, although Colbert's monologue was somewhat unique in tone.
Only Colbert's writers were in the audience when the host took the stage to deliver his monologue. There was no studio audience to laugh at his jokes, and as a result, the host went free-form.
"We're just kind of winging it, right? This is rehearsal right now, which might be a good thing. In my mind, all of my jokes are perfect. The only person who disagrees with me is the audience. Can't disagree with me now, can you?" Colbert said.
Throughout the monologue, the house band leader Jon Batiste would occasionally chime in on the piano. Otherwise, though, Colbert had almost no safety net.
As he went through the monologue, he said he prepared for the surreal experience by watching clips of Steve Allen, who hosted The Tonight Show from 1953 to 1956. On his version of the show, Allen would occasionally just sit at a piano while Jack Kerouac read sections of On the Road aloud.
Although he never let his monologue get quite that strange, it did have a similar energy at times. Instead of standing, as he usually does, Colbert chose to sit at his desk. The host also periodically took a sip from a cocktail that he had hidden under his desk.Colbert explained that he'd actually done a show without an audience before. At the beginning of his time on The Late Show, he took over a small public access program in Monroe, Michigan. The idea was to get the show out of town to avoid the scrutiny that would come with his first show as host.
Colbert's audience-less monologue was just one of many concessions that the world of entertainment has made to help combat the coronavirus. Broadway theaters have shut down, the NBA has postponed its season, and many shows are halting production, including The Late Show.
There have also been a slew of announcements postponing the release of major movies. Those postponements include Mulan, No Time to Die, Fast & Furious 9, and A Quiet Place Part II. Filming on Mission Impossible 7 in Venice also halted after Italy became the epicenter of the European outbreak, according to Entertainment Weekly.