Jimmy Fallon gamely delivered a monologue and conducted three guest interviews Monday night in a studio that lacked one key ingredient for a late-night comedy show — an audience.
Fallon’s “Late Night” on NBC and David Letterman’s “Late Show” on CBS were the only two New York-based late-night programs to produce shows on Monday night, as Hurricane Sandy raged outside. Due to the dangerous conditions (and lack of transportation in New York City), both shows told prospective audience members to stay away, and the hosts performed without the usual audience feedback.
So viewers at home were treated to a “what if” spectacle — namely, what if a late-night host had to work without an audience?
Well, one thing that would happen: The laughs, such as they were, emanated from those few staffers whose reactions were audible enough to be picked up by studio microphones. And that meant there was near-silence as Jimmy — with a little helpful cheerleading by announcer/sidekick Steve Higgins — delivered a monologue that led off with jokes about the big storm.
Jimmy opened the show outside, on West 50th Street, where the sidewalks were nearly deserted late yesterday afternoon (and several hours before the city was hit full-on by the storm). Inside the studio, when he came on stage, the facility’s empty seats were shown as Jimmy said, “Welcome to ‘Late Night,’ everybody. Please, please keep it down!”
“Hurricane Sandy is here,” he joked, “and it’s causing all sorts of problems. As you can see, the storm has forced a lot of shows to shut down production, including ‘Maury’ [formerly produced in Manhattan, “The Maury Povich Show” actually tapes in Connecticut these days]. Yeah, it was a little frustrating when Maury was like, ‘Jeff, the paternity test is in and you are … gonna have to wait two days for the results!’ “
At one point, Higgins congratulated Fallon on his performance. “You’re performing as if there is an audience,” Higgins said.
“Well,” answered Jimmy, “I’m assuming that people at home will be watching on their laptops, or [getting] their generators out.”
Fallon then went on to host three guests — Seth Meyers from “Saturday Night Live” (who may have been in the building anyway preparing for this weekend’s “SNL” with guest-host Louis C.K.), Padma Lakshmi from “Top Chef,” and movie director Robert Zemeckis, who directed the new Denzel Washington movie called “Flight.” Neither Meyers nor Zemeckis had been previously booked, and were probably last-minute substitutes for at least one previously scheduled guest, John Goodman.