One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taught us is that late-night hosts and comedians can put on a show under any circumstances. Following the outpour of news and restrictions, most networks initially planned to tape episodes without a live audience. Those plans quickly changed when producers decided to stop production entirely. This unfortunate news made for a difficult comeback for shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “The Daily Show,” but did not stop them from creating content.
Hosts are getting innovative with hybrid versions that have been rebranded as “at home” episodes in order to adapt to limitations. This new format consists of monologues shot on iPhones, interviews conducted by video conference and any other alterations that adopt social distancing and self-quarantining guidelines. While some shows have been more successful than others, the efforts are strong to keep America entertained late-night.
“Saturday Night Live At Home” leads the way with creative content and the cast doing what they do best — making relatable comedy sketches based on current events, politics and culture. They did so in a pre-recorded format with various parodies including portrayals of live gaming, tween YouTube videos, work meetings on Zoom, etc. Naturally, Tom Hanks was the host, as he is an SNL legend and was one of the first celebrities to be publically diagnosed with COVID-19. He warned from the start that this was going to be an unusual episode mentioning that “we are doing everything we can to make this feel like the SNL you know and love.”
Highlights of the night include Chloe Fineman’s spot-on impressions of Timothée Chalamet, JoJo Siwa and Carole Baskin, as well as Colin Jost and Michael Che’s famous Weekend Update. Viewers were left on an emotional note with musical guest Chris Martin of Coldplay performing an acoustic rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm.” While the remote version of the show did not have the same comedic effect as its traditional form, SNL’s experimental attempt at a special, at-home episode was exactly what we needed during this unprecedented time.
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” launched its at-home edition on March 17. Fallon continues his usual bits such as “Thank-You Notes” and “Tonight Show Hashtags” and has even had remote guests including Lin Manuel-Miranda, Kim Kardashian, Demi Lovato and many others. Each show, he and his guests promote a charity to help raise money for those being drastically impacted by the crisis. The newly formatted show has no shortage of cuteness with Fallon’s daughters Frances and Winnie, who make guest appearances every episode and even help their dad with graphics.
Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” also makes a quarantine comeback and is now known as “The Daily Social Distancing Show.” Continuing the show’s typical satirical elements, Noah runs through the daily headlines with a large majority of them concerning the pandemic. His recent episodes regard President Trump’s latest coronavirus press conference where he was confronted with racist implications around the naming of the virus.
Many hope that late-night shows will make a short and safe return to their normal ways of production in the near future. In the meantime, these unconventional arrangements offer a great deal of laughter and normality to audiences stuck at home.
Jacqui Pash is an Entertainment intern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.