The pandemic probably changed late night talk forever, but for the better?

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There’s definitely something lost without the in-studio interplay between host, guest and audience, but the format as a whole has been a stale relic for decades now. The discipline imposed by newly-imposed constraints always has the potential to improve the arts, performing and otherwise.


My impressions so far:

Trevor Noah totally nailed the new style, swift jokes and editing. Quality YouTube. :heavy_check_mark:
Stephen Colbert had great fun with his family, slow pacing, natural and hilarious. :heavy_check_mark:
John Oliver keeps the same routine, witch worked perfectly without live audience. :heavy_check_mark:
Jimmy Kimmel just looks and sounds miserable without audience, stops for laughs that don’t come, reads unconvincingly and without energy from cards, and for some reason his collaborators just feel the same. :x:


Once Craig Ferguson gave it up, I have not attached myself to any late show. I’ve tried them all, but once we entered the Trump era, their topicality became something I’d rather avoid.
If you count Spade’s show, I definitely did that until it was cancelled. A strict no-politics policy.


Agreed. The format has been largely unchanged since 1954 when The Tonight Show debuted under host Steve Allen. I noticed the other day that even the stage design is unchanged: the host sits house left, the band sits house right, the guests sit to the host’s right (further left from the audience’s point of view) and the center of the stage is a curtain out of which the host and the guests come.

Also, I don’t know who the Sea Captain haters are out there, but I really like that bit. It reminds me of something Craig Ferguson might do.


I agree…Seth was most watchable with his “bits” before - A Closer Look, Amber Says What, Jokes I Can’t Tell, etc - and now he’s readapting to that. I think he’s doing well.

Colbert honestly looks the happiest I can ever remember him. The banter with his family is fun, he pans his own jokes, and I’ve even stopped being annoyed when Jon Bastiste would comment since it is now planned. John Oliver’s literal only change is the audience. He was always playing to the camera and that hasn’t changed. I admit I have not seen Trevor…I had trouble with his format of the Daily Show compared to Jon, but maybe I can give it a try.

Kimmel and Fallon are unwatchable. I felt Kimmel was really settling into his role before the pandemic but now appears to be just knocked for a loop. Fallon was fingernails on a chalkboard for me before and hasn’t improved.

If Ferguson started doing a late night show tonight from his kitchen table I would tune in every night. It would be insane.


Jimmy Fallon’s whole schtick has been fawning over celebrities and playing games with them. Sometimes funny, often not. Without an audience, or even guests he can interact with like that, he’s adrift.

A hundred percent. He can even bring back Geoff the Robot Skeleton without much trouble.


Glad he gave that well-deserved ding to Colbert. I too grow tired of “tiny hands” jokes. Colbert is probably the one who is most constricted by late-night format, given that his previous format was almost pure id.


And Secretariat, over Zoom, of course.

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Am I the only one who DOESN’T watch late night shows for the interviews? I normally skip right over them because it’s just a promotion for their latest project filled with sucking up to the guest. And now watching the horrendous video/audio quality of Zoom calls makes them worse.


Everyone seems to be doing well except for Kimmel. It’s kind of difficult to keep up the whole dickhead persona when you don’t have an in studio audience to laugh or have strained silence.

One of the surprise picks was Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilarie Burton’s show on AMC like a month back. She’s always had top notch interview skills she proved over the years when she was on MTV and Jeff is pretty affable.

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I must say I agree with the “Film Theory” opinions but I think he does ‘Film Theory’ a disservice by being so reductive. Yes I’m a grumpy old bugger but assertions are one thing and assertions with an agenda are something that is very Youtube and needs a a lot more rigor.

As someone who is absolutely fascinated by the genre of comedy (specifically audience based stand up) I’m fascinated by the transition of these comedians going from a ‘live’ show with a live audience to direct to camera.

For example Conan, for me, was never really hitting it as a presenter and interviewer compared to his sketch spots. However in the lock down his interviews really shine.

Colbert and Myers were floating at sea in their first lock down episodes but found different and interesting ways to present without an audience.

This post live audience night show format has seen a rise in the camera performance comedy of Chaplin and Hill where the writing, editing and personality of the artists that make this stuff happen come to the front.

Depends, but mostly I agree with you.

Old Daily Show and Colbert Show? The interviews were amazing. Colbert’s character would make the interview always go in unexpected ways and Stewart is a brilliant interviewer. Heck, I liked the interviews over the bits.

Nowadays I’ve not seen anyone really that replaces it. Colbert is ok, more so when it is something that hits in his personal ballpark. Fallon, again, is unwatchable for interviews. Seth’s were passable. Conan’s were good on average but not amazing.

Again we get back to Ferguson. There’s hundreds of videos of his interviews. They were a conversation. That we were watching was a minor detail. He openly heavily flirted with the pretty woman (and men), was a pop-culture junkie, and just lived for the Uncomfortable Pause. The show was a live-action Animaniacs presentation. He even swore funny. Nowhere else could you find out about how someone got kicked in the ooh-la-la! It was even well loved by the people he insulted, like Paul McCartney. Do we have a picture of Paul McCartney? Great, thanks.

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Well I don’t watch the shows for the opening monologue.

I don’t watch them now, but when I did it was because of a specific guest, or musical act. The latter always seemed to be at the end, which made the hosts more tedious.

I once had a ticket to a Canadian late night taping. Then I discovered “Hot Tuna” was going to be on for some reason. This was about 1977. But on the way, I suddenly didn’t know how to get to the theater on foot, so I turned back. I eagerly waited for the airing that lateish night, and Hot Tuna wasn’t on. I don’t know why I know, but an earlier segment ran late, so they dropped the band.

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