Update – March 13th: Colbert, Fallon, and Meyers are ceasing production altogether for the forseeable future.
The novel coronavirus has been impacting large gatherings throughout the entertainment world, with events like Coachella postponing until the fall and others like South by Southwest being canceled altogether. As concern over the spread of COVID-19 rises, smaller assemblages of people are also being impacted. That includes late-night TV shows based in New York, as NBC, CBS, and Comedy Central have all barred audiences from tapings of their talk shows.
The New York Times reports that The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Late Night With Seth Meyers have all announced they will film without studio audiences beginning Monday. The move comes after day-time programs like The View, The Wendy Williams Show, and Live with Kelly and Ryan already made the decision for Wednesday’s episodes. Even game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune have chosen to shoot without crowds.
Update: Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Late Show with James Corden are also going audience-free.
In a statement, NBC said, “Per guidance from New York City officials, the company is hoping to do its part to help to decrease the rate of transmission in our communities.”
While the safety precaution is understandable, the impact on the programs themselves will be interesting to watch. Comedy-based talk shows rely heavily on audience participation, whether it’s cheering to welcome on a guest or laughing at a host’s Trump jokes. Shows like The Soup have long utilized somewhat campy laughter from the show’s crew to fill in the dead air, but that may not work as well for major network programs.
In fact, staff members tried to laugh during the first Kelly and Ryan taping sans audience, and the results were uncomfortable. “Guys, if you keep applauding, it’s going to get so irritating,” said Ripa.
Seacrest added, “It’s going to get annoying, OK? We don’t get that much ever.”
Rob Burnett, a former executive producer of Late Show with David Letterman told The Times he wouldn’t be surprised if even that option was taken away from talk shows if the pandemic continues. After all, even gathering the host and crews together presents “a safety issue. The show must go on until it can’t go on,” said Burnett.
Other major cultural events impacted by the coronavirus outbreak include Treefort Music Fest and Big Ears Festival, which were respectively postponed and canceled earlier today. KISS called off fan meet-and-greets, Pearl Jam postponed their tour start, and BTS and Green Day straight up canceled Asian tours. Céline Dion even got herself tested for the disease before postponing a number of tour dates, though thankfully she only has the common cold. Find an updated list of what other events and people have been affected here.
Somewhat ironically, this was Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue just two days ago: